MSNBC Chuck Todd asked Former Obama Political Advisor Valrie Jarrett if she was exhausted. Jarrett responded, “No,” while I intuitively noted, “Hell, yeah.” One could presume Jarrett and I were miles apart. Not really, for there are many definitions of exhaustion. Contextually, Todd referenced the current political climate, the purposeful segregation of any person non-white; the purposeful disparagement of anyone unwilling to adorn servitude to a demigod; or the systematic stripping of humanity from anyone considered unelite. My exhaustion comes from witnessing a single person sarcastically strip human dignity from those he serves. Many think my sense of sarcasm is a problem. I believe there’s a deeper, more insidious problem.
Sarcasm has many definitions: most being construed as a verbal irony that mocks or ridicule. The ‘sarcasm’ I’m referring to originated from the Greek words “sark” meaning “flesh,” and “asmos” meaning “to tear or rip.” So it means “ripping flesh,” an extensively bloody image of speech many world leaders use daily. Trump says he was being ‘sarcastic’ and joking about the use of disinfectants in the body. Trump also claims to be sarcastic when he claimed Jimmy Carter was dead, when asking Russia to find the 30,000 Clinton emails, that Obama and Clinton were founders of Isis, and so on. Such as it is, none captures the genuine threat to America.
Nearly four years into the 45th presidency, America has failed to find the middle ground. We have lost the ability to rally to that which unites. We have evolved into concurrent battles between countries, differences in race, religion, gender, or sexuality. All of those propose one segment of society is better than another because of genetic predisposition. We are forcing core values upon everyone. What happens when we strip our voice and moral compass from the world?
We’ve made countless choices throughout our lives, some that felt morally right and some that felt ethically wrong. Known or not, our choices will impact future generations—intolerance rules. Police kneel on a black man’s neck for over 8 minutes, and riots tear apart cities; police officers called on a black family for talking between swimlanes; a woman shopping at Staples was thrown to the ground sustaining injuries after asking another customer to wear a mask. A July 2020 environmental report indicated that due to the lack of climate-related commitments, the world is on a path for a temperature rise of more than 3°C. Such increases will devastate lives all over the world. Poor choices on racism, poverty, and social injustice are our legacy. As such, leadership has failed to lead.
Leaders often state we must be the change we wish the world to be. Rhetorical speeches denounce society’s continued path to segregationism and a willingness to revisit supremacy. If our leaders cannot lead, we must, for many issues, are too important, too critical. Black Lives Matter. Hunger matters. Education matters. Food poverty matters. The environment matters. Ancient texts state the Buddhist said nothing is permanent. However, look closely, and one will discover that everything is part of a larger, cyclical pattern of renewal.
The world is continually changing, and our morality needs to keep pace. We need to pay more attention to unintended consequences and risks and stop excusing our actions with, “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.” We need to pay attention to negligence and recklessness. In his last Op-Ed, John Lewis wrote, “Ordinary people with extraordinary vision can redeem America’s soul by getting in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. The vote is the most powerful nonviolent change agent you have in a democratic society. You must use it because it is not guaranteed. You can lose it.”