American Progress (?)

12 July, 2008
Rat Fink

I happened to go to history.com this morning, just for the heck. I was reminded of the fact that long before Hillary Clinton seized the nation’s interest (and considerable support) as the first woman to ever even get close to winning her party’s nomination for president, there was Geraldine Ferraro.

She advanced further than Hillary — and this was 23 years ago, which made it no small feat. Unfortunately, she had a mediocre running mate (Geraldine was actually the vice-presidential candidate), and back then, no one could challenge Ronald Reagan and expect to come out on top. Still, it was a historic choice indeed.

But it got me to thinking, which is always dangerous. As I named a few great leaders I could think of off the top of my head, I realized that several of them were women. Women leading entire countries…but not the US. Why?

Anyway, these three powerful female leaders came to my mind:

Elizabeth I. During what we now call the “Elizabethan Age,” this young queen took Britain from poverty and isolation to success in commerce, the arts, and politics. Sure, she had help and advisers, but what leader didn’t/doesn’t? In a time when women were considered far from equals to men — nothing even close to it, actually — Elizabeth ruled with smarts and bravery, even in the face of blatant plots by rivals to assassinate her.

[This made the question of why women can’t seem to get elected to lead America all the more interesting. What’s the drawback? Puritan influence still haunting us after almost 400 years?]

Indira Gandhi has long been considered one of the most powerful leaders in history, male or female. She led the largest democracy in the world (India) and championed many causes for individual and religious tolerance and non-violent conflict resolution, while maintaining a confident presence in dealing with other world powers. She definitely had problems holding on to her office, but she still serves as an inspiration to women — especially Indian women, who had endured centuries of what we would call persecution at the hands of men.

And sadly, it was at the hands of the men Indira Gandhi trusted most — her bodyguards — that she became a martyr. They shot her down in her own garden on 31 October, 1984.

Trained as a research chemist and married with boy and girl twins, Margaret Thatcher began her political career in 1959 with her election to Parliament. She was the first woman elected Prime Minister in any European country, and the people elected her twice. She ranks #5 on the all-time longevity list of Prime Minister terms in office (the first one was arguably Robert Wolpole in 1721) at 11 years.

She proved to be a formidable opponent in the Falkland Islands invasion of 1982 (the Argentine invaders surrendered to Britain within two months), and never lost a step to the other two “big boys” in the world power structure; both Ronald Regan and Mikhail Gorbachev admired, respected and befriended her.

I found a quote from her that makes a whole lot of sense:

“If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing.”

A lot of teachers could take that as heartfelt advice. But I digress.

The above is just a partial list, but you get the point. Why is it that other countries have no problem with electing woman leaders, but the US just can’t bring itself to do it? Props to Barack Obama & all, but let’s face it: he’s inexperienced and an unknown. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. And like it or not, people (especially Americans) are habitually loyal to what they know; the things in their comfort zones. Obama is definitely a stretch.

So again…why can’t a woman get elected to lead a country that prides itself on being an open, relevant, current, progressive world power?

Questions, questions, and so little coffee in my mug…

Fink out (to the kitchen).

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Mathew
Mathew
12 July, 2008 3:27 pm

It’s still the Puritan influence. Even after 400 years it is still felt rather strongly in this nation. Look at how we have discussions about sex in this country compared to really any modern European country and you’ll reaaaally start to see the continuing influence.

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TRO
TRO
12 July, 2008 4:26 pm

Well, if McCain picks the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate, you might just see one elected.

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