Those who have followed the Republican campaign for the presidential nomination and current contest between Romney and Obama know that the United States has no political leadership in Washington.
Billions of dollars have been spent on political propaganda, but not a single important issue has been addressed. The closest the campaign has come to a political issue is which candidate can grovel the lowest at the feet of Israeli prime minister Netanyahu. Romney won that contest. But for the rest, well, it is like two elementary school children sticking their tongues out at one another.
The question of US political leadership has been on my mind for some time. I can remember when political leadership still existed and when bipartisan cooperation could be mustered on enough issues to keep the country and the government functioning.
But no more. It might have been Newt Gingrich who, as Speaker of the House, destroyed bipartisan cooperation by making war on the Democratic Party, warfare that Karl Rove has taken to a new height.
When a country loses leadership, how does a country get leadership back? This is an important question. Without leadership, there is only violence. Once the Romans lost their republic, there was no one to lead them and they were ruled by violence. Will this be our fate?
These thoughts were in my mind when I happened to hear Cynthia McKinney speak. Here was a leader, a person with sufficient fire, knowledge, and compassion for others. Cynthia McKinney served six terms in the House of Representatives as a Democrat from Georgia. In 2008 she was the Green Party's candidate for president. As a US Representative, Cynthia McKinney defied the cowardly Nancy Pelosi and introduced articles of impeachment against President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
If there had been any leadership in Congress in addition to that of Cynthia McKinney and Dennis Kucinich, the executive branch criminals who violated US law, international law, the US Constitution, and committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, would have been impeached, and today American citizens would be safe in their civil liberties protected by the US Constitution.
But as McKinney and Kucinich stood alone in their leadership, the Constitution is eviscerated and the executive branch is above the law. The US government now routinely commits war crimes and violates all of the traditional, but no longer extant, rights of US citizens.
Cynthia McKinney survived brickbats, but she did not survive the Israel Lobby. She spoke up for the Palestinians, a taboo in American politics, and Israeli money got her evicted from the House of Representatives.
Recently, I had an opportunity to speak with Cynthia McKinney, and I asked her about leadership. She replied that at the local level in the black communities there is leadership. It no longer gets media coverage, but it is there.
At the elected political level, she said the public confuses leadership with election to office. But many elected politicians are sycophants for the powers who control the existing order. Real leaders are those with the courage to dissent and to resist. It is the act of resistance that transforms an elected person into a leader.
What Cynthia McKinney was telling me is that politics is a virtual reality, full of paper cutout props pretending to be leaders, while the few real leaders are demonized, redistricted, and disposed of. McKinney, who was brave enough to take on all the forces of evil, also took on Israel for its crimes against the Palestinians.
This shamed almost every other member of Congress, both House and Senate, cowards who sit silently while Israel oppresses the Palestinians and steals their land. McKinney's moral conscience resulted in the Israel Lobby putting her on the extermination list. McKinney's constituents had not seen a leader in so long that they were unable to recognize one, and the Israel Lobby got away with it. She told me: "The Anti-Defamation League wanted me out of Congress and filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case to dismantle the District that sent me to Washington, D.C."
From the Washington Establishment's point of view, Cynthia McKinney was extremely dangerous. She spoke for the people, not for the monied interest groups. In Washington, this is impermissible behavior. And on top of it all, she challenged the government's official story about 9/11.
I remember when black Americans had stepped up to the demands of leadership. In the 21st century this leadership has disappeared. I asked Cynthia McKinney if the black leadership had been bought off with corporate directorships, speaking fees, and executive branch appointments, or was it simply no longer reported by the concentrated corporate ownership of the media, which serves only Washington. In her reply she differentiated between "positional authority" and leadership:
"This is a very good question. Glen Ford now calls them the 'misleadership class' because what is being provided by those with positional authority is not leadership. it is the opposite of leadership. Leadership is not about positional authority or media acceptance: it is about what one does and who one serves and the vision, sense of mission, one inspires in others. Going along to get along and sycophancy in abandonment of one's professed values are not leadership. Individuals paraded on 'mainstream' television and radio are not leaders. These are people who have accommodated themselves to the objectives of the current power wielders and shapers of US policy. The father of a close friend of mine described them as blacks who have sold their blackness."
I asked Cynthia McKinney where are the real leaders as contrasted with the politically ambitious, how are they produced? Why are there so few? Why are they cast aside? Here are her answers:
"This is an interesting question because there has raged a debate for quite some time now on whether leaders are born or made. I happen to believe that all of us have the stuff to be leaders, but it is the extent to which and how we use the stuff we have that determines the character of our leadership. Some people choose to not use their stuff at all and remain bystanders in the face of injustice. Other people choose to use their stuff in service to injustice as perpetrators. And then there's the rest of us who have a moral impulsion to speak up when we see wrong; in fact, Teddy Kennedy said it best when eulogizing his brother, Bobby: 'He saw wrong and tried to right it; he saw suffering and tried to heal it. Saw war and tried to stop it.' That's leadership. This country has had authentic, servant leaders on the national level and many of them were targeted for assassination by the State. This country has a deep reservoir of such capable leaders today, but the system as it is currently configured smothers them, making it difficult for them to breathe. We need to change this system and I believe that the people of this country still can change it."
Why are there so few leaders?