“’Tis the times’ plague when madmen lead the blind.”
—Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear
It has been a couple of weeks, and I still can’t get out of my mind Maureen Dowd’s April 16 column in The New York Times, “When the Mad Lead the Blind.”
In today’s world, who are the mad and who are the blind?
What comes to my mind is that some of the people who hold political positions of power are mad. They are in positions of immense responsibility but lack the wisdom and grace to fulfill the promise of their title. Those who have good intentions—not the mad but those who don’t have the wherewithal to persuade, build coalitions, and execute plans—will hopefully have short terms in office avoiding catastrophic damage. However, it is those who are mad who will hang on to their positions, seeing every position as just another rung on their quest for dominating power. These officials have no regard for the impact of their decisions on citizens and the ideals of the nation.
Why do we elect people who are mad? Is this not a vote against our own wellbeing? Do we elect people who are mad because we are blind to who they really are? Acting as if we are blind to such people’s true nature makes us vulnerable to their maniacal actions. Willful blindness is a transgression paid for by retribution down the line.
We should not be surprised when some officials attempt to enact unconscionable policies that would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. These bold actions are just the tip of the iceberg because these elected and appointed officials believe that the citizenry is blind to who they are and to the purposes of their actions.
Imposters abound, using rhetorical tools that sound as if they are protectors of the electorate all the while spewing words that increase contempt and polarization among groups of people. When a candidate vilifies any group with no regard for the consequences of their message, you will know that this candidate is mad. More than party affiliation, charisma, or credentials, history tells us that it’s the character of the person that will foretell the kind of leader or representative that person will be.
Perhaps more than the sighted, blind people can discern if a person has empathy as well as a moral pale beyond which they will not tread. A yardstick to measure and a thermometer to test the degree of madness of potential leaders and elected officials is to listen to how they imagine the nation can restore a sense of unity; how they imagine creating cooperation among governing bodies; and how they imagine defusing bitter conflicts at home and abroad with compassion, justice, reason, and love.
For our own sake, we must believe that we can overcome the shame that some of our elected officials are creating when they enact punishing and disgraceful policies aimed at stifling freedom and rolling back progress for everyone, not just some. Rather than being discouraged by the actions of those who foment conflict indicating that they have no human compassion or moral compass, we need to do our due diligence in preparation for our next opportunity to choose.
We must not be blind. We must see who among the prospective elected officials are mad.
Hold the thought: They are mad. We are NOT blind.