“The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises; it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them. It appeals to their pride, not to their pocketbook. It holds out the promise of more sacrifice instead of more security.” JFK
Two days before Thanksgiving I am truly thankful that I live in this great country of ours, and most of all that the vision that JFK had can still be.
But sometimes I bemoan the lack of leadership I think to myself that instead of wishing for that person to emerge, perhaps that person is me.
Why should I wait for another, and not become that myself? Perhaps some of the people who have written here could become the leaders they desire.
I know when I think of doing it that for me it would take enormous courage. It is certainly not how I imagined my life and I don’t think I’m well suited to it. There would also be something embarrassing about it, the sincerity required, the speaking out, the revealing of one’s heart and one’s concern and even love for the collectivity and for justice in an era when this is derided as old-fashioned etc.
And yet, and yet…wouldn’t there be something liberating about it? To have a large voice, not a small one, and not to hide one’s convictions?
Is there a commentator here who might become that leader? And if not seeking the highest offices, maybe more of us can become leaders in smaller venues and organizations, finally revealing who we really are.
If not us, who? Who are we waiting for?
The notion of the hero figure has long been part of popular culture. Tales of Robin Hood have been told for approximately 700 years—describing England under the oppressive grasp of Prince John, a medieval, hooded master bowman dressed in Lincoln green, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. J. K. Rowling has given us a modern hero, Harry Potter, the young wizard battling the forces of the evil Voldemort. Of course heroism takes on a whole new meaning when the savior figures concerned are super heroes with super powers. The epitome of this genre is probably Superman, the “Man of Steel,” gifted with X-ray vision, the ability to fly and superhuman strength, whose abilities are used to help save mankind from nefarious villains or natural disasters.
The hero theme is also seen in modern music. In the mid 1980s, the Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler cried out “I need a hero” in her pop ballad, “Holding Out For A Hero.” This song was later used in the film Shrek 2, in a scene where Shrek comes to Fiona’s rescue, saving her from the clutches of the handsome but hapless imposter Prince Charming. More recently, the Canadian singer Lights, in her song “Saviour,” expresses the need for someone to come and save her—sooner rather than later.
The prevalence of this recurrent theme over the generations may indicate a deep-seated hope people have that all will turn out okay—someone will take action, come to their rescue and save them from the current peril or crisis.
It seems that when it comes to heroes we just can’t get enough. Of course, this longing is all just fantasy and could be excused as harmless escapism. It could never apply in the real world. Or could it? Sadly, many of the most despotic world leaders of previous centuries came in the guise of benevolent saviors, who rose to take on godlike status, leaving millions dead in the wake of their flawed programs. Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot are some from more recent history who come immediately to mind. (See Messiahs! Rulers and the Role of Religion). Unlike many of the heroes of literature, song and film, these all too real characters did not work for the common good. Yet amazingly many average, ordinary people, looked to these “heroes” to solve their problems. It seems that when there are desperate times many people fall prey to desperate remedies.
Some may argue that living in a more enlightened and democratic age, there is less risk of people looking to authoritarian figures to lead them and giving carte blanche to their policies. Modern Western societies especially appear much more skeptical and seem to be less easily fooled with tokenism and rhetoric than earlier cultures. Combine this with a mistrust of politicians and the political process, and you have a recipe for people taking it upon themselves to provide their own solutions to problems. In their song, “Land of Confusion,” the rock group Genesis asks the question: “Superman where are you now?” In a land of too many people contributing to too many problems, they offer the hope that their generation will put it right. Rather than look to a superhero figure, they suggest we look to ourselves:
This is the world we live in
And these are the hands we’re given
Use them and let’s start trying
To make it a world worth living in.
On the face of it this would seem to be an ideal approach: appropriate action taken at a local level, where it is needed, by the people that are intrinsically involved. Indeed, many local community action projects thrive as a result of grassroots movements established by local citizens. While there is much good that we can do to help ourselves and others on a local level, human nature being what it is, this same principle is sometimes wrongly applied. For example, vigilantism, where an individual or group take the law into their own hands and seek retribution or revenge, is a darker side of the same approach.
But to get to to the heart of the matter – we are not looking forward to anything – we’ve heard the mantra of fear so long, we, as a people, have forgotten our own strengths. Kennedy, so what you will, was a leader – he made you want to get in there and do something – not like today. People who actually “do” something are reviled, demeaned and erased into oblivion. Maybe we need to stop looking for a leader and bond together as the nation we once were. Help the hungry instead of sending Xmas cards. Donate clothes instead of buying more. Put down your phones and talk to someone who could use a friend.
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and
Demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
Its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and
Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and
For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing,
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
In a different way. Sing your song live your dreams and die like a hero going home.”
Tecumseh Shawnee Chief said this yrs ago . This is my wish for everybody