Clinton, Trump, and the Kings of Israel

Clinton, Trump, and the Kings of Israel July 22, 2016

images-1A friend originally from the UK wondered out loud this week (and I’m paraphrasing): “Watching American political campaigns, what has made a great nation afraid of its own shadow?”

The question troubles me. It angers me — not toward him, but toward the politicians and pundits who have created that impression.

It is laughable that either one of the candidates for President is capable of making this country great again or capable of uniting it.

With all its flaws (flaws that bedevil all countries), it is great; and with all its missteps along the way, it has made remarkable strides and accomplished great things with an unprecedented measure of unanimity — often in the face of enormous peril and sacrifice. Call it providence, call it good fortune, chalk it up to determination and courage, or a combination of all three, we have created a democracy unlike any other in history and, although there are other great countries and other great democracies where freedom flourishes, each is different, thanks to history, context, and geography.

Neither one of the candidates running for high office in this country can add to that heritage as significantly as the men and women, known and unknown, dead and alive — from every race and creed — from every sector of society — who have made it the country it is today. In fact, the vast majority of American presidents have been unremarkable and some of them (make your own list) have contributed little or nothing to our national well-being. The vast majority have fed briefly at the trough of pride and grandiosity, they have flailed, faltered, and are largely forgotten, and there are more to come. There will always be more.

Presidents and candidates for the presidency are not the measure of this country and, too often, they now seek election by suggesting that the nation is broken in some fashion that only they can address. The very logic of their message betrays banal calculation and a self-serving use of deception.

Worse yet, they are both contributors to the nation’s dis-ease. Both have fed anxiety and disunion. Both have achieved their nominations – not by suggesting that they can build in a modest fashion on what others have accomplished – but by suggesting that the progress made is fatally flawed and only they can heal the fatal wound.

The profound spiritual failure that lies at the heart of that hubris is exaggerated by anyone who believes that in November that they will vote for a savior. The next President will serve one term. She/he will fail in their efforts to win the country’s support unless they shed the self-serving calculation that has won them their parties’ nominations, and after four years they will join the ranks of the soon-to-be-forgotten.

The Hebrew Testament and the Rabbinic tradition vary wildly in their estimate of kingship. None of them can be said to have endorsed it without reservation. All of them felt that human destiny was finally in the hands of God, none of them could anticipate the form of government that currently shapes our affairs, and in one way or another they all believed that the final well being of the children of Israel and, by extension, the world, lay in the hands of a messiah.

The messiah is not here yet, both candidates would do well to remember it, and we – as voters – dare not forget it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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