A Message to America

November 17, 2016 By Katherine Tyler Scott

America, we have a problem.

Sixty million people voted for a person with the least experience of any individual aspiring to the office of President of the United States. He received nearly 2 million votes less than his opponent, and has the lowest approval rating of a candidate running for this office. A man who questioned the citizenship and authority of the current President and who characterized him as an illegal immigrant became the voice for those who refused to acknowledge his presidency and for those who from the first day of his election vowed to make him a one term President. This chief spokesman for the myth of “birtherism” will now occupy the highest office in the country. 

For most of his life he has used personal attacks, innuendo, and blatant lies to retain power and sustain his wealth. Over the past 18 months he has appealed to fear, anger, racism, and sexism to win his Party's nomination. He didn't care who or what he destroyed in the process because his goal was to win. "I don't like losers," he enthused during the primary season. When asked recently if he regretted any of his false or hostile rhetoric he replied, “No; I won.” He won, but will the country?

America, we have a problem.

Those who supported him, and those in his Party who didn't, are now aligned with him and are visibly giddy about their dominant political position. Most failed to speak out against his divisiveness and watched silently while he exercised vengeance upon those he believed slighted him. These "leaders" lack empathy, show no evidence of having integrity or a moral compass that might guide them to exhibit any standard of decency. 

They, and those who voted for him, apparently ignored the fact that he lacks a record of public service and has no knowledge of governance. Those who ignored his leadership deficits which were clearly revealed during the campaign and who kept saying he would change are now saying, "Give him a chance." Why? We have experienced his true character for over a year. We know what he has said and done and those who believe that he is or can be a different person are in deep denial.

You cannot say you don't agree with everything he says but you voted for this person anyway because (_Fill in the blank_), without understanding that you also support and endorse the values of the KKK, white nationalism, white supremacy, racial division, and misogyny. This is a short litany of his fear mongering.

You now must own what you have done. You voted for exclusion, for hate, for scapegoating, for distrust, for incivility. Your selected someone whose own self-interests have always superseded those of the common good. It is your right. Know that you will be responsible for the consequences of exercising it in this choice of “leadership.”

What was done to win the 2016 Presidential election has further damaged the espoused values and beliefs of this country by using the disillusionment and despair of one group to create the disillusionment and despair of other groups. The divisions run deep and the person selected to lead has disqualified himself to bridge them. 

America, we have a problem.

To those who have been working to bridge the divides of class and race, who research, study, and teach some form of ethical leadership and responsible citizenship the selection of a person such as this cannot be ignored. We must not only face the truths of why so many Americans made this choice, we must examine what we are doing and if our efforts to form responsible and effective leadership are contributing to the health and well-being of all people. What are we leaving out of our classes and workshops, our trainings and teachings that are now needed to form leaders who have character, and  can think, reason, empathize, respect diversity, and bring about change that brings people and communities together to work for the common good? What are we missing if we omit knowledge of the psychological and behavioral responses human beings have to real and imagined threats to their existence/survival? What kind of individual or culture are we cultivating when we treat the discipline of inner reflection and the development of self-insight as optional elements of leadership formation? What responsibility do we have to teach the shadow side of leadership, to identify and expose those characteristics that can improve or imperil a leader’s judgment? 

This is a time for deep reflection, a time when we will have to live the questions, a time when we must reexamine why we do what we do and to what end? This is a time when what we know and what we will learn may likely revolutionize our work. If we understand what is at stake and take our work and capacity to influence seriously we can help others to diminish the fears that are not rooted in reality and to take ethical actions that at least will do no harm, and at best will bring us together.

If we do our real work we will be able to say, “America, we have hope!”