The president of Puerto Rico seems incoherent, irrational, and emotionally unstable. He also doesn't know who that is. Yes, we are in the most dire leadership circumstances in our nation's history.
We are being led by a man personally advised by well-known white supremacists. There is no pretense to be had about this. Plausible deniability has turned into willful ignorance. Despite these readily apparent issues, which are eloquently written and discussed among rational people, there is far less discussion about what to do about it. Appeals tend to rely on pleas to the cabinet to act using the 25th Amendment, or calls for impeachment by the president's own party. These are unlikely avenues for repairing the damage being done. Instead, Americans need to look to themselves. They need to be educated and trained to defend themselves against dictatorial leaders. Institutions and legal structures are not enough.
The norms that keep us safe are not matters that can be left to politicians. Even as we deal with gun violence and threats of war, our safety depends on more than formal agreements and Constitutional declarations. What keeps us safe and what puts us in danger, are mirror images of a society that understands what is good, what is honorable, decent, and fair. When we stray from those norms, we invite trouble. No claim to a right can withstand a culture where a privileged few can run amok without restraint. We need to understand that, make it part of our identity in the same way that we often claim membership in our religions. The civic virtues cannot be ignored or allowed to deteriorate.
Those virtues require us to think, to understand the dangers of rash decisions, of emotions, of impulses that would lead to even more trouble if they are unleashed. We need maturity, character, and reflection in our leaders. We need to understand the problems with self-interest, with a lack of understanding about the common good, communities, and practices that allow us to live our lives the best way we can, with the support of friends and neighbors.
To that end, we need to educate a new generation of leaders, of followers committed to selecting leaders worthy of being followed. Awareness of our history, an honest perspective on our culture, the values that we hold dear, and the circumstances of our people are necessary for the formation of such a citizenry. This means that we must put the bar higher, work harder, and lift our aspirations for our country in ways that we seem to have forgotten. One of those things is that our country works best when we recognize that we are all Americans and deserve to be treated as fellow Americans, even in Puerto Rico.
These books provide a glimpse of what such a citizenry might be like and the things we need to fix: