Everyone is aware what perfect vision means and how it is described. It describes what can be seen at a distance of 20 feet. If one can see clearly from 20 feet away what one is supposed to see from that distance, then we say the person has 20/20 vision.
As we enter 2020 the question all of us should be asking is whether our worldwide leadership has 20/20 vision? My sense is that most thinking people would say that the answer is emphatically “NO!”
Here in Israel we are about to go to our third parliamentary election in less than a year because no party has been able to form a government after the last two elections. Compounding that is the fact that our prime minister is under indictment on charges of fraud, bribery and breach of the public trust. In an example of the ultimate chutzpah, he seems about to request that he be given immunity from prosecution so he can continue to pursue another term as prime minister. Given the political fabric in this country, he just may succeed….yet another nail in the coffin of democracy.
And nobody seems able to wrest control and set things right. Not the leadership of the other political parties, not the business leaders and not even the public who will most likely cast their votes in the next election for the same people as they did in the prior two. Simultaneously, of course, the judiciary is being accused of bias and is under siege for not being neutral. Attacking the judiciary has been used as a tool by demagogues throughout history to destroy the democratic process. Lacking 20/20 vision, the populace and its leadership stands idly by.
In the United States a similar situation is being payed out. The president has been impeached by one chamber of the legislature that has the constitutional authority to do so but knows that the other chamber is in the back pocket of the president, so conviction is unlikely even if the president is guilty as charged. So while the legislature was established as a branch of government equal to the executive and the judiciary, on the basis of party politics it has yielded its responsibility to operate as a system of “checks and balances”. Simultaneously, the impartiality of the judiciary is questioned every time it disagrees with the executive and is termed “incompetent.” Once again, 20/20 vision is lacking and the opposition itself is fractured in its response. Yet another nail in the coffin of democracy.
But these two are not the only examples. We need look no further than Erdogan in Turkey who has but one goal and that is to retain power at all costs. Or Putin in Russia who was president from 2000-2008, then Prime Minister for four years, returning to the Presidency in 2012 and who clearly does not see an end to his tenure, except on his own terms of course. I could go on to list others who are bent on destroying democracy, Orban in Hungary, Duterte in the Philippines, Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Hun-Sen in Cambodia, Rouhani in Iran, Bashar Al-Assad in Syria, Maduro in Venezuela, and the list goes on.
So where does that leave us as we enter 2020? Can we wrest hope for the future in a world where almost every long held axiom of democracy is being challenged and in many cases discarded? Is it possible to achieve 20/20 vision in the year 2020?
I am writing this from Jerusalem where the influence of our history as Jews in this land often informs much of what we think and how we act, or at least it should. Acknowledging that, permit me to turn to the Torah, where in the book of Exodus it says: “…but select capable people from all the community – people who fear God, trustworthy people who hate dishonest gain – and appoint them as officials.” In other words, find people from among us with 20/20 vision, elect them to positions of authority and we will then be privileged to have the leadership that can take us successfully into 2020 and make it a year of promise and fulfillment. May it be so and may it give us some hope that sanity will prevail once again.