In Remember the Titans, there’s a scene that takes place between Julius and Gerry, one I’ve recently found myself thinking about. I’ll briefly set the stage: the team is struggling, and no one is getting along; the two meet after practice.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably noticed our country’s poor attitude. Tribalism has made fools out of smart men and women. Bipartisanship is seemingly dead. One side of the aisle wants political power and has very little. The other side wants cultural power and has even less. Outrage is the new drug of choice.
A lot has been said about what brought us here, but I tend to agree with Julius: “Attitude reflects leadership.”
We’re currently led by a historically low-minded and pathologically insecure man in President Trump. He’s a hypocrite, one who lies more than any president ever, and a man who built his business on financial schemes you’d more likely expect from a mob boss’s son than a reputable businessman. Our country’s attitude — right and left — reflects these facts.
Many of those men — and notably it’s almost all men — who have, by political necessity, become the president’s most ardent defenders, earlier went on record denouncing his clear lack of fitness for public service. This is an office best filled by someone who can bring people together for the greater good, not one who exploits divisions for short-sighted political wins.
Even if we’d elected a saint — and we most certainly didn’t and really don’t need to — disagreements would remain. It’s okay to argue and disagree. But we need leaders — and citizens — who do so in good faith, not those who regularly toss out absurd and easily disprovable accusations against political opponents, i.e. President Obama’s birth certificate was a fake, Senator Cruz’s father had a hand in the JFK assassination, etc..
Some might say who cares about our country’s attitude, increasing division, and broken processes because, all in all, things are good. In certain ways this is true; we’re currently in the longest bull market in our country’s history — one that began in 2009. Unfortunately we still find ourselves in a useless and unending debacle of a twenty-year war, but that’s less the fault of the current president than the previous two.
All that being said, those who discount prevailing attitude outright have a fundamentally misunderstanding of democracy. Democracy is inherently a process, one dependent on the attitudes of citizens. Democracy is not the results; it is the process. The fact is that we often achieve the best results — democracy is, after all, the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried — but these results are contingent upon the process. The more we remove the guardrails of our democratic republic and intentionally upend time-honored and proven processes — degrading our citizenry’s attitudes in the process, mind you — the more likely we are to see worsening results.
What can we do? Remember what Julius said: “Attitude reflects leadership.”