Great leaders take the adversities of a nation and inspire their people to rise above them. To offer hope, and direction, and resolve, to move an injured people to do great things, requires a person who can orate, who can give us meaningful, potent words that appeal to our higher selves and make us believe that we can do more, that we are meant to be noble, selfless, brave, generous—a great leader not only leads us to breathe in those words and ideas and feelings, a great leader helps us to find the abilities we need within ourselves to actually be what is needed. Literally, in • spirare, to breathe in.
Unfortunately, we didn't have a great leader.
We had a poor orator and simplistic thinker—but one with a good speechwriter, and with a group of men and women behind him devoted to twisted ideals. And so, when he and they spoke to the nation and the world, we heard an appeal not to our higher selves, but to that which was basest: an appeal to our fear, for revenge. We heard lies. And because our leader had a good speechwriter, and because it is easier to ignite a mob than to inspire a people, far too many of us became inspired to those horrible words.
Since September 11, 2001, we have:
Roused ourselves to war based on deliberate lies. We are now involved in two wars, one very badly executed in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, and are flirting with a third. Approximately 1,255,000 Iraqis have died as a result since we invaded.Never underestimate the power of the spoken word.
Indebted ourselves to the tune of 53 trillion dollars.
Tolerated and even accepted torture as an appropriate means of questioning suspects.
Tolerated the idea that not all men are created equal, and some have fewer rights than others. Those with fewer rights can be declared outside the law, by the president, without explanation or proof of anything, and held indefinitely, secretly, and without access to lawyers or family.
Accepted domestic spying, wiretapping without a warrant, and other features of the surveillance state as normal and even necessary.
Marginalized and even criminalized dissent.
Accepted the corruption and trivialization of the major news media.