Most men intuitively understand what is required for command. Though most do not have the personal qualities necessary for command, they recognize it when embodied in another. Many women have long chafed at the seeming unwillingness of men to cede command to a woman. They have railed at the ‘glass ceiling’ in vain, puzzled at its stiff resistance and laid the blame upon men for its continued existence. As is so often the case, the reality of circumstance is both simpler and more complex than a quick, facile examination might indicate.
In regard to the glass ceiling, what American men have been waiting for is the emergence of an American ‘Margaret Thatcher’.
I use Ms Thatcher not because of her politics which are entirely irrelevant but rather as an example of a strong woman, one who likes men and who can be depended upon when the really tough decisions need to be made. One who won’t wimp out, should principle and necessary circumstance demand sacrifice.
The President is the Commander in Chief and the greatest test of a President is during times of war, as it is then that the gravest decisions must be made. Throughout history leaders have had to send good people to their death. They have even had to allow good people to die when doing otherwise would lead to even greater tragedy. Truman had it right when he proclaimed, “The buck stops here”.
Good leaders intuitively recognize the right thing to do, even when that path may lead to the tragedy of innocent lives lost.
The Civil War’s Northern General Sherman recognized this when he said that “war is hell”. He also understood that ending the war victoriously was of more importance than even the destruction of the South, a South whose children certainly did not deserve the destruction that befell them. He understood this even in a war that would ultimately leave almost 600,000 dead. He understood that preserving the ‘union’ was a nonnegotiable principle and that the South’s commitment to its way of life would not allow them to capitulate without the certain prospect of absolute destruction.
That same understanding was shared by Truman when faced with the decision to drop the atomic bomb upon Japan. Truman well knew the terrible destruction it would bring and the many innocents that would die. He also understood the lessons of Tarawa, Saipan and Okinawa. Where nearly every Japanese soldier had fought with fierce determination, many to the death and where even the old and women with their children had committed suicide rather than surrender. Those events had decisively demonstrated that Japan was a culture that would resist surrender and invasion whatever the cost.
Had Truman withheld use of the bomb and invaded instead, many, many millions more would have died. At the time that the decision had to be made, our best estimate was that 5 million American men and 15-25 million Japanese would have died in the invasion and conquering of Japan. Had we suffered those loses, America would have been greatly damaged and in all probability would not have had the strength to rebuild Europe. That great a loss would have inexorably led to the triumph of isolationism within America and thus the inability to resist the soon-to-follow advance of Soviet aggression.
Japan was the aggressor and given their cultures’ militaristic values, anything less than unconditional surrender would have led to the eventual rebuilding of the Japanese war machine. Truman understood human nature and the irresistible lure that empire and nationalism had for Japan’s leaders and its compliant populace.
All of this led Truman to unhesitatingly make the decision to drop the bomb and most importantly, he did not second guess the decision, evidenced by his declaration that “he never lost a minutes sleep over the decision”. It is not that Truman lacked empathy, he was a loving father and husband. Rather it was that his empathy was balanced with another quality.
Empathy is a wonderful quality and we are not really human without it. But it is not the only quality of worth. Empathy, especially in a leader must be balanced with mental allegiance to objective principle.
Governor Palin is that rarity; a likable female leader who evokes both male and female approval, one who exudes confidence and the ‘right’ kind of toughness. This ‘toughness’ is mental, not physical, though mental toughness leads to the ability to endure physical challenges, as John McCain’s life so eloquently demonstrates. The ‘right’ kind of mental toughness is of a special quality.
Mental toughness or fortitude has no ‘shrillness’, shrillness is an unerring indicator of weakness. This is why children do not listen to a parent whose voice exhibits that quality. And weakness revealed cannot lead because it lacks the strength of fortitude required of leadership. It is the quality of mental allegiance to ‘objective principle’ that leads to mental toughness.
Hillary Clinton has the required toughness but it is not the ‘right’ kind of toughness. She literally exudes the shrill ‘odor’ of complaint and anger and men intuitively sense it. Yes, men have intuition too, especially in sensing whom they shall follow. That is why ‘manly’ men want nothing to do with her and why only the hyper-sensitive, feminized and emasculated metro-sexual man can tolerate her presence. She has the ability to make the required decisions but she ‘leads’ out of demand and that leads to men distrusting her leadership.
Ironically, it is Hillary’s and most feminists psychic embrace of victimhood from which their anger arises. Their shrillness merely confirms their embrace of what disqualifies them from the very thing they seek, which is respect. Respect is not demanded, it is earned and when earned it is the ‘gift’ the recipient receives because no other response to their demeanor is possible. That is what is meant by ‘commanding’ respect. Others cannot help but respect those who, out of allegiance to principle, respect themselves. Narcissistic ego cannot substitute for the ‘currency’ required for true leadership.
Governor Palin embodies the quality of empathetic mental toughness and therefore commands respect. For those young women open to emulation, she truly points to, not just the ‘right’ way to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ but the only way to do it.
Breaking through the glass ceiling is not something that can be seized, which is why so many feminists have failed; transcending the glass ceiling is achieved when the many, willingly support the offer of leadership to those whose ‘worth’ compels recognition.
Just as Sarah Palin is demonstrating at this extraordinary moment in history.