Today bloomed hot and overcast here in the garden of the Devils Rock.
While I am a fan of sunshine I was happy for the break from the tropical sun as the temperatures here in Rio have been in the high 90’s and the humidity off the scale. For those of my friends who are suffering the last dregs of winter that might sound wonderful but for this lad of Northern European extraction it is difficult to manage. I can after all perspire in a snowstorm. Ask any of my friends from Syracuse. Yesterdays, walk at mid morning with the bright sunshine and the humidity of a steam bath nearly did me in so the idea of being able to walk with the relief of cloud cover seemed like a blessing to me today.
Instead of listening to my book or music, I decided that I wanted to walk in silence. I think this was a reaction to the near constant flow of information that I have been streaming while here in our Brazilian home. Not only do I stream CNN, the BBC and other English language media but Elaine is prone to watch Globo and CNN Brazil and various news sources sent to her by her many friends. I don’t think it is racist to say the news always seems more dramatic in Portuguese especially when you only understand a few words.
I needed quiet. I needed it to listen to my own thoughts. To let them flow where they needed to go just like my instructor in meditation taught me so many years ago. Instead of a mantra the steady beat of one foot in front of another would allow me to focus my thoughts and give my consciousness a good cleansing. Preferably anti-viral.
So off I went in silence.
Not far from our home, there is another street in our community where a cobbled road leads up onto Pedre Da Gavea. It is steep, and the road itself due to a series of mudslides is a little difficult to navigate. But it is good for getting the heart rate going up I went. About 500 meters up the road, just at the point where my lungs where showing that I had good capacity and my legs letting me know that I was fool hardy for beginning this climb my mind turned to the concept of leadership.
This could have been because of a conversation that Elaine and I were having the other day when I mentioned Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quote “The only think we have to fear is fear itself.”
Or it could have been because of the book I had just finished about Winston Churchill’s first year as Prime Minister when he faced some of the most daunting leadership challenges one can imagine. Fighting a war with no allies, his country under siege by aerial bombing on a daily and horrific scale, he managed to lead and inspire his people.
He did so through words “Never have so many owed so much to so few.” Or “We will go to the end. We will fight in France. We will fight in the seas and oceans, we will fight with increasing confidence and growing strength in the air, we will defend our island, whatever the cost. We will fight on the beaches , we will fight on the landing grounds, we will fight on the fields and on the streets, we will fight on the hills; we will never surrender.”
More than words (thanks Extreme) he led his people by his actions. He would often go to the sites of the raids and see the areas of destruction and death with his own eyes often crying and in doing so letting his fellow Brits know he was with them and felt their pain.
Whatever the source of my thoughts on leadership it did make me wonder about the leadership that is being demonstrated in our country today. I woke up to a Facebook and newsfeed full of stories about American Senators (and perhaps Presidents) selling off stocks after being given secure briefings on the upcoming Corona virus and making millions on the deal. It reminded me of another great leaders quote on war profiteering. Abraham Lincoln once said “ Congressmen who willfully take action during wartime that damages morale and undermine the military are saboteurs and should be arrested, exiled, or hung”
To quote The Bard “What he said.”
This of course led me to thinking about the current occupant of the White House who has shown none of the great attributes of a good leader during this crisis. He has managed to blame Obama, The Chinese, and others instead of saying what good leaders would have which would rally people together to fight for a common good. He turned it to a way to punish people who dared to detract from him. He made this personal instead of making it about the country and the people he was elected to serve. (He works for us, not the other way around.)
A perfect example of his inability to rise to the mantle of leadership came at today’s news conference. He was asked by an NBC reporter “What would you like to say to the millions of people who are afraid because of the Covid 19 virus.” He could have asked people to come together. To support their neighbors. Their community. Their country. That no one in this country is truly alone. We can get through this if we only come together. He chose not to do this. Instead he decided to lambast the reporter about what a terrible reporter he was and what an awful network he worked for.
I hope that anyone who saw this realized this man who has portrayed himself as a great leader is a failure at that most important part of his job. Leading.
As watching Fox news often does for me at the gym, thinking about Donald Trump and his abject failure as a leader and a man provided the fuel I needed to reach the top of the hill. Sweaty and breathing hard I thought of something I had posted in passing yesterday.
Keep Calm and wash your hands…of this administration.
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