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Waiting for Greatness

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We live in extraordinary times.

That's the bad news.

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary leaders, and we have none. Not one.

That's the really bad news.

Among the Dems and Repubs vying to be our next leader there are gradations of greatness. But they  range only from the “not-so-great” to “you-gotta-be-shittin'-me” levels of greatness.

Greatness is, to be fair, the rarest of human conditions. We see it only rarely and, if we're real lucky, greatness appears, seemly out of nowhere, at extraordinary times to save our mortal cookies in just the nick of time.

The founders of this country, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, et al, were a pretty impressive lot, for their time.  They were weren't perfect, but they were great. They had and displayed courage, wisdom and vision. Oh, I know, they also had slaves ... their bad.  But considering the times, they were by any measure, great leaders, without whom our history would have evolved quite differently.

Abe Lincoln was another great piece of work. So was FDR. Roosevelt's greatness pulled America out of economic depression. And his creation of Social Security is the only reason America's elderly enjoy any degree of security in their old age. Oh, and there was that whole World War II thing that Roosevelt was able to pulled off in less time than our current leader has battled us to a draw in Iraq.

Jack Kennedy was shaping up nicely too. Though he was not allowed to fully prove his greatness, we can all thank him for the fact that Florida and Cuba don't glow in the dark today. His brother, Bobby Kennedy also had the seeds of greatness, though they were never allowed to germinate.

Martin Luther King shared the kind of greatness our founders had; courage, wisdom and vision. His greatness was required to complete what Abe Lincoln began a century before.

Now here we are, once again living in extraordinary times. War – or near-war  -- rages throughout the Middle East, western economies that run on oil suddenly find themselves looking down the barrel of an empty barrel. The US, once the engine of the world's economy, mortgaged it's engine for a couple of trillion bucks in easy credit to Chinese loan-sharks. American consumers also became credit junkies.  Our grandparents once celebrated “mortgage burning parties,” when they paid off their home loans.  Today too many Americans celebrate simply being able to scrape enough together to stay out of foreclosure each month.

Then there's the environment. We've shoved so much of our gaseous trash into the atmosphere that Mother Earth has had right up to here with us, and she may just be  fixing to shrug us off like so many annoying pests.

Extraordinary times, indeed. But if you're like me you feel like the guy in the play , Waiting for Godot. Where are our time's great leader(s)? Are there any? Is there at least one? Will he/she show up in the nick of time and begin addressing the real reasons we are living in extraordinary times, rather than simply reeling them off as political talking points?

I'm waiting. And I suspect millions other Americans are waiting too. Waiting and hoping. Hoping, but still waiting.

We have something like 20 people running for President, and not one of them has displayed anything that rises to the level of the kind of  greatness required by our times.

Barack Obama shows, from time to time, glimmers of greatness. But even there he seems unwilling, or unable, to break completely out of the box, to dare to color outside the lines of conventional political orthodoxy. He had just such a an opportunity when his opponents pounced on him for saying he would not use nuclear weapons against terrorist camps in Pakistan. They called him “naive,” and said it was dangerous to “take anything off the table.”

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a Pulitzer.

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