Calling all grownups

"There is no question that it was a contentious election, that emotions ran high and much has been at stake, but there is a difference between being invested and entitled."

November 14, 2016 21:49
3 minute read.
statue of liberty

A demonstrator wears a headpiece depicting the crown of the Statue of Liberty during a protest in San Francisco, California, U.S. following the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States November 9, 2016. (photo credit: REUTERS)

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as many people crying in public as I have in the past week. Grown human beings, losing their minds over the results of a fair and democratic election, taking to the streets, calling for a re-do, shouting their generational battle-cry: “It’s not fair!”

There is no question that it was a contentious election, that emotions ran high and much has been at stake, but there is a difference between being invested and entitled – a distinction that seems lost on the great majority of our youth. But it is not the fault of the youth, but of the grownups, who slowly but surely have built a world of indulgence and intimacy where there should be proper distance and a level of respect.

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A week or so ago, a photo of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, hit the Internet, and sparked some surprised debate. Netanyahu had his head in Sara’s lap and we saw them from a distance, as if we were intruding on their intimacy, and beneath the picture of the couple was a loving message to Sara from Netanyahu on her birthday. This was new, a never before seen glimpse into the private life of the prime minister, and it not only felt wildly out of character but also like something borrowed from a bigger and brasher neighbor out west.

We saw it during President Barack Obama’s speech following Hillary Clinton’s concession, where he was joking around with Vice President Joe Biden. Biden jokingly grabbed Obama’s arm and interrupted the president, chiming in freely as he spoke. It was just the most recent example of eight years spent minimizing the office of the presidency, with Obama seeming to want to be the king of cool rather than the commander in chief and thereby degrading the authority he needs to actually lead.

It’s an expression of narcissism and selfishness on the part of the president, and the removal of barriers, despite giving Obama an air of cool accessibility, has created a constituency of self-important egotists mirroring the behavior of the person in charge.

It is perfectly understandable that Netanyahu felt tempted to create a more approachable image, and that he thought that picture of him and his wife would be a generous peek into a life of a nation’s leader. But he should not mimic a behavior that has led to well-educated adults crying for mommy after an electoral disappointment and arranging protests in the streets when things don’t go their way.

Netanyahu is not elected to be a friend, a father or a cool uncle, but a leader. Because of its unique placement, history and challenges, Israel is a nation of grownups, and that is to be cherished and lauded, not softened or counteracted. We are now witnessing what the weakening of the office will lead to, how children stay childish when selfish needs trump civic responsibility and where a country ends up when the person in charge has no real sense of direction. No matter how one feels about the result of the American presidential election we can all agree that the aftermath is a clear indictment of the generation said to be the nation’s future leaders and sad proof of life as it sits in arrested development.

People may have many opinions and theories about Netanyahu, his personal life and his family, but to be the effective and strong leader he is there must be a clear division of roles. Israel is a nation of grownups, and that may partly be attributed to a leadership style that dramatically differs from that of the rest of the Western world. Israel deals with real problems, not anxiety attacks caused by not getting everything you want, and therefore its leader should be careful not to get too “real” in the eyes of his or her constituency. Rather than look to Obama and the populist leaders who indulge in the culture of over-sharing and personal hype, Netanyahu should trust his record and stick to his guns, because while children may inherit the earth we desperately need real grown folks to be in charge.

The author is a political adviser and writer on the Middle East, religious affairs and global antisemitism. Follow her on Twitter @truthandfiction.

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