The United States is not overburdened with heroic, iconic leaders these days. The November 10th Republican debate provided the latest proof. Fact-checkers had a field day, Donald Trump wants to give 11½ million undocumented residents a one-way ticket to Mexico and Bobby Jindal and the good doctor wouldn’t know the truth if it bit them in the hindquarters. And Don, Bob and Ben had plenty of company. Goofy tax plans primarily benefiting the rich, will assure that little revenue comes in. Entitlements were under siege as well as any services to the poor. It wasn’t a debate; it was an homage to wealth and bigotry.
Ted Cruz wants to eliminate a bunch of agencies. Like Rick Perry before him, he doesn’t remember exactly which ones. One candidate after another wants to leave the feds out of the governing equation. Citizens are left to herd the cats of 50 diffuse state governments and the city of Washington D.C. The millionaires screamed for the repeal of The Affordable Care Act. ACA was equated with legislative treason. All these laughable platforms were delivered while playing the God card for cover.
Diogenes took a detour around Milwaukee Tuesday, knowing his search for a politically honest man or woman would be fruitless. The whole embarrassing debate sham made me pine for even the slightest semblance of a future statesman or stateswoman. There were none and from that eight-person main-stage crew and the earlier B-team, there never will be.
Where are the successors to the iconic and fearless leaders of times past? Many were felled by bullets of hatred, right in step with our gun obsessed society. While being shot and killed is not necessarily an imperative in meeting the definition of an iconic leader, it is worth noting that murdered civil rights activists fill an inordinate number of lines on the icon roster.
In modern times, Martin Luther King meets all the criteria. Courage, a man of the people, intelligence and the victim of an assassin’s bullet. Many other minority colleagues suffered the same fate, including Medgar Evers, who fought segregation at the University of Mississippi and other venues. Evers was assassinated by a fertilizer salesman who escaped punishment for three decades before finally being convicted of murder and dying in prison at age 80.
The world is populated by many remarkable people; fearless people. In America, soldiers, police and other emergency personnel come to mind. A note about cops. Yeah, there are some bad ones, but the vast majority strap on their duty belts prepared to die every workday for their “constituents.” I can denounce the bad apples with the best of them, while always recognizing the exceedingly demanding role of the good ones.
Other countries have a long and distinguished list of icons. There are the hero journalists in a war theater and journalists, judges and prosecutors in countries controlled by drug thugs, where members of those professions are always in a cartel’s sights. Then there’s the young guy who fearlessly stared down and climbed onto the lead tank in a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square back in 1989 during a student protest. Officially, he’s never been identified. One media source named a 19-year-old, but that ID was never proven.
The non-racist world applauded a man in South Africa who sacrificed 27 years of his life in two horrific prisons for his principles. Anti-Apartheid attorney, Nelson Mandela, lived to the ripe old age of 95 and became the first duly elected president of South Africa and, needless to say, the first black president.
There are countless additional individual examples throughout recent history. But for America, other than our incredibly brave fighting men and women, few contemporaries come to mind. I believe President Barack Obama comes closest. Virtually alone, he has fought off the racist’s hatred spilling over from most elected Republican house and senate members and their supporters. They have espoused but a single goal in life; destroy the initiatives and legacy of a decent, educated and humane man; an exemplar of the type of citizen we want our children to become.
I would imagine his life has been in very real danger every hour he has served as president. Secret Service numbers indicate that President Obama is the most threatened president in history.
Now that we’ve set the parameters of iconic leadership and courage, here’s a nomination for one person rarely headlined by the world’s media. She’s a woman. The object of my civic affection is Aung San Suu Kyl. She calls a country well over 8,000 miles from America, home. Educated in India and Oxford, and spending many years in residence in England and America, her homeland is Myanmar, prior to 1989 known as Burma.
Myanmar had been under the dictatorial thumb of U Ne Win since a 1962 coup. That power continued unabated until 1988 when Win resigned deeding the government to the military. The military ruled as Win ruled; repressively until 2011, when it nominally shared its repressive authority with the two main political parties. One party is the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Considering the military actually put the party together and considering that same military arbitrarily retains one-quarter of parliamentary seats, the government is still essentially a stacked deck. Sound familiar? There have been a few democratic reforms, but not nearly enough. The other party is the National League for Democracy (NLD).
Enter Suu Kyl, who at 70, has lived a stunningly accomplished life. A fearless advocate for democracy and a Nobel Peace Prize winner, she suffered through a lengthy period of house arrest in Myanmar while her beloved husband and father of her children lay dying in England. She saw him but a few times as he fought a losing battle to cancer for many years. She had returned to Burma (Myanmar) from England in 1988 to care for her mother who had suffered a massive stroke.
Upon returning, she immediately recognized the suffering of the Burmese (the name change came a year after her arrival) people. She became active in the NLD and pushed for numerous reforms despite repeated threats from the ruling government. She was eventually placed under house arrest.
Opposition parties were historically allowed even after the Win coup. If their votes didn’t track the line, they simply didn’t count. An earlier election had resulted in NLD winning 80% of the available seats in the parliament. The results were simply ignored. Reaction to the most recent election on November 8 of this year, will apparently produce roughly the same percentage, but this time, the chances of meaningful and broad-based reform are much better.
Suu Kyl is the chairperson of NLD. She couldn’t run for president as her children were born of a foreign father. She has, nonetheless, assumed the lead in reform initiatives. She has the strong backing of the majority of the population and is in the process of transforming Myanmar. Her biography is fascinating and can be found here.
There are people like Suu Kyl and others listed in this submission in great abundance. But they’re not in the current crop of Republican politicians and seekers of the presidency, who worship money, eschew regulations, turn their backs on the poor, hate minorities, seek unbridled power and generally have left this country in tatters.
Raised rural & small town, then lived in N.Y., Chicago & LA. Widely traveled. Returned from world wandering to pursue media life of anchorman/reporter and major, medium and small market talk radio. Highly active in politics. Once worked as orderly & security in Mens Lock Ward for the Criminally Insane at a state institution. Much more rational population than current Teapublicans. Great concern for country run by and for the extreme wealthy. The inhumane current running through this country has no precedent in modern history.
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