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Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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OpinionThe United States of America is starved for leadership

The United States of America is starved for leadership

Much of the time, the President of the United States — who he is, what he’s up to, what he is or isn’t getting done (till the bearer of another gender gets the role) — is a peripheral matter in our lives, somebody whom we’re aware of but not fixated on, unless we’re a political junkie. Upon the age of Trump, I saw that change, so disturbing was his presence to so many on the left. Then add in the pandemic, and we became hyper-vigilant, sitting at home ever wondering what the man would say or do (or fail to) next.

Still, there is a legitimate realm of perspective in which we understand that a gap exists between the presidency and the happenings in our immediate lives. This isn’t to say that presidents and parties are devoid of consequence and meaning, but that the palpability of that consequence and meaning ebb and flow depending on what’s happening with us personally.

This in mind, I have to say that ever since Thursday night’s debate, I have felt an acute sense of panic about the presidency, almost like I’m an infant crying out from the crib, experiencing the disquieting feeling that no one will be showing up to hold me.

On the right side of the screen was Joe Biden, who’s had no bigger fan than I, but who’s becoming a gigantic emblem to the sad realities of aging, turning the generally banal and matter-of-fact aspects of human decline (parts of life that should come as a surprise to no one) into a jaw-dropping global spectacle, complete with mishmashed speech patterns and hollow-eyed, surreal staring. Truth be told, the parts when Joe wasn’t speaking haunted me more than the parts when he was, as I remember a time (i.e., most of my life) when those eyes shined with confidence, merriment, irony, light, and hope. But now they are eyes that stir stunned before ghosts and phantoms.

On the left side of the screen was Donald Trump, a man who at one point I decided to stop thinking, much less writing, about, in the same way that one eventually decides not to focus on the schoolyard bully. For there’s nothing anyone can do; the guy’s a glaring, caramel-toned megalomaniac. His now-third run for the presidency is all about him and his need to prove himself, and he scarcely even bothers to hide it anymore. Meanwhile, despite having barely won one election, having badly lost another, and being a poison to the candidates whom he endorses, Trump remains the lone rock star of the Republican Party, an inspirational example of a free market-driven ego run amok, complete with a propensity for C+ comedy and the open verbal abuse of those he hates (i.e., everybody but his wife and children — at least as far as we know).

Anyway: We’re in a nightmare world. I needn’t mention other levels of disqualifier that are making the rounds: That they’re both old white men. That they offer zero new ideas. That their talking points and debate topics have been recycled now for decades. That they represent a two-party system that everybody knows is antiquated and is in fact on debatable speaking terms with reality. 

No, it’s enough that one is a coot and the other is a psychopath. This is like sitting on an airplane and overhearing that the cockpit’s empty. This is the system now. This is the moment. This is who we are and, if we’re to buy into the old mythologies, the very best we can do.

It’s plain unbearable. Weeks back, it was boring and low-grade depressing, a looming rematch absent anticipation or real public engagement. But now that the options have stood before us, distracting us from varied matters of substance with the calamity of their form, we must reach out and yank the alarm lever: 

  1. Joe Biden must step down from the race. This zero-self-awareness shtick just isn’t cutting it. He isn’t fit to lead anything shy of a nursing home ceramics class. And even then, I’d be up all night worrying about the safety of the ceramics.
  2. Donald Trump, of course, isn’t going anywhere. The system has thrown everything at him — two impeachments, lawsuits, criminal charges — but no matter the storm system, he persists in walking between the raindrops. His self-belief is so absolute, so without room for a reality in which he falls, that he simply keeps manifesting his own propulsion and momentum. So what he needs, of course…
  3. …is a worthy opponent. More, the country needs a good race. A real one. A race that looks right at reality and has a long, hard talk about it.

That means talking about the widespread mental health crisis in the post-pandemic age. It means actually addressing the terrifying rises in the cost of living (talk about propulsion and momentum!). It means acknowledging the countless ways in which social media impacts our brains, our bodies, our relationships, our societies, and our systems. It means battening down the hatches for AI, to say nothing of worsening climate change. It means — I may as well just say it — not settling for an atmosphere in which the status quo clings to and humps itself while the real world scrambles onward toward oblivion.

I’ll admit it: I’ve taken the presidency for granted. I’ve seen it occupied by decent men and scoundrels alike, but at least I always knew it was stable. The intention was set; the structure was in place. Sure, the role could never fully be held, given human beings’ tendency to be imperfect, but what the role did provide was a cohesive sense of leadership. Between the legislative and judiciary branches, you had the executive. It was sound. It clicked.

If we hold an election between these two men, we will vote either way for an executive who cannot lead.

 



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Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro
Eric Shapiro is a writer & filmmaker. As a screenwriter, he’s won a Fade In Award and written numerous feature films in development by companies including WWE, Mandalay Sports Media, Game1, and Select Films. He is also the resident script doctor for Rebel Six Films (producers of A&E’s “Hoarders”). As a journalist, Eric’s won a California Journalism Award and is co-owner and editor of The Milpitas Beat, a Silicon Valley newspaper with tens of thousands of monthly readers that has won the Golden Quill Award as well as the John Swett Award for Media Excellence. As a filmmaker, Eric’s directed award-winning feature films that have premiered at the Fantasia Film Festival, Fantastic Fest, and Shriekfest, and been endorsed by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Eric’s apocalyptic novella “It’s Only Temporary” appears next to Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” on Nightmare Magazine’s list of the 100 Best Horror Novels of All Time. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Rhoda, and their two sons.

2 COMMENTS

  1. I would disagree, Has Biden slowed down, of course, but that doesn’t mean he can’t lead. He has actually been doing a historically good job, under the radar, like a President should do.

    If inflation is the biggest talking point from Republicans, then they don’t understand economics and fail to realize no matter who was President inflation was going to be an issue because if the botched handling of the Pandemic by the Trump administration. It was/ is painful but inflation is coming back to the fold, and is close to what would have been an average increase in cost of living around 3%.

    The biggest fear is which of these men would you want in office now that the Supreme Court has given carte blanche to the President ultimate power with no checks and balances or fear of consequences, that should make the choice very easy.

    Look Biden isn’t withdrawing, nor should he after 1 poor debate. Did you watch his rally the very next day in North Carolina? He still has fire, he just had a bad night. This is what we have let’s get behind him and make sure we save what is left of our democracy, because that is what is at stake here.

  2. Trump provided 3 Covid vaccines (and 2 assistance checks) in record time and Biden couldn’t handle the distribution of it, except for his cronies who got all they wanted. Biden is clearly underperforming (what has he accomplished since being elected)? Remember, “he was the first black woman to serve under a black president.” The people saw his deteriorated mental state during his entire term and especially during the debate, and even since then. Even the Dems are trying to get him out. Yes, inflation (which has nothing to do with Trump), crime, illegals, his pay-to-play scheme for Hunter and the Ukrainians, the Afghan withdrawal, loss of energy independence, politicizing the enforcement of federal law, his inability to function outside of a few daylight hours, etc. etc. demonstrate his inability to be president. He’s a hand puppet for Obama, Soros, etc. His handlers are making the decisions. Thank goodness the SCOTUS have the people’s desires in mind. He has another one-on-one interview coming up, and watch how it’s edited to try to make him look cogent. Trump will bring this country back to where the majority want it to be.

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