You can't help wondering what would happen if a person running for the presidency decided to set politics in the flag-waving, tub-thumping, ax-grinding sense aside and to speak, instead, candidly, thoughtfully, truthfully out of his or her own heart.
Suppose a candidate were to stand up before the reporters and the TV cameras and the usual bank of microphones and say something like this:
"The responsibilities of this office are so staggering that anybody who doesn't approach them with knees knocking is either a fool or a lunatic. The literal survival of civilization may depend on the decisions that either I or one of the other candidates make during the next four years. The general welfare and peace of mind of millions of people will certainly depend on them. I am only a human being. If I have my strengths, I also have my weaknesses. I can't promise that I'll always do the right thing for this country. I can only promise that it will always be this country rather than my own political fortunes that I'll try to do the right thing for. I believe in this country at its best, but I also believe that we have made many tragic mistakes. I am willing to entertain the possibility that our assumptions about the Arabs, for example, may be as wrong as their assumptions about us, and my major objective, if elected, will be to explore that possibility with them at the highest levels of government and in the most radical, searching, and unrelenting ways I can devise. I believe that the survival and well-being of the human race as a whole is more important than the partisan interests of any group, including both theirs and our own."
There are many who would undoubtedly say that such a statement is naive, dangerous, unrealistic, and un-American, and that anybody making it couldn't get elected dogcatcher. I can't help believing, however, that there are others who would find it such a note of sanity, honesty, and hope in the political quagmire that they would follow the person who made it to the ends of the earth.
~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words