“Panic masquerading as strength …” That’s how one editorial board characterizes the decision by Senate Republicans not to act on any Supreme Court nominee President Obama presents.
I think I have told the story of the time I punched a ghost in the mouth. It was my older sister’s best friend draped in a sheet. I panicked. My panic was expressed in a show of force; but it wasn’t strength my six-year old self was feeling. It was fear. Maybe that is an apt description of what Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz did – or attempted to do – to Donald Trump at the debate Thursday evening. Fight back. Punch – it almost doesn’t matter where it lands … just punch.
“Panic masquerading as strength” – is that what Thursday’s shooting in Kansas was all about? A man just doesn’t know what to do with himself. Perhaps an entire nation doesn’t know what to do with itself and so disorienting are the current realities and future prospects that we just lash out. We walk in and start firing, hoping those we perceive as our opponents won’t recognize our panic. We create panic in others to hide our own.
David Brooks speaks – again – with what is harder and harder to find these days: a voice of reason. In his most recent column (The Governing Cancer of Our Time) Brooks says there are two ways to deal with a society as large and diverse as ours: Politics, or some form of Dictatorship. The latter is “panic masquerading as strength”. The former is made up of conversation and compromise. It may be that Americans are tired of the “Washington status quo”. You don’t need a PhD in Political Science to know that our politics have never been perfect. And we have to admit to the back-room slogging and the constant influence of what we would now call “Reality TV”. That thing between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton certainly wasn’t a high point in the history of political compromise.
As the American landscape continues to become more and more bloodied, our politicians need to provide the kind of leadership that faces the hard facts of our day with a measured approach. We need people who are more willing to engage and work together than they are looking for any excuse to throw punches. Panic might not be our emotion of choice; but taking literal or linguistic pot shots at each other doesn’t make us look strong. It makes us look like … well, like the three top Republican presidential hopefuls looked at their debate on Thursday evening.