Rhonda Cagle

Posts Tagged ‘Politics’

Looking for Churchill

In Uncategorized on August 8, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I’ve spent most of the morning with one ear tuned into the television. I’ve listened as news anchors have described the free fall of the Dow Jones – listened as political leaders blame each other for the downgrade of America’s credit rating. I’ve listened for leadership to emerge. And after all my listening, I have just one question…

What the hell?!

Is this the best our country can do? And is this what voters are willing to accept?

In watching the debacle that is our current leadership, I’ve been remembering another leader from another era. Winston Churchill was not always a great statesman and leader. In fact, in the First World War, he was responsible for military strategies that saw the fall of Antwerp, the failure of a naval attack in the Sea of Marmara and an attempt to seize Turkish positions on the Dardanelles Straight. This last campaign resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 men and was considered an absolute disaster.

In today’s world, he would have been considered a failure. But Churchill sifted through the experience of what had not worked to discover what would. It was this conviction – and little else – he brought to his nation in May 1940. At a time when Britain’s political leaders were resigned to defeat and ready to sign a peace treaty with Hitler, Churchill offered decisive leadership and action. With these words, he challenged and inspired opposing political parties and a nation to unite and embrace a different course of action:

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war by land, sea and air, with all our might and with all the strength God has given us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

It was this kind of leadership I was hoping to hear today from our President. It is this kind of leadership our country needs. Instead, I heard the following:

“I know we’re going through a tough time right now. We’ve been going through a tough time for the last two and a half years. And I know a lot of people are worried about the future. But here’s what I also know: There will always be economic factors that we can’t control –- earthquakes, spikes in oil prices, slowdowns in other parts of the world. But how we respond to those tests — that’s entirely up to us.

Markets will rise and fall, but this is the United States of America. No matter what some agency may say, we’ve always been and always will be a AAA country. For all of the challenges we face, we continue to have the best universities, some of the most productive workers, the most innovative companies, the most adventurous entrepreneurs on Earth.”

I don’t want platitudes intended to make me feel better about America, I want leaders who will do whatever it takes to actually make America better. I want real leadership – the kind that sets expectations and won’t settle for anything less than progress and participation from all parties.

Perhaps President Obama should take a page from Churchill. Armed with little more than his beliefs, he spent most of World War II in cramped war rooms. Short on rations and weapons, he single-handedly inspired members of opposing parties and his nation with his courage.

It’s interesting to note that in his cabinet room were chairs reserved for Labor as well as Conservative ministers. In fighting for the survival of his country, he formed a coalition government that hammered out their differences in order to preserve their nation. It’s a lesson the leaders of our nation desperately need to learn.

Our country is in desperate need of a Churchill. But at this point, I’ll willingly settle for a leader.



Eyes Wide Open

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 9:39 pm

For the past few days, I’ve been doing a lot of listening. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was nearly killed for doing exactly this so I thought it was the least I could do in the days following her attempted assassination and the massacre of six others.

Since Saturday, I’ve kept my mouth shut and my ears opened.

I’ve listened to family members remember our neighbors lost. A mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother – a Republican – who prided herself on cooking amazing holiday dinners for her family decided to go and get to know a Democratic Congresswoman who had impressed her. A pastor, known for his work in clothing and feeding the needy within the community, had decided to stop and ask one or two questions before going to breakfast with his wife. A nine-year-old little girl, recently elected to her student council, wanted to meet her congresswoman and learn more about how democracy and our nation works.

By now, we all know what happened next. A few seconds and an empty 30-round clip later, the blood of our neighbors and the lifeblood of our country ran in the streets of a previously quiet Western town.

In the following days, I’ve listened as people have mourned the loss of lives… grieved the pain of the wounded… and wondered where to lay the blame. And I’ve listened as the conversation has turned to examine the tenor and tone of the political discourse within our nation. And I’ve heard people become increasingly defensive about this violence being the act of a heinous and unbalanced individual.

It was.

But is this really the point?

Deserved or not, this moment in our national history has brought us – albeit kicking and screaming – back to the doorstep of civility and respect. It’s brought into focus the fact that our words fall on the ears of the healthy and the fragile, the balanced and the unhinged. And our words have power. Power to unite and power to divide. Power to heal and power to wound. Power to inspire and power to disillusion.

The fact that our nation is finally having this conversation for any reason is nothing short of a miracle. No less so than Congresswoman Giffords opening her eyes for the first time since her shooting.

If she can open her eyes after experiencing such reckless hate, surely we can do the same.

Sex, Religion, and Politics

In Uncategorized on March 25, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Sex. Religion. Politics. The mere mention of these subjects makes my genteel mother squirm at my lack of civility. Given our country’s current religious and political climate, however, my mother is desperately hoping I’ll regale you with tawdry tales of past indiscretions and sweaty trysts with lovers named…


The truth is it would be a lot easier to talk about past peccadilloes with unnamed lovers.  The politics of our current day have become infused with the vitriolic fervor of religiosity prompting members of churches and Congress to firmly, fearfully retreat to one side or the other of the respective aisle. Crossing that aisle has become something like traveling through the DMZ with both sides sniping at the person in the middle. Just listen to Glenn Beck equating churches that preach social justice as code speak for Nazism or Communism or Rev. Jeremiah Wright preaching the assertion that the United States brought on the 9/11 attacks with its own “terrorism.” Both are extremists, encouraging those on either side of the respective aisle not to get too close to the center. These two men, and others like them, seem to be pompous windbags who earn a living on making people afraid of or angry about one thing or another. The trouble is, people listen to them.

Today I read in the news that the FBI is launching several investigations into death threats, bomb threats, and acts of vandalism aimed at lawmakers. Members of Congress have had office windows smashed. A condom and shredded American flags doused in gasoline were sent to representatives who voted for healthcare reform. HazMat crews were called in to investigate suspicious packages sent to members of both parties. Both Republicans and Democrats have been subjected to hundreds of letters, phone calls, and e-mails filled with language that would make a sailor blush and accusations of racism, Communism, and all the –isms that cause people to move further away from the clearing in the middle and take cover in the protection of propaganda. Healthcare reform will bankrupt our country. Republicans are opposed to any kind of change. The words keep flying and the people keep running. Those who don’t run – those who get too close to the middle – are cut down with insults of “baby killer” or “traitor.”

I wonder what would happen if Americans of the Christian faith or no faith – Democrats and Republicans – would be quiet for just a few minutes… take a step toward the middle… look into the eyes of the people on the other side of the aisle. We might discover some interesting facts about each other. Those on the other side have family. Like me, they’re worried about affordable healthcare and giving their loved ones good care without going broke. They don’t like raising taxes. Like me, they’re trying to figure out how to balance the good of the individual with the good of the whole. They don’t have all the answers. Like me, they’ve inherited a country facing unprecedented challenges and they’re doing the best they can with limited knowledge and ability. Looking across the aisle, the opposition looks less like a jackass and more like a person – a person like me.

My mother taught me not to talk about sex, religion, or politics. But maybe, just maybe, my mother was wrong. If we talked more – listened more – about subjects that are off limits, we might be willing to step out of our comfort zone and move toward the middle.

Now, back to those unnamed lovers…

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