I am taking a little time off – it has been a while. The transition from pastor in Tampa to parish priest in Triangle VA was rapid and quickly done. Prior to the move it had been about 2 years since I had any significant time off. My new pastor kindly agreed to a hiatus once I had settled in at the new parish. There is always a lot that accompanies transitions. As a nation, we are certainly learning that as the “dust settles” on a national election.
Today is Veteran’s Day – and happy holiday to all my fellow men and women who have served. Thank you for your service – and never forget. So it is perhaps apropos that I read an op-ed piece by a USMC Veteran, Elliott Ackerman (he is a former Marine and intelligence officer who served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan). The article is entitled “My Fellow Veterans Reminded Me What This Election was about.” The summary tag line of the article is “Policies can’t guide us in the work of healing and forgiveness. Only a leader can do that.” Here is the article link.
I am not sure if the link will take non-subscribers to the article, but the essence of the article was a conversation between two men who have served in the US Marine Corp in Iraq during the Fallujah campaigns. The two men are bound by the experience and camaraderie, but hold differing views of politics and policy. When the author of the article asked his friend (who I inferred was a conservative businessman and possibly a support of Trump in 2016), about the likely winner of the election, the quick response was “Biden.” When asked if his confidence came because of polling numbers, the response was “no” but because of “JJ did tie buckle”
J DID TIE BUCKLE is a mnemonic all Marine recruits learn to help them memorize the corps’s 14 essential leadership traits: justice, judgment, dependability, initiative, decisiveness, tact, integrity, endurance, bearing, unselfishness, courage, knowledge, loyalty, enthusiasm.
As a former naval office, business person, and now Catholic priest, these values ring true for every occasion of leadership in which I have served. One might add, modify, or emphasize one trait over another, but the list of traits is well conceived. And we are in a time of transition as a nation.
There are 75 million Americans who voted for Mr. Biden. There are 71 million Americans who voted for President Trump. There are 146 million people (plus ones who did not vote) who have some reconciling to do if we hope, as a country, to heal. “There’s no policy paper that can guide us in the work of forgiveness. Only a leader can do that.”
Today “is Veterans Day, and we are eight months into what is arguably our greatest national crisis since the Second World War. Unlike then, we are a nation divided. Battle lines have been drawn all over this country, on every conceivable issue, from the pandemic to immigration to health care.” It is a time for leadership.
The article shared an anecdote about one of their instructors in the Marines, Capt. John W. Maloney, who was later killed in Iraq. “I remembered the grim realities of war our instructors prepared us for, one of which was that the mission always took precedence over not only your own life but also the lives of the Marines you led. This was an understandable if zero-sum view of actual war that any die-hard partisan can recognize in today’s political conflicts. Yet Captain Maloney was different. He rejected this trade-off between the mission and the Marines as a false choice. “Instead, he taught us that if you take care of your Marines, they will take care of the mission.”
I think that applies not only to the Marines, but also to our country: If you take care of Americans, they will take care of America, and the way you do that is through leadership.
Leadership from the very top, but at every level of society. Take a look at the traits of leadership. Take a look at yourself. Your next encounter with someone who does not share your political view – it is not a zero-sum encounter. Take care of each other and the mission will find its own end.