“It’s Good to be the King….” Or Is It?

I spend a lot of time thinking about how I would do things.  Today, I explained to my students that if I was queen of the world…and went on with my hypothetical fantasy.  For me, it would be starting school in mid-August so that after Memorial Day we would have four days of exams followed up with graduation.  Boom!  Done!

But I’m not queen of the world.  Sometimes, I wonder if I am even queen of my classroom or queen of my house.  I am definitely the scullery maid in my home.  More often than not, I feel that way in my classroom too as I follow the students and pick up the pieces of flotsam and jetsam that they leave behind.  And I’m not just talking about books, papers, or scraps of detritus.  The emotional residue that they leave can be much more difficult to clean and monitor than any bacteria-slimed desk.

Regardless of what I am or am not, I still spend time thinking about how I would do things if I were in charge.  And then, when I realize just what would happen if I were in charge, the anxiety slowly starts distorting the sense of pedestal entitlement that I have and I realize that my humble, little soapbox is quite lovely and I can just stand there for the time being.

The amount of target signs that adorn a leader’s pedestal is rather astonishing.  I wonder, at times, what would lead a person to forgo the peace and quiet of the middle of the road and storm out into the front and dare people to look at them.  I want to be a vehicle for change.  I want to make drastic alterations to the world (note, this has NOTHING to do with yesterday’s post, by the way).  But, when I stick my head out of my snail shell that is comfortably hidden under a leaf and in the darkest recesses of a shadow where no one can see me….well, then I see what it’s like to be a leader.

I don’t like hurting people.  I don’t like making people mad.  I would rather be mad that I struggle with making people mad than just say what needs to be said because….that might make someone mad.  Give me a little time and I might be able to swallow my cowardice (some people say that’s me being nice) and I will finally express myself.  But finding the strength and courage to do that is so friggin hard that it’s just easier to pull my head back into my happy, oblivious world and continue about my daily business.

And leaders have to make those tough decisions.  I don’t like grading because it might hurt a student’s feelings.  A leader has to fire someone or tell a person “No” or “You can’t do that.”  I’m really good at saying that “you shouldn’t do that but if you feel this strongly” because the guilty part of me will find some stupid way to justify this person’s actions, even if they are….STUPID!

The riots in Baltimore have put the Mayor of Baltimore in the spotlight and I can not imagine the grief, anxiety, and frustration this person feels as she watches her city burn because someone else tweeted “Hey, let’s go riot today.”  As I sit here on my front porch swing, watching my dog try to breathe deeply on the cat while the spring peepers set up a non-stop song that is just one pulsating note, I try to imagine how this woman feels as she knows people are choosing to go out and destroy and cause pain and there is so little that she can do.  And, because she is tied to the restrictions of law, regulation, policy, procedure, and ethics, people who look to her for leadership will continue to execute this primal anger that results in ashes and a legacy that will be replayed for years.  And, as she tries to reconstruct, everyone will be pointing their fingers at her and skewering her with whatever decision that she made that they do not agree with.

Facebook is another place where I watch the emotions of ideals, beliefs, and ethics play itself out in memes and cartoons or videos that represent how people feel.  I have friends who are on both sides of the political spectrum and it’s fascinating to watch how one person will skewer someone from one political party while another friend will skewer a politician on the opposing side.  I wonder about the core strength that must exist in all politicians that they are willing to sacrifice themselves to stand in front of the world and try to lead.

I know that people thank them when people get their ways.  But how about when people hear the dreaded “No.”  Then the pointy fingers are unleashed, the backstabbing begins, the questionably respectful parodies.  I don’t mean that politicians and leaders should be venerated automatically and blindly.  I believe in educated decisions and that corrupt leaders and politicians must be removed from office.  Go Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence!!!!

But do people take the time to consider all the ramifications and consequences of the decisions and actions that political leaders or leaders in general make?  It’s easy to watch a video and say, “If I was in charge, I would….”  But this leads me back to an episode of the West Wing when the president, as a result of terrorism, sent American bombers to destroy the terrorist targets.  The thing is, by the time the president makes this decision, he knows that the terrorists are likely gone and that innocent people will be killed.  But the location will be destroyed and the president muses that while he is sitting in the Oval Office and is comfortable and secure a janitor in a faraway Middle Eastern county is going to work just so that he can die by bombs dropped by Americans.

The president makes a decision.  Actions are taken.  Someone will be hurt, irrevocably.  And people will judge him for actions that were taken or actions they thought should have been taken.  Either way, no one is fully happy and the leader is going to be castigated by the world.

Take this into a local level and here is the plight of the ordinary leaders.  No matter what decisions the leader makes, the leader is held up on a pedestal made of barbed wire and held together by blame.

No thank you.  It is not good to be the king.

Writer’s/editor’s note:  Upon reading and re-reading this post, I realized that it didn’t communicate what I wanted to say.  As opposed to removing the last two sentences, I am going to write an addendum…

I tire of people sacrificing our leaders because they are leaders and are making decisions that not everyone will agree with.  I am tired and frustrated with people pointing their fingers at leaders’ flaws and ripping open the leaders’ flaws and exposing them.  People need to remember that leaders are human and will always be human.  And, with that, maybe, as opposed to judgment, a little mercy, compassion, and forgiveness is needed.  At the end of the days, leaders are bound to feel just as much emotional pain and fatigue as the next person.  They’re just not allowed to show it.

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