So, shortly before 10 a.m. last Sunday, I boarded a plane for New York from Florida, and shortly after 10 a.m., the pilot informed us that one of the engines was leaking, which was “a blessing in disguise,” he said, because there was also a more problematic electrical malfunction outside the cockpit that wasn’t discovered until the check of the plane right before takeoff.
Let’s leave aside why the plane was being checked only minutes before takeoff or that the mechanic summoned for the repairs had to come from his municipal job clear across town. Little of what transpired during that long day’s journey into night made sense, except for the tremendous leadership skills of the pilot, Capt. Mike, who kept us informed every step of the way — walking the cabin, shaking hands, asking us if we had any questions after we deplaned, apologizing again after we reboarded and overseeing the repairs and report to the FAA for flight clearance.
“Thank you for your leadership,” I told him. And I meant it. Leadership is a rare quality, one that has intrigued me from my childhood fascination with Alexander the Great, who taught me to lead from the front. That young pilot led from the front, putting the welfare of his charges above profit and convenience while assuming responsibility for everything that happened from the moment we got on that plane till the moment we landed safely.
In a weekend that saw his unerring leadership, I was also reading Douglas Brinkley’s superb “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race.” JFK was a reckless womanizer with his share of problems. But he was a true leader, who assumed responsibility for his failures, included everyone in his successes and aspired to greatness in himself and others.
Following this past weekend, I witnessed an example of poor leadership based on greed and narcissism that will have disastrous consequences for others for years to come.
Which brings us to President Donald J. Trump. The same weekend in which I celebrated some happy family milestones and relaxed in Florida also brought devastation to our nation in the form of two mass murders. This was followed by the stock market falling 767 points Monday as China devalued its currency in the continuing tariff wars with Trumpet. One mark of a poor leader is the refusal to accept responsibility for challenges. Trump not surprisingly blames the Chinese, just as he blames Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell for the market’s recent volatility when he didn’t explain the interest rate cut clearly.
“Once again, Jay Powell has let us down,” Trump tweeted. No, Mr. President, you have let us down. And anyway, who’s this us? There’s Trump and everyone else, he and we. Never have we had a kind, inclusive word from this man. So his visits to El Paso and Dayton today in the aftermath of shootings that again reflect what I call the literature of rejection — some young, self-aggrandized white guys’ disproportionate rage at some grievance — should be illuminating.
Or not. Trump’s approach to tragedy is to read a speech off a teleprompter in the sullen, hollow-voiced, robotic manner of a miscreant third grader forced to apologize by his teacher to his entire class. In regards to these tragedies, he called out President Barack Obama’s compassionate statement, referring tellingly to the former president’s “reign,” as if presidents were kings instead of public servants ,and revealing himself to be petty, jealous, selfish and insecure.
Trump’s calls for unity and condemnation of white supremacy ring false, because he has been the hater in chief. Right before an Ohio rally mere days ago, he said he couldn’t guarantee he could stop the crowd from chanting “Send her back” in reference to Somali-born Representative Ilhan Omar, a Trump nemesis and thus favorite target.
But if he’s so strong, why can’t he tell his base, “Cut it out. We’re better than this”? Because they’re the types to respond with “an eye for an eye.” And that, said Mahatma Gandhi, another great leader, leaves the whole world blind.
What we need is gun control as well as education so that we can stop demonizing others and realize that life is not a zero sum game. Their advancement does not mean our diminishment. For this we need new leadership and if it takes the stock market tanking to get it, well, I might just be willing to see that as a “blessing in disguise.”