Rendered Fat Content


Moses: Woodcut from a single-sheet print by the Memmingen printing company Kunne (15th century)
"I'm cheering for some serious foot dragging next."

Most accounts characterize Moses as a distinctly hesitant leader. He was forever fleeing into his meeting tent to confer with The Almighty, continuously uncertain about his next move, his people endlessly complaining about his leadership. He seemed to fake it a lot. Some translations report that he remained unaware that his face exhibited a certain radiance obvious to anyone who met him, but apparently not reflected in any mirrored surface. He doubtless led his people and even survived a face-to-face audience with God, but he comes across as an inveterate foot dragger. How else could it have possibly taken forty and more years to cross the freaking Sinai, which is just over two hundred klicks wide? Baby steps? Yea, baby steps.

When the word leader comes up in polite conversation, though, it seems most likely that one might attach a different connotation.
I imagine someone boldly taking charge rather than initially refusing the call, and we've for sure seen plenty of examples of both responses. Upon reflection, though, it seems that the initially hesitant ones curiously seemed to produce more positive impact. Washington reluctantly agreed to run for that first presidency, then retired at the height of his subsequent power. Napoleon, a brash self-confident leader, thought Washington daft. Lincoln seemed endlessly uncertain of his charter. He sought endless advice-and-counsel reassurance and never completely successfully convinced himself of his own power. He was widely mocked for his insistent thoughtfulness and also for his charity and kindness. He disliked his terrible swift sword.

In 2016, we quite unfortunately elected a brash one as leader. He's served as a more than adequate reminder of how that's tended to work out throughout history. Our experience has proven no different. His replacement, whether the incumbent ever concedes or not, seems decidedly hesitant in comparison. It seems as if he was called to this role, after he had denied that call several times before. He's, perhaps consequently, not promising miracles, which might always be the last thing anyone actually needs regardless of how vehemently anyone might plead for them. Miracles might appear anyway, as they always seem to appear when least expected and not when insisted upon by any candidate or electorate. The bold-appearing leader also has feet of clay, they just work harder to convince themselves and others that they don't. That clay always eventually cracks, as Napoleon's did, which awakens formerly malleable followers to send that strongman into exile or worse. Il Duce's naked mangled body was hung next to his mistress', from a light pole in public.

I'm grateful that a foot dragger's emerged to replace the braggart. Finally, an apparently authentic leader! Our Founders, maligned and revered in almost equal measure, were said to have studied history for insights into how to craft a large-scale democracy. Most learned that humility seemed to have been a constant within both ancient Greek and Roman aristocracy. The weakest leaders made the most noise and presented themselves as supremely self-confident, which they most probably weren't, not really. The abiding leaders preached and practiced civility, and that one characteristic seemed the most consistent marker for enduring differences. The more excessive leaders produced better stories, but almost universally, cautionary ones.

Aaron Burr, of course, didn't get that memo. Neither did Andrew Jackson. U. S. Grant, however inept he proved as an administrator, rose from humble roots and accepted his commission with considerable hesitation. Some of the competing generals within his own ranks complained about his lack of grandeur, for he insisted upon wearing a slouch hat and a simple coat without epaulettes or hauteur. FDR maintained a continuous happy hour throughout his three and then some terms. When five o'clock came, out came the cocktail shaker and the jokes. Our most imperial Presidents have proven our most imperious. Wilson sincerely believed he knew best. Hoover thought he was smarter than everybody else. Reagan rendered his humble office into a sorry, sad joke which few later found very funny.

I submit that when we look for leadership, we generally start searching in the wrong places. We figure that we'll probably have an easier time finding our keys if we stay beneath the streetlight, when they're always hiding in the shadows, as if questioning their relevance. Fortunately, we sometimes broaden our search and we just get lucky when a decent civilian comes into focus. People will complain about their apparent lack of certainty, for it always seems as if a dilemma might be easily balanced if it's riding upon another's shoulders. If hesitancy worked well enough for The Greeks and the Ancient Romans, and for Moses and even Jesus, I figure that it might even prove workable for our times, too. I know that in my writing, I almost always understand what I'm trying to get at when I finally bump into the lede statement I might have started with. HesitantLedes and hesitant leaders share some characteristics. I'm cheering for some serious foot dragging next.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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