by Japa (@deaconmill)
Okay, we have heard over and over and over again about how manly Putin is with all his bear wrestling and topless horseback riding (although his manboobs tend to detract from that image). And we have heard over and over again what a wuss and coward President Obama is.
And we have heard over and over again how Putin is such a great leader because he just does what he wants and gets others to do what he wants them to. And WE have heard over and over again how President Obama doesn’t know how to lead and instead gets led around by the nose by Putin and others.
Forget, for a moment that most of the people saying those things are also the same people who call President Obama a dictator and totalitarian despot, thus actually saying he is just like Putin and therefore contradict themselves time and again.
Instead, let’s focus for a little on just what it means to be a man (I know this is not politically correct and is somewhat gender specific, but I am trying to speak directly to the criticisms). At the same time, let’s also focus on what it means to be a leader. And guess what? The two end up being very similar in terms of what qualities either one requires. And, for fairness sake, let’s drop the word “man” and insert the word “adult”.
Rudyard Kipling, for all that he represented colonialism and a sense of the Great White Uplifting of Inferior Peoples, did have some awareness of the difference between being an adult and being a juvenile. And the words he used to define the difference also tend to apply, to a great degree, to the concept of leadership. By that, I mean that one cannot truly be an effective leader without those qualities. Yes there are other qualities that comprise being a leader and I will get to those later.
Righty now, I want to dissect one of his most famous poems “If” and see just what it says about President Obama and, perhaps, Putin and see who comes out on top. I will be doing this on a stanza by stanza basis, so bear with me.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
I have highlighted some specific points because they are critical. I know all of us here would definitely say that the President keeps his cool no matter what is happening and is definitely accustomed to being blamed for not losing his head, so to speak. He is patient, honest and tolerant. There have been times when some of us have wanted to see and hear him get angry and lambaste the opposition, but that isn’t him and I am grateful for that. Although I know the ladies here would say he looks mighty fine, I think Kipling was talking about something else. He was referring to not coming across as superior and intellectually better than others, and again, the President, despite what some on the Right say, doesn’t. He is a man of true humility.
Putin, on the other hand, is pretty much the opposite in almost every way, except for the first sentence. I think he does keep his head, but he refuses to accept any responsibility, lies, hates, and refuses to wait. In this sense he is the prototypical teenager who needs to have what he wants now. And he struts, oh how he struts.
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;
Here is where we really see the differentiation between the President and the vast majority of people. He has dreams, great dreams. And those dreams are not about him, per se, but about what he wants to see happen in this country. But he is not going to make his dreams the master, the end all, be all, of what he does. Obamacare is a perfect example. Deep down, I believe he would love to see a single payer system. He definitely wanted to see a public option. But he also knew that those dreams of his were not achievable at this time and he refused to hang on to them at the cost of getting nothing done. The same was true of DADT, same-sex marriage, and so many other things.
He hasn’t given up on his dreams, but he will decide the route to achievement, not have the dreams dictate his actions. And he does meet triumph and disaster the same. He won’t take too much credit or allow himself to wallow in guilt, although he will accept responsibility when appropriate. And although I can’t imagine him not being bothered by how the truth he speaks (“You didn’t build that”, “guns and religion”) he doesn’t whine about it.
Just to quickly point out that Putin is almost his complete opposite in all of this.
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
I didn’t highlight anything here, although it all is indicative of the President. Is he willing to take the risks? Of course. Look at the bin Laden episode. He knew it was a risk. He knew what the ramifications of failure were. Yet he did it anyway. And if it had failed, he would have moved on, not looking back.
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
And this is what it all comes down to. Our President, more than any President in my lifetime, fits this description to a tee. He never has lost the common touch (and I am sure if he started too, Michelle would stop him immediately). It matters not where he is, who he is with, he is always him, a genuine person. He doesn’t play act, he doesn’t become aloof, yet he also has a strong belief in his belonging. He isn’t cowered or awed by his position, but nor is he arrogant about it. He is, in fact, the most adult President this country has had in decades.
Putin? His arrogance is on display for all to see. He is, in fact, the high school bully who people who are insecure in themselves, deep down wish they were able to be.
So let’s briefly also look at leadership and how it ties into what has preceded this.
Leadership is, first and foremost, being an adult. A true leader does just that, leads. Whether by example or through words or through the ability to convince, he or she brings others along. He or she gets others to believe in his/her dreams, so to speak, if not fully, then at least enough to accomplish something.
Sometimes a nudge is necessary, or a little push. But a true leader doesn’t shove someone to a place they have no desire to be. A true leader is never a bully. Sure, the bully may get some things done more quickly, but the long term cost is high, as Putin is going to find out.
A true leader does listen to others, and takes what others have to say into account. But he/she also makes the decisions based not on expediency, or to place others, but rather because they are what he/she feels is the right thing to do. Sometimes they are wrong, but the leader accepts that. To make decisions based upon who shouts the loudest or based on a possible negative consequence is not leadership; rather it is being led by the mob.
What most of the President’s detractors, from both the right and the left, don’t realize is that he is a man (adult) of integrity who knows the danger of doing things just to satisfy specific groups of people and silence their howling. He is not afraid of them. He may well respect, at some level, many of them and their concerns and ideals. However, he also knows what is reasonable to achieve and what is not. And that, ultimately, is the mark of true leadership, for that person will accomplish things with staying power.
Forgive this lengthy exposition, but in generations to come, I think that this is they way he will be perceived: a great leader who was able to achieve what he could and an adult dealing with a lot of children, both domestically and outside our country’s boundaries.