Richard Nixon was not a bad man. He was a man. He wanted to be loved, and they all want to be loved. He just got caught, and so he payed for it. There’s a thread of the main intrigue for me. They all go into it with such optimism only to come out beaten and worn, looking at their successors with mournful and respectful and worried eyes. At the end of the day, “We are small group,” they say. And if asked if they’d do it again, most may very well answer ‘no’.
As far as the word itself goes, ‘leader’, they all deserve the title, no matter how much they end up leading anybody. And this feeling of mine comes more from pity than anything else. Either way, the leader will soon become less relevant as we understand our collective need to let go of him and rely only on ourselves.
But the time of leaders was a good time, if not a memorable time, and I will always be fascinated by those who entered the great arena. They will stand on a pedestal for having endured everything they did. Some deservedly so and some not. Certainly not poor old Abe, who was probably the strong yet sorry type for not having anywhere else to look in life. For not having a personal life to truly relish in, beyond the comfort of his books. And certainly not Washington, ever eager to retire since the French and Indian war, forced into the role of general and then chief administrator over the emerging stars and stripes. Franklin Roosevelt, the third of the great trinity, was also born for the job though he might have begun with more ambition than the other two. So how much did the man change, when he truly understood the countless lives he held in his hands? How quickly did he begin to see the flames? And how was this man, physically crippled and therefore hardly able to care for himself, still able to maintain that other fire which kept him alive and committed long enough to help his brothers off of their feet and into battle against the immeasurable evil of human fear, which had manifested like never before into living, breathing armies? Not since the hour of Washington and Lincoln had leadership of this kind been so purely demonstrated in one human being. It’s the kind that can kill a man, as it might have with the great Roosevelt.
What brings me here then? What draws me to these characters? All I was thinking of was Jefferson, and of Richard Nixon who seems more relatable and represents that other side of the spectrum. He’s the poor old soul that speaks to so many of our own. They want the statues. They want to be loved.
What makes Richard so bad then? Was he not any different then the rest? Was it he who just got caught? Poor ol’ Nixon, who so wanted to be thought of as the Lincoln overseeing a divided country, who wanted to share in the image of Kennedy, that of the young hero who died for idealism. Kennedy, he said, represented what people sought to be, while he, Nixon, represented what people were. There was no longer any room for idealism and Kennedy’s death showed that to the masses, and Nixon’s desperation only solidified it. Poor man. Rough way to end an era.
Where the hell did I go? I just wanted to write about Thomas Jefferson. But I guess that is the nature of the man. The American Sphynx, ever elusive, leading you to identifying the idea surrounding him, but not to the man himself. Even the scholars cannot do that. But as tribute to him, I guess, lie the preceding thoughts on what will always be a great phenomenon. The human capacity to lead, if not the sheer desire to be a leader.
Therein lies the dividing line in that great debate. There are those who choose to lead and those who want to be a leader. Few have, and few will go on to be worthy of the first class; while the rest will fit more easily among the second, and Jefferson too, whose words and actions on slavery never reconciled, I suspect, will stand among them. This latter portion you cannot blame, for, come sundown, they are only mortal.