Cookie Schwaeber-Issan

Wanted: A Normal Leader

Everyday I’m confronted by the images of ordinary citizens who are disgusted with their governmental leaders. Whether it’s individuals on television or reports in the paper, so many, these days, are completely disgusted by the lack of common sense, the obvious highly political agendas and the unprecedented power grab that their various governmental and political leaders are displaying.

When these stories hit home, it makes you realize that each one of us are touched by this phenomenon one way or another. It happened to me just this morning when a very close Australian friend texted me to say that a mutual acquaintance was forced to leave her beloved job as a nurse. She said, “Today will be her last day.”  The story was painful for her to relate, because she, just like her friend, is 60 years old – too young to retire and too old to start a whole new career. So it was more than sympathy, it was empathy that was being expressed.

It’s not solely an Australian issue. In many other geographical locations throughout the world, certain professions are being required to comply with the mandates or suffer the consequences of losing their jobs – regardless of the need or the amount of years and service which they have invested into those fields.

To recap, lots and lots of citizens are angry, repulsed and disillusioned with their leaders, but few are willing to step up to the plate and run for office. In fact, I responded to my Aussie friend by saying, “I’m sorry to hear all of this, but until a new leader emerges who will promise to stop the madness, I think you’re kind of stuck with what’s going on.”

So why is it that almost no one does emerge, from among the huge masses of disgusted citizens, promising to bring about sweeping changes which will restore civil freedoms, common sense and a more unified consensus approach of doing things?  Probably the easiest answer, to all of that, is because what is needed is a “normal leader.”  Normal people tend to shy away from masochism; don’t usually suffer from narcissism, delusions of grandeur or the need to dominate each and every situation.

Yet the above traits seem to be a common thread in the lives of all too many leaders these days.  Take, for example, Andrew Cuomo, the disgraced governor of New York State who was forced to step down after being accused of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.  Prior to that time, Cuomo, in his delusion of possessing infinite wisdom and sobriety, made the ill-fated decision to place sick and recovering Covid patients into New York nursing homes, resulting in the deaths of more than 15,000 elderly residents.  When questioned over that decision, he merely doubled down on the prudence of his act.  For a long time, he was untouchable, because, along with thinking that you have god-like powers, there are always those who will protect and insulate you in order to retain their own positions of power and monetary gain.

Cuomo is just one of so many others who have abused power, acted arbitrarily, chosen not to seek a multitude of counsel and cared nothing for their constituents who endowed them with the power in the first place.

Normal people are normal, because they realize their limitations.  They know that they, alone, do not possess all wisdom, all clarity, all truth and all power.  In fact, it is that very acknowledgement which causes them to resist and reject the kind of power that is seized by most leaders but which, nonetheless, is a vast overreach of their authority.

Normal people want a normal life.  They are not looking to be harassed, mocked, abused by vulgar language or subject their families to threat and shame.  They are smart enough to realize that a quiet and simple life is more desired than fame and influence, but the problem is that those who do aspire to lead are, by and large, far from normal.

It is actually their dysfunction, lack of confidence and need to prove their self-worth that fuels their need to grab all they can in order to show everyone that they know more, can seize well beyond what is theirs to take and can arbitrarily act with impunity.   Such was the case with former President Bill Clinton who honestly believed that he could get away with lying to Congress about his association with his young intern staffer Monica Lewinsky.  It likely came as a shock to him that someone with his immense power could be impeached.

Other political and governmental leaders have been exposed for being frauds and not adhering to their own rules.  A case in point, in our own country, were those leaders who mandated that no outside family or friends could be invited to holiday dinners during the peak of the Covid outbreak.  A few days later, we saw those same leaders welcome outside family members, who were not part of their nuclear family, disregarding their own injunctions.  Can anyone define that as “normal?”  Yet, the excuse, by at least one, was that he would have been lonely.  A normal person would have realized that many of us were also lonely and suffering from a great sense of loss which came from being separated from our own beloved families during the holidays.

I am reminded by the pathetic excuse used by Chicago’s Mayor Lori Lightfoot who, herself, defied her own mandate of not getting a haircut.  When asked to explain why she was entitled to the very thing that no one else was permitted, she offered the justification that, as a public figure, she took her grooming very seriously.  Does that sound like a normal response?  Why would she not think that others, among her constituents, take their grooming any less seriously?  This is where that charge of narcissism comes to play.  These dysfunctional, ill-equipped leaders seem to have a limited capacity of “only thinking of themselves.”  Their empathy level is non-existent.  And herein lies the problem!

A great leader – one who is worthy of the people’s respect is, first and foremost, one who has the capacity of empathy.  It means that he not only can feel their pain, fears, desires and aspirations, but he can relate to them.  The only leader, these days, who seems to even come close to this definition is Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis who seems to have carefully listened to his constituents, chosen to respect their freedoms and has, in recent days, been in the forefront of trying to solve the emerging crisis of the supply chain by offering ships a port which can accommodate them with no wait-time in order to get their goods taken off of the vessels and into placed into stores all in record time.

In Israel, I am hard-pressed to find an equal – a man or woman willing to lead the people through this time of choppy waters into a safe and sure place without having, at the same time, to remove their freedoms and civil rights.  Israel is in desperate need of a normal leader – one who refuses to put their self-interests in first place.

We are all crying out for a normal, well-adjusted, thoughtful leader who realizes that he or she is finite.  Such an individual would be willing to listen, to consult, to empathize and to rule with wisdom and humility.

If you’re out there, fit that category and you are beyond being angry, frustrated, disgusted and repelled by those who have made a mess of steering this ship called Israel into safe waters, please consider that this may be your time to answer the classified section of “Wanted:  A Normal Leader.”

About the Author
A former Jerusalem elementary and middle-school principal and the granddaughter of European Jews who arrived in the US before the Holocaust. Making Aliyah in 1993, she is retired and now lives in the center of the country with her husband.