For a hundred years, the children of this nation have gone to bed at night to stories of handsome princes and beautiful princesses, of evil witches, fearsome ogres, and happy endings. They have gone to Saturday matinees depicting good, honest people, laboring under the yoke of greedy oppressors and being saved at the last, crucial moment, by a big man on a white horse. No matter how well-educated, no matter how sophisticated we have become in our everyday lives and outlook on the world, we are still waiting for a big man on a white horse to rise out of the sunrise and save our lives and our possesssions.
How do we go about finding these modern-day heroes? We elect them, of course! We trot out selected specimens from our leadership like contestants for Miss America and choose them based on appearance, congeniality, performance, and ability to deliver inspiring speeches to the waiting judges. However, on closer inspections, we learn that they are only an array of ordinary people aspiring to their own plans for self-aggrandizement.. Not a true avenging angel in the bunch, much less one who is truly self-effacing and willing to give their all for the nation of their birth.
Now, the odd thing about real heroes is that they rarely look the part. The icon of the Repuiblican Party and the image which they wish to project would be the late John Wayne who, to anybody's knowledge, never did a heroic thing in his life anywhere but on the "silver screen". On the other hand, a true hero, Audie Murphy, barely over five feet tall, was the most decorated soldier in World War II. He couldn't even make it as a hero in the movies! He was "too small" and "too pretty" and did not project an imposing personna as he rode into town at the head of a posse. Thus, they transferred their loyalty to Ronald Reagan.
To give Reagan credit, he did pay his dues by working for years, first with the Screen Actor's Guild and then as a popular Governor of California. Now, they look to Fred Thompson, another actor, to mount a white horse and vanquish the bogey-men. However, while they blast Barack Obama for being a political tyro. Mr Thompson has even less experience in the arena It does appear that, to the Republicans, the fact that he played a President in the movies will have to suffice.
Meanwhile, the Democrats search for another John F. Kennedy, handsome but not too pretty, suave, an inspiring speaker, and looks good in a suit. Their "big man on a white horse" seems to be Al Gore who appears to have no taste for the prospect. Failing to accomplish that, they are willing to settle for a "first"; the first Woman President or the first Black President. They are, after all, the party of change! However, the one thing that they will not change is the mindset of their leadership and they are running scared. They have become convinced that the country as a whole is not far removed from the Republicans in their political attitude and they cannot win by opposing them too completely. They have, and will continue to rubber-stamp the Bush tax cuts, the war on terror, NAFTA, and illegal immigration without addressing the very real problems of the working Americans. Yet they tell us that they are the only alternative to "more of the same".
One might well wonder about our greatest Presidents through our history. Would George Washington's ill-fitting teeth, Abe Lincoln's moles on his craggy face, or the huge girth of Howard Taft have disqualified them instantly as they appeared on television as canned beef? Would the rumpled, ill-fitting suits bring them demerits in light of the fact that steam irons had not yet been invented? Some of these great men were downright ugly, gross, and sweaty, not at all the type you would invite to a fancy party or invite to do a photo spread for a magazine. But the decisions that they made were historic and responsible for our steadty growth into one of the most successful nations in history, a leader not only in military power but in advocacy for peace and brotherhood throughout the world.
Perhaps it would be a good idea if we were to turn off the televisions during the "debates" and simply listen to the few opinions that make their way through the programmed cookie-cutter format, follow it up by reading the newspapers and researching the individual candidates on the internet. After all, there is a difference between choosing whom to invite to "have a beer with" you or whom you would like to have live next door and in choosing a person with the good sense and integrity to make the right decisions for our future and that of our nation.
Just remember that great policy may be hidden behind a homely face, the next George Washington may not be the most eloquent speaker, and the next Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy may be wearing a rumpled suit.
And I seriously doubt whether any of them will ride in on a white horse.
Mary Pitt lives in a house by the side of the road in a little rural village in Kansas where she can observe the world both as it is and as she would like it to be. Questions and comments will reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org