MIA: Our Leaders
There's a leadership void. Who will fill it?
I just watched hundreds of Afghan people chase a U.S. Air Force plane down a runway in Kabul. They waved their arms, pleading with the people on board to stop, to let them on, to take them away from their home currently being overrun by the Taliban. Three plunged to their deaths.
I’m not a foreign policy expert, but from what I’ve gathered over the years it is widely understood that we needed to go. The mention of “another Vietnam” haunted decision makers, and the American public was growing tired of constant strife in the middle east. The cost continued to climb without a real sense of what we were doing there. Today, the Daily Mail front cover reads, “What The Hell Did They All Die For?”. I’m sure the answers to that question are both endless and likely unsatisfying. The Obama, Trump, and Biden Administrations all focused on withdrawal plans, though it now seems that the current administration had no real plan at all apart from “leave”. The criticism stems not from the reason behind the withdrawal, but rather the method of doing so.
I don’t intend this to be a dive into U.S foreign policy, debating whether or not intervention or isolation is to be favored. Again, I’m not so arrogant as to think that I in any way possess the knowledge or credentials to speak to the complexities of war and diplomacy. I can only ask the questions of a concerned citizen, absorb the information provided by our leaders, and make observations.
How much of our success there over the past two decades was exaggerated? It’s certainly hard to measure, but the rapid collapse of the Afghan forces leads me to believe we weren’t given the whole truth. Why was our embassy just now shredding intelligence as the Taliban marched into Kabul? Were there any measures in place to protect our translators and other Afghani assets? Was there any talk regarding special visas for those in danger? Why would personnel be pulled before these matters were settled? President Biden remains at Camp David, though we are promised he will address these issues “soon”.
The deafening silence of our leadership in the midst of this current failure is filled with the sound of my own voice asking, “Where are our leaders?”, yet Afghanistan is just one event that brings me back to that same question.
I’m experiencing fatigue attempting to locate the adults in the room. I’m not just speaking about politicians, either. Where are the journalists, the scientists, the doctors, and the CEOs that are witnessing the decline of public trust, the fear and polarization of our citizens, the harmful curriculum in schools, or the disregard of data in areas such as policing and some COVID-19 numbers and policies?
They must be tied up in another sensitivity training session or the hundredth hearing on the January 6th “armed insurrection” that turns out wasn’t armed at all.
Tablet magazine published an article by the comedian Konstantin Kisin that satirically explores the potential reasoning behind vaccine hesitancy. I highly recommend reading it in its entirety as it walks through the past year and a half of leadership failures across our country. I will explore just a few examples here.
The Emmy award winning sexual predator responsible for the deaths of thousands of nursing home residents, Governor Andrew Cuomo, has fallen. This comes only months after being hailed by all, including our President, as the poster child for leadership while scoring a lucrative book deal to highlight his bravery and vision during the pandemic. It is August 2021, and we have known he signed that nursing home order for over a year. I wonder who else knew? I also patiently wait to see if the proud Italian politician will undergo the same scrutiny and public shaming of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh? Will Cuomo’s victims receive a spot on the cover of TIME magazine like Christine Blasey Ford? The subtitle of that 2018 “Cover of the Year” read, “Her Lasting Impact”. Exactly how long lasting is it?
The Wuhan lab theory is suddenly no longer a fringe conspiracy, but rather a legitimate possibility as the source of COVID-19. The Southern border is no longer a mass grave for migrant children, but rather just a slightly overwhelmed system. Barack Obama’s birthday bash can spread COVID-19 all over Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s imperative our children remain masked for seven hours every day.
Where are the leaders? The unfortunate incidents, missteps, poor decisions, and criminal behavior are enough to infuriate me, but the absolute inability of so many to accept responsibility, to report honestly, to apply equal standards to all in power, or to ask difficult questions is maddening. We are failed and left to fill the void with our own musings.
I’m so mad at the flippancy. I’m so upset that the truth is so obviously sacrificed on the altar of political ideology. I’m so sad that the disenfranchised are still hurt the most by these failures, regardless of the constant stream of pious words pouring from the mouths of those promising to be their protectors.
I am not an Afghan. I’ll never chase a foreign plane down a runaway believing it to be my last hope of survival. As frustrated as I may be, I still live in a country where my liberty is safeguarded. So long as this is the case, I intend to steward that freedom well. To use it to call leaders to account as much as I am able, to fight for leaders with integrity, to push for policies that are reasonable and responsible, to converse with those different from me in attempts to find compromise, to give generously, to defend those who risk their livelihoods for what is right and good, to contribute to my community, and, for the love of God, to apologize when I’m wrong and seek to offer a remedy.
I resolve to be a good leader, however small the role and responsibility. I urge us all to dedicate ourselves to that same task, so that the next generation never has to ask where we are.