Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My Country 'Tis of Me?

For the life of me, I can't wrap my head around why someone would want to be the President of the United States. I mean, what's the motivation?

What do you get out of it? Money? Nah, there are ways to make a much better living. Must be the power. That is, of course, if you are hungry for that sort of thing. You get to be, arguably, the most powerful person in the world. So that's something. But the responsibility that comes with that is unfathomable.

Knowing about that responsibility, which you would, unless you are a complete idiot -- in which case you would not be [here come the George Bush jokes] in the running for President -- don't you have to be something of a narcissist to accept the nomination? Imagine that moment when a person says to himself: "Yeah, I can do that. I can take a job that George Washington and Abe Lincoln did." Isn't it intrinsically egotistical to think you can fill such shoes?

So, you carry that -- we'll call it -- "confidence," into the job. There you are sitting in the Oval Office. Now, you have to make decisions. Sure, there are people to help you. Sure, there are checks and balances to keep you from being a tyrannical monster. But at your hands, there are plenty of decisions. At your hands, lives of young soldiers hang in the balance. When people die and suffer, en masse, in your country and beyond, as a result of natural tragedy, it is now your problem. Literally. And you can count on the fact that whatever you do will not be enough. No response to tragedy will be the right one or the fastest one or the most complete one. You will leave office hated by myriads. Guaranteed.

And you signed up for this.

What if many die because of you, regardless of right and wrong? Did Truman sleep at night, ever, after after the Enola Gay delivered doom to Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Is George Bush sure the people that died in Iraq needed to? Is President Obama fully comfortable with the idea that he needs to send young people to their deaths in Afghanistan?

I reiterate: What do you get out of being President? Can it be that a president is completely altruistic? That he (or, someday, she) wishes to sacrifice four-to-eight years of his life exclusively for the benefit of his fellow Americans? Can that be it? Even Lincoln, himself, famously (perhaps only in legend) believed there was no such thing as altruism:

Abraham Lincoln illustrated the philosophical issue in a conversation with another passenger in a horse-drawn coach. After Lincoln argued that selfishness prompts all good deeds, he noticed a sow making a terrible noise. Her piglets had gotten into a pond and were in danger of drowning. Lincoln called the coach to a halt, jumped out, ran back, and lifted the little pigs to safety. Upon his return, his companion remarked, "Now, Abe, where does selfishness come in on this little episode?" "Why, bless your soul, Ed, that was the very essence of selfishness. I should have no peace of mind all day had I gone and left that suffering old sow worrying over those pigs."

Is anyone good enough for the presidency? I, for one, am not. And if I were, I would feel like a fool claiming that I was.

I guess I'm glad people want to subject themselves to -- or even that they greedily seek -- something I would see as a waking nightmare. They have been, I sincerely hope, truly better men than I.


  1. I'm with Lincoln (that's a pretty safe side to be on, right?) ;)

  2. "Only he that refuses to be foremost of all things
    /Is truly able to become chief of all Ministers."-Laozi

    Laozi believed that, by seeking to be a leader, one puts himself in jeopardy of being vulnerable and, possibly, destroyed by the chaotic forces of the world.

    I have to agree with you, Chris. Who, in their right mind, would want that kind of burden? Certainly not me. I'd be content to be a beach bum if I could get health benefits.


  3. When in doubt, go with Lincoln, indeed, THC. Good call.

    Larissa -- we'll have to work on establishing a beach bum health fund . . .

  4. That would be ever so delightful.

  5. Yes being President probably sucks in reality, but isnt it mainly the crazy, foolish, and random that really advance humanity in the end? The wright brothers wanted to fly, penicillin came from a contaminated plate, and einstein wasnt all that good at math, really just theory, and lets face it, his hair speaks for itself.

    just sayin