I was sitting at home watching Giant on TV tonight and did what I often do – flicking through Wikipedia to remember the stories and the actors involved. I had always loved James Dean but wanted to remember some of the folks who had roles alongside him.
Imagine my surprise when I looked up Sal Mineo, who also starred with him in Rebel Without A Cause, and came across this.
I don’t usually use this space to talk politics, or morality, or values. But as a passionate viewer of all around me I am inspired to call out the failings not only of that website, but also of us as an American community. And I don’t think those issues are a particularly American failing.
The use of the word “nigger” has been in the news a lot lately, begging questions of whether it’s use is only unacceptable when a white person uses it versus the use of the word in urban lingo day to day. I’m here to say it is a useless word either way.
Bigger than that though is where it comes from. It is an ignorant word borne of ignorant people, whatever color you are, and it is based on a belief system that is founded on training, not on fact. Nevermind that I can come up with countless examples of people of all races and creeds that make our daily life not only convenient but possible. More important is a sense that a black and white (no pun intended) approach to anything is just stupid.
Today, we in the States have Republican versus Democrat, Tea Party versus the moderate wing of the Republican party, the religious right versus everyone else, and so on – people who believe that there is one way to rule the world, no matter the circumstance. Good leaders understand that every event requires a specific response, and that in that response we must look to the very specific things that created the moment we must respond to, and respond to it in kind. Our tendency is to react, and I am calling that out as poor leadership.
There is no one in this country who wants higher taxes. But an entire faction of this country believes there is another faction that actually exists to raise taxes without regard to why that might be necessary. No one in this world wants their kids dying in a random act of violence in their schools, but there are people in this country who will refuse even the most sensible controls to ensure that very same safety. That is just stupid.
Ideology, or belief, isn’t good leadership. When we believe something that is 100% certain, we are always – always – 100% wrong. Good leaders understand that there are 100 ways to Sunday and that the goal is the ultimate aim. The bias that we place into every situation clouds our ability to actually be great, and sometimes we take it to a place that is not only disruptive, it is also contrary to the aim of good leadership, which is positive change.
Racism sucks. So does political ideology. Both come from fear, and if you identify yourself with any group that claims to have the answer to anything, I challenge you to prove why. Tell me why a particular race or religion automatically makes one a threat, and I will explain, in detail, how it was the gains in science driven by the Middle East that got Europe out of the Dark Ages, or how a black man invented electronic devices that powers you computers, radios, and maybe even the pacemaker you wear. Tell me how 100% of the time lower taxes is the right answer and I will point you to 2008. It’s kind of like the taxes you pay. No one wants to pay them until we have a serious discussion about what you lose when you stop paying them. Think a little deeper before you join the bandwagon.
Good leaders understand that every situation is different – even when the data in the situation appears to be the same. And good leaders never discount people for anything other than what they contribute. Think before you subscribe.