Perhaps it is merely force of habit, but I often find myself imagining what powerful public figures are really thinking as they act in ways that impact on our lives. Unlike psychologists and psychiatrists, who make a lifetime study of human motivation and rely on data that has been acquired scientifically by repetition, experimentation, observation and insight, the novelist operates purely on instinct and imaginary license.
That said, I can’t help wondering what our President is thinking as he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize. He surely knows in his gut and admits that the prize is aspirational, based on his rhetoric and not on his accomplishments.
In his private thoughts, I truly believe he is sincere in that he wants to do everything he can to realize his aspirations as he has defined them in his speeches; to make the world a better place, to persuade people to put down their arms, to compromise, to rely on peaceful means to resolve conflicts and bring warring factions together for the common good. Surely, he is sincere when he aspires to ban all nuclear weapons, and, in general, help banish starvation, disease, and inspire governments to operate with compassion and decency.
His thoughts, too, surely reflect the obvious, that he is the leader of the most powerful nation on earth, with the persuasive clout to provide the guidance to accomplish his sincerely stated goals. Yes, he thinks that the Nobel Peace Prize, while premature at this stage, puts a respected world stamp on his intentions and gives him permission to take bolder steps to bring peace to the world, and to create a legacy that will celebrate his name as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, peacemaker in the history of the world.
That is certainly a noble goal and why shouldn’t he privately think that this is within the realm of possibility. After all, he has risen from obscurity at practically warp speed to become the most powerful leader in the world. He has got to think that he has been blessed, that he has been chosen, anointed perhaps, to save the world. People have responded to him with worshipful adoration. Does this baffle him? Perhaps it did at the beginning. Surely he must be asking himself: “Why me? Where has all this adoration come from? Have I been anointed?” Dare he deny by whom? It is impossible for him, or anyone with such a record, to deny the spiritual component of this question.
He has got to be thinking: “I have been chosen to achieve a mission of peace. I must now do everything in my power to fulfill that mission.”
To do this, he surely thinks and believes that people are more good than evil; that the various manifestations of cruel manipulation by tyrants, dictators, despots and oppressors can be ameliorated without bloodshed; that cruelty, selfishness and fanaticism can be banished by reason and example; that suicide bombers and those who brainwash them can be rehabilitated; that borders can be redrawn and protective walls demolished by reasonable compromise; that terrorists can be reborn into good citizens--that fanatical religious leaders can be redirected into tolerance and respect for other faiths, and that through powerful rhetoric and eloquent persuasion, mortal enemies can learn to live peacefully with one another.
He must believe that he now has been given permission to move ahead and attempt to force compromise, assure warring parties that there is more to be gained by peaceful negotiation and cooperation than by bloody confrontation. He must think that to do this, America has to act more like a brother among nations, an equal partner, rather than an elite exception. He must think our hope for a peaceful future lies with the concept that created the United Nations, which he believes is still the organizational structure, the ultimate forum, that will bring about world peace.
It is time, he must believe, that America must exercise humility and dispense with any action that might seem heavy handed or self-righteous by others. He must see this not only as a rejection of his predecessor’s legacy, but an endorsement of his own stated ideas.
He must believe that he has been licensed as preacher, moral arbiter, a kind of world trigger for mass inspiration which commands that we must all learn tolerance for all religions, and accept our differences and our various ways to acknowledge a supreme being. Instinctively, I sense that he believes in such a divine force, which would cover the mystery of who anointed him.
Surely he has read the Old and New Testament and is reminded of the prophet Isaiah’s immortal words: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”
As a politician, he believes he is a realist, understands history, and knows that the story of civilization is a long blood drenched narrative of good versus evil, with good, in the end, destined to be the ultimate victor. Indeed, the word destiny he knows lives deeply in his psyche. He must see his destiny as a well-lighted path ahead, which he has been called to follow. Indeed, is it possible for any man to resist such glorification? I don’t think so and it is a cause for concern.
Yes, he knows that he is wise to the ways of politics and he has assembled a team of experts to advise him about how best to implement his message into action. He trusts them to tell him the practical truths but knows that he must make the hard decisions. He is well aware that the buck stops with him. Or, he speculates, is there some mysterious force that guides him?
Of course it is impossible to know the truth about his secret thoughts. Nevertheless, considering his miraculous rise, his visible glorification, the admiring crowds, the endless applause, the magical wonder of it all, can he resist the temptations of this mass adoration and the illusion of anointment?
How he answers that question within the deep confines of himself and acts on its personal implication, can very well determine the fate of America and, perhaps, that of the whole world.