Unifying this country for the next century

By Jeremy

(U-WIRE) PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The cynical view of politics held by the American public can be traced back to the inept handling of the Vietnam war, the Watergate scandal, and of course, the election of Jimmy Carter. In my opinion this suspicion of elected officials, the supposed leaders of the country, has fragmented the nation and stifled its growth. And yet, I do not believe that during my lifetime the concept of “Americanness,” the social and political ideologies and practices of this country, has not evolved in a positive direction.
A leader must arise who will unify the country, but he/she can not come from the political system and can not be affiliated with any particular religion. The problem with leaders who represent religious groups are the prejudices that other people feel towards them, the controversial issues they discuss and the diversity of religious beliefs in this country.
Now that I have defined what this leader is not, I should tell you what is my vision of this leader.
Where will this leader come from? I have no idea. This leader does not have to be a poor, grassroots organizer whose appeal is the stereotypical outsider running a populist campaign against “The Machine.” In the past this type of leader has been wealthy, has been employed by the government, and has had the full support of millions of people.
What qualities must this leader possess? Charisma, someone who the people want to support, have to support, and need to support. The person must be able to spread his/her ideas to the general public by speaking or writing. This leader must be passionate and have the strength to stand up for the beliefs that are held as sacred. After this leader dies he/she must have had such a large impact on this country that people continue to fight for these principles.
What issues will this leader address? The particular issue is not as important as unifying the people behind an idea. Whatever principle is fought for must have a significant impact on everyday life and must represent a radical change from the status quo. The issue has to be relevant to the lives of every single person. Even though this sounds very trite, this leader must be able to seize control in times of need and steer this country to safety.
Can you give an example of this type of leader? Even though there have been numerous leaders in U.S. history, the two I would like to discuss are Rachel Carson and General MacArthur. Rachel Carson’s novel “Silent Spring” forced this nation to assess its impact on the natural world, started the environmental movement, and eventually led to banning the use of DDT in this country. She had the courage to research, write, and publish this novel even though DDT was being praised for its ability to kill pests, and enhance human health by reducing the incidence of malaria and typhus. The aerial spraying of DDT was endorsed by the government and the chemical industry, and supported by the people. Silent Spring stated that DDT has severely altered the ecological processes of the natural world, and might have latent health effects in humans (such as cancer).
Rachel Carson won the support of the people who demanded action from the government. Consequently, JFK appointed a special panel to investigate her conclusions. The findings of this panel led to the banning of the domestic use of DDT and stricter regulations for the use of pesticides. Rachel Carson has inspired the next generation of environmentalists who continue to fight for a greener future.
That cheesy story of one women’s triumph over the evil corporations is exactly what this country needs. Rachel Carson was a professor who spread her messaging by her writing, she was passionate about her issue, and people have continued her work long past her death. Her struggle has had a significant impact on the social history of this country.
The other individual was General MacArthur, a West Point graduate, decorated commander during World War I and later Chief of Staff. He returned to the Philippines in 1935 and fled to Australia after the Japanese invasion in 1941. MacArthur assumed control of the Allied forces and began to hop from island to island from inching closer to Japan. In 1945 he accepted the surrender of the Japanese emperor.
When the Korean war started General MacArthur arrogantly asserted that the North Koreans would throw down their weapons and run when they saw the American soldiers. This was not the case. The Americans were losing ground to the North Koreans.
MacArthur refused to accept defeat and wired back to the president that the war would be over shortly, and that America would be triumphant. Eventually the tide of the war did turn and MacArthur marched his troops deep into North Korea. When he refused to stop advancing the president, fearing that the General would antagonize China, relieved MacArthur of his command. MacArthur returned to the US and was greeted with a hero’s welcome wherever he went.
General MacArthur had the arrogant swagger and charm that endeared himself to the American people. The prejudices in this country demanded someone with his type of “Americanness” to fight the Japanese. The people rallied behind this angry general. He was a brilliant orator that gave everyone confidence and made people proud to be American. At the time, the love for MacArthur blinded the people to the fact that his strategy for defeating the Japanese was pure genius, but in Korea his large ego got in the way of rational thought and he made some terrible decisions which almost lead to war with China.
World War II unified this country and pulled it out of the Depression. There were two evil enemies that had to be defeated, and “we” (the people of this nation) had to do it together. Obviously wars are tragic events in human history, but the overwhelming sense of patriotism that it inspires within this nation is unparalleled.
To quickly wrap up this long, boring column: the people needs to unify behind a charismatic leader. This fragmented country needs someone that every American can be proud of and believe in the struggles that this leader is fighting. A person, as Bruce Springsteen pointed out, who might just be a stereotypical hero from the movies.
This column originally appeared Monday in the Brown Daily Herald