As we’ve listened to the hateful exchanges between President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the two most powerful people of our country, we think, “This is not leadership. This shames us in the eyes of the world and undermines everything we try to do as leading country of the free world.”
Recently, qualities suggested in James chapter 3 for teachers (who need to be held to the strictest standards) seemed applicable to leaders: “None of us is perfectly qualified. If you could find someone whose speech was perfectly true, you’d have a perfect person, in perfect control of life. A word out of your mouth can seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything — or destroy it! By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke, and go up in smoke with it.” Then, from Isaiah 30: “You make plans but not mine. You make deals, but not in my Spirit!” Ancient advice seems quite contemporary!
It calls to mind things we have experienced this past couple of years: feelings of a chaotic world. Yes, President Trump certainly upended things — but it was not harmonious to begin with. There were things that needed challenging: China’s unfair trading practices and theft of technology, furthering its goal of replacing the U.S. in world leadership; Iran’s support of terrorist activity throughout the Middle East; North Korea’s aiming nuclear missiles in our direction; and Putin undermining us in Syria, in Venezuela and within our borders by inflaming existing hatreds and encouraging us to fight each other.
These are extremely daunting challenges for any administration. President Trump’s strategy seems to have been to come on strong, threatening and unpredictable. He has worked with other nations to impose heavy sanctions that encourage leaders to negotiate a change in behavior, the “art of the deal.” While the pressure of sanctions remains fierce, the process is still ongoing with North Korea and China, not yet arriving at desired results. Should we give up? No, we must persevere. These are huge changes to ask, but they are crucial. The goal is to get North Korea to stop threatening the world with nuclear weapons. The goal with China is a workable trading relationship between the world’s two most powerful nations instead of a warring relationship.
Iran refuses to accept the offer of negotiation. Sanctions are greatly hurting, but Mohammed Javad Zarif, foreign affairs minister, says “Bullying will not work. Respect would.” It likely would, with him, but would it with Ayatollah Khomeini, who has the last word? Zarif understands America well, having represented Iran in the United Nations from 2002-07, heading the Disarmament Commission. He speaks fluent English and has been on many talk shows. He’s a very intelligent and reasonable man.
There was a huge reaction against bullying Mexico with tariffs, and Trump backed away. One Mexican comment was amusing: “We know how to handle such demands, ‘Si, si Senor’ — just don’t say when.” The consequences of using tariffs and sanctions as weapons are worrisome — being the world’s bully. They fall very heavily on the people of these countries whom we’d rather not harm; and there is danger of significant retaliation. China, for example, controls a large supply of rare Earth metals, used in every modern device from cellphones to fighter aircraft. The dilemma: What other method would work?
President Trump undermines his standing at home and abroad with offensive tweets and speech about personalities or minor issues he ought to ignore. I never watched his TV show, “The Apprentice,” but confrontation (“You’re fired!” etc.) was considered amusing. There’s a cultural appetite for fighting, admiration for being “strong” and confrontational as seen in new congresswomen. Mud has been thrown on many a stellar reputation.
As prevalent as fighting is, we don’t like it in our leaders. Hateful speech is unbecoming in our president and in congressional leaders who hatefully pursue his impeachment rather than work on legislation desperately needed for pressing problems — health care, immigration, gun control. Our government is frozen! If Mueller, with the resources and time available to him, did not identify something worthy of prosecution or impeachment, we need to move on.
In today’s corrupt world, treating people with respect seems a thing of the past. We need to recover it in leadership like that of good coaches or military officers — very strong but respected for integrity and just treatment of others.
Verna, who lives in Kerrville, worked for the U.S. Foreign Service, which took her across the globe, including to Argentina, Taiwan and Chile.