24 Sept 2017 should be remembered as a special day. The day a struggling country regained the moral authority to claim its true identity.
I forget which writer said [paraphrasing] that “An American man is too often a failed boy.” That has never been truer than since we collectively chose (apparently with hostile foreign assistance) as our “leader,” a man who is a child’s version of an adult, the sort of man-child Robert Louis Stevenson was apparently thinking of when he wrote “Looking Forward”:
When I am grown to man’s estate
I shall be very proud and great,
And tell the other girls and boys
Not to meddle with my toys.
The boy’s concept of a man is toxic–the simple ability to boss others around, without understanding the imperative to control oneself, let alone share. But that is our smoke and mirrors leader, our C-list television star playing a role as he has aped through a series of roles his whole life: the child’s idea of an adult, the weak-willed man’s idea of resolution, the follower’s idea of a leader, the poor man’s idea of a rich guy (golden toilets, seriously?), the artless man’s concept of taste, the dumb person’s impersonation of a smart one, the friendless man’s idea of a buddy…the list goes on.
One consequence of following a hollow man has been the hollowing out of the nation he leads, the perversion and parody of our principles, and the abandonment of aspirations to do good and be better–defining ideals even when we could not pretend they were our strongest characteristics.
But 24 September 2017 was a turning point, the point when a group of men playing a child’s game showed the child playing president what leadership looks like. After the president’s unhinged speech in Alabama denigrating athletes (African-Americans in particular) who use their spot in the public eye to raise awareness of civil rights issues, countless NFL players, coaches, and even owners came out in support of the First Amendment rights of their teammates. #TakeTheKnee or #TakeAKnee became the trending topic, a fitting symbol that shows not just a way of peacefully demonstrating but a way of expressing our shared humility, “It’s not about me; it’s about US.”
The president who once failed to undermine the NFL with his own counter-league, has instead seen his fraying moral authority completely shredded by the silent act of men kneeling, linking arms, or standing side-by-side with those who do, in defense of principles the self-absorbed ranter-in-chief–the child playing with toy versions of adult possessions and concepts–is incapable of understanding.
Sensing his defeat, the president this morning tried to pivot to bring in support from another source, NASCAR, but was quickly shot down as one of its top drivers issued a quick rebuke on Twitter letting the president know he was on his own.
A bully or a dictator or an abusive spouse or domineering boss wins by isolating their victim, little by little, first with promises then with threats then with disdainful reminders of how compromised they have already become…”Who would want you now that I’ve had my way with you?” America has been the one in that role since November, mocked abroad and self-loathing at home; but on Sunday we saw the total, universal humiliation of fat man in the wife-beater tee, and he saw it, too, and so did his remaining supporters.
Welcome home, America. You’re beautiful, and you deserve a leader who knows it.
That leader is you.