In freshman composition, I often devoted part of a class to short essays. The arguments I chose for focus interested me – probably more than my students. One was to write an essay prompted by an axiom or song lyric. Generally it may not have worked in terms of academic writing, but writing is writing. and a few years ago, one student responded to this Proverb:
“A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” Proverbs 25:28
Often wise, quietly observant, knowing more of human nature than her classmates, (generally less than half her age), her essay chose her native Haiti and Duvalier as subject. Life had taught her much that made those essays interesting; while her command of English, her second language, was not as good as that of her fellow students, her essays reflected both a maturity and a strong moral compass. Knowing that from her previous papers, I was still surprised by her response. She chose to talk about Duvalier and his lust for power and money. That was why she had left Haiti, why her parents had wanted her to leave, why she did not intend to go back. For, as she put it, Duvalier had no walls. This lack made him vulnerable, perhaps, but given his position and power, his lust for more of these, it was his citizens who ended up as victims. Her discussion was enriched my understanding of how those walls protect us from enemies without, but perhaps more from those within – the demons that drive man for money and power.
I thought of her as I watched the Fox documentary and read reviews of Schweizer’s new book, Clinton Cash. I don’t think I want to read it – I don’t need to know the temptation wealth and power gives and the fallen nature of our leaders. I never intended to vote for her anyway. Still, I am reminded of my student as I see the Clintons opening a complex, playing golf, heavily paid, indeed, clearly over paid. Selling the Lincoln bedroom has now become selling uranium to Russia – all with no sense of how far outside the boundaries they dwell.
But something else bothers me as I watch this narcissistic couple perform: We respect men with self-control, with integrity. We know they are men we can count on. But, there is about someone who is empty a certain vulnerability and we return to that with a certain sympathy. Many of those who would be our leaders have that sense of self, that sureness of any commitment, no matter how minor, they will nurture and protect. But some are also quite different. May we not be taken by that needy, charismatic touch nor by the harsh, strident demagogue who would who sign away America’s birthright, the uranium in them thar hills, for a personal slush fund. What kind of grandmother does that?