True Grit: The Reason We Elected Trump

By | January 17, 2019 | 0 Comments

There are two movies titled “True Grit.” The first was released in 1969. It starred Kim Darby as a young woman whose father had been murdered, and John Wayne as the broken-down, drunken, profane U.S. marshal who helped her find the murderers. The second was released in 2010. It starred Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges in the same roles.

I have a sentimental pull toward the John Wayne version because, well, it starred John Wayne. In addition, the film had an upbeat and sometimes humorous tone. Still, I have to admit that the 2010 film was deeper. It was more realistic, and therefore darker. And it had another advantage. Part of the soundtrack was a version of the old hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” sung by Iris Dement. Frankly, I prefer more vigorous versions, but hearing any hymn in a film was – to say the least – a pleasant surprise.

Surviving and overcoming life’s trials often requires true grit. But where does it come from? Tough, courageous people used to be said to have “sand” or “grit.” Perhaps this is related to the origin of pearls. The smooth, beautiful, iridescent pearl looks so delicate and fine, but at its center is a hard grain of sand. Without the sand irritating the oyster, there would be no pearl for us to admire.

● Mitt Romney? He didn’t have the grit to face down Candy Crowley, when she abandoned her role as moderator and jumped into the presidential debate on the side of Obama. Then how could Romney be expected to face down potential enemies?

● Jeb Bush? While governor of Florida, he tried to prevent the slow killing of disabled Terri Schiavo by dehydration and starvation. But when courts insisted that she die, he stepped aside. He acted as a lawyer, not a leader. His focus was the law, not the morality of murdering the disabled.

● Ted Cruz? He might have been the best law student Prof. Alan Dershowitz ever had. But he failed to project a sense of strong leadership or clear purpose.

● Hillary Clinton? When four of her personnel were under attack in Benghazi, she did nothing ‒ and blamed a video no one had seen. Then she had the gall to proclaim that we did not lose a single American in Libya. No, we lost four. Instead of “Leave no man behind,” she apparently believes in, “Cover your behind.” This is the very opposite of grit.

● Barack Obama? He sent a message to Putin that he would be more “flexible” after the 2012 election. Grit may take many forms, but flexibility with potential enemies is not one of them.

● John Kerry? He proposed a more “sensitive” and “thoughtful” war on terrorism. Those are words to inspire fear in our friends and confidence in our enemies. Oh wait, it’s supposed to be the other way around.

I could go on, but you get the idea. To paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, concerning all these politicians, and so many more, one could say that they mean well…feebly. Perhaps they might suffice to lead a nation in a time of tranquility, when nothing much was happening. But now, in a dangerous and complex world plagued by international terrorism, someone else was needed – someone with grit.

If everything and everyone fades into pale pastels, obscured by a moral fog, there are no bad people, but there are also no good people.

● If so-called leaders who wriggle out of responsibility aren’t bad, then real leaders who take responsibility aren’t good.

● If the Boston Marathon bombers aren’t evil, then the first responders who aided the injured aren’t good.

● If the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed four American “infidels” aren’t evil, then people who welcome others with different religious beliefs aren’t good.

● If the IRS agents who harassed political opponents of the Obama administration aren’t bad, then dedicated, conscientious public servants aren’t good.

● If the Department of Justice agents who spied on Associated Press reporters aren’t bad, then agents who risk their lives to protect the public aren’t good.

● If the Obama administration officials who stood by idly when Americans were dying in Benghazi aren’t bad, then the military and civilian personnel who risk their lives to “leave no man behind” aren’t good.

Every action and every person fades into a dull pastel, like a shirt washed too often in hot water and bleach. No vivid colors to rouse us. No strong beliefs to sustain us. No everlasting arms to lean on. No grit. No pearls. Just slimy, bottom-feeding crustaceans.

Peter Drucker wrote, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” To govern us, we were choosing people who could do neither. They were taking the country in the wrong direction, but – fortunately for us – they were doing so in an incompetent manner.

Eventually we became sick of the dull pastels. We wanted bright colors ‒ perhaps too bright, perhaps glaringly bright, perhaps even gauche and uncouth. We wanted someone who used the word “terrorism” when it was appropriate. We wanted someone who could use the correct words when a Muslim extremist shot up a Jewish deli, and unlike Obama, not merely say that he “randomly shot a bunch of folks.”

Did Trump speak too loudly? Yes, but he didn’t use weasel words. He used hyperbole to emphasize what he said, not euphemisms to conceal what had happened. Was he rough around the edges? Yes, but at least he wasn’t slick and smooth. Did he look like a president, or at least like the president we had become used to? No, but at least he didn’t look like a handsome, well-spoken actor who had been cast to play a president in a TV show. At least he doesn’t exemplify appearance over substance.

In short, we chose someone who looked like he had true grit. And as with the character in the films, we were willing to put up with his imperfections to get it. Now is the testing time, when we will see whether we chose wisely. My bet is that we did.

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