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If Arthur were here today

If a modern equivalent of King Arthur were president of the United States today, how would things be different?
     Such speculation, of course, requires a flight of fantasy. King Arthur, as we know him, is a legendary character, not consistently portrayed throughout the literature. The image we have of him has also been influenced by medieval standards of the perfect monarch, from both a secular and religious perspective.
     Nevertheless, much can be gleaned that might be useful. Like Chivalry-Now, the following modifies King Arthur's traits according to our times.

1) The key to Arthur's political success is not found in the usual kind of political marketing we know today. This automatically distinguishes him from all the other candidates, and endears him to the people. No Spin. No deceptions. Just open and honest communication. He is more concerned about the welfare of the people than about himself, and this is apparent in everything he says. He politely listens to lobbyists, weighs the merit of their arguments, but never bases his decisions on contributions or personal gain.

2) He is leader in the finest sense of the word. Not by dictating or micro-managing the way he wants things, but by inspiring the best from everyone. By not seeking credit for himself, he receives praise for the works that others accomplish in his name.

3) He cherishes his allies, and works hard to keep their friendships alive, constantly acknowledging their worth. In this way he earns their loyalty without buying them off. He tries to understand the world from their perspectives to expand his own mind and genuinely respects their concerns. He treats them in such a way that they are inspired to add their own personal worth to his global dream of cooperation.

4) Surprisingly, he looks upon his enemies in much the same way. Instead of labeling them as evil, thereby setting the stage for vigorous conflict, he works to change their hearts, to make them worthy to become our allies. He recognizes and challenges their dignity as leaders in order to instill dignity in their acts. He leaves the door open to reconciliation from which both sides benefit. He knows that when all the peoples of the world respect him not only as president, but as a moral leader, and admire his results, errant despots will no longer benefit by contending with him. Instead, they will try to emulate him.

5) He would have responded to the events of 9/11 in a wise manner. First of all, he would not have responded in fear, or for revenge, or for ulterior motives. That would be playing into the terrorists' hands. He would have rallied his allies, struck al Qaeda at its heart and stay there until the job was done. Afghanistan might then have become a valuable ally of freedom and sanity in the world. He would have studied their culture and religion in order to build bridges of understanding and cooperation. He would have won the hearts and minds of the people through his personal qualities—rather than buying them off, or bullying them into submission, which would create nothing but distrust, resentment and trouble on ahead. He would have hunted down Bin Laden without mercy, throwing the combined might of the United States and its allies against him until the threat was over. This would have stood as a lesson for other would-be enemies.

He would certainly not have invaded Iraq, where sectarian tensions and religious beliefs made the possibility of a peaceful democracy slim if not impossible. He would have had the foresight of knowing that an invasion of Iraq would only make things worse for the people of Iraq and the world in general. He would have known that he would be playing into al Qaeda's plan, portraying the United States as the evil aggressor that our enemies claim.

6) If Arthur found himself in a situation like we have in Iraq, while simultaneously fighting a war on terror, he would understand that the basis of both conflicts is really a clash of cultures. Knowing this, he would first get his own house in order. His beliefs, his ideas of freedom, democracy and equal rights, have to be more than rhetoric—not something based on money or power, or hidden agendas. It has to be pure and compelling, rejecting anything that smacks of hypocrisy.

He knows that Capitalism is an economic philosophy and should not be confused with a moral philosophy. We have high ideals in this country. The highest in the world. We need to respect and be inspired by them again. Each one of us needs to make goodness, fairness and concern for all people part of our everyday decisions. We cannot hope to be competent leaders of the world when so many of our own people fall behind, live in poverty, and drop out of school. We cannot proselytize the benefits of freedom when our courts are congested, our prisons filled beyond capacity, and chemical escape remains strong in many people's lives. We cannot speak of family values with so many of our families in crisis. We cannot proclaim democracy as the ideal form of government when our political leaders care only about raising money, catering to special interests, and personal gain.

If we do not repair our culture, here and now, we lose the war of ideologies, no matter how many people we kill.

Arthur understands that.

7) Arthur knows that not communicating with our enemies only emboldens them. We cannot positively influence a nation we do not communicate with. Cuba, after all these decades, is a prime example. But so is Iran and North Korea. Why should we allow our world image to be shaped by our enemies? History is very clear on this. Our present policy contributes to our problems immeasurably.

8) Arthur's strength comes from winning people over to what is right and good. One does not do this by constantly and blindly contending with the opposition party. He understands that a voter mandate based on 1 or 2 % is not a mandate at all. By ignoring the wishes of half the population—indeed, by blatantly defying their wishes at every turn—the stage is set for eventual failure. No one profits in the long run by fueling partisan bickering—other than talks show hosts and political consultants. The people always lose.

9) Arthur, through the leadership of truth and example, works to raise the level of political discourse and cooperation.

10) He responds heroically to the suffering of foreign peoples like those in Darfur. Genocide, poverty, diseases like AIDS, are the metaphorical dragons that the legendary Arthur and his knights always confronted and defeated.

Who would be the equivalent of Arthur's knights today?
    Strange as it may sound, that mantle falls on us. All of us who care and are moved by something greater than our own egos. If we fulfilled our responsibilities:

  • The media would concern itself with truth instead of sensationalism and celebrity.
  • Businesses would naturally protect the environment we live in.
  • The economy would no longer measure itself on the unseemly profits of the few, but on the health and contentment of the many.
  • Religious leaders would care more about saving souls than about biased political agendas.
  • Neighbors would watch out for one another.
  • Citizens of different races and regions would embrace each other as fellow Americans, united by shared ideals.
  • Ethnicities would celebrate commonalties, rather than mistrusting differences.
  • Political extremists would no longer rudely and selfishly fuel contention.
  • Free thought would be encouraged.
  • Courtesy would be part of everything we do.

Unfortunately, Arthur is not in charge of our government. That means for us, the challenges are that more difficult. If we accept the responsibilities of Chivalry-Now, we have to look to ourselves for leadership and inspiration. We have to hold on to our vision of a better world.
     What better tools could we have?
     Let us work together from a new and heightened form of patriotism, until true leaders rise among us and a new Arthur comes our way.


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