I have a few minutes on this July 4th. Being the Sabbath I will likely attend services, which is a good foil to the near religious fervor patriotic days can inspire. Like those Hebrew National commercials from a few years ago, it is good to remember we all answer to “a higher authority” than the state.
What I noticed this morning, having indulged a twenty some year old movie about Lyndon Johnson (who served longer than Kennedy and less criminally than Nixon and yet has received far less media attention than either) was a connection I never saw before.
In the movie, Lyndon goes out deer hunting with a reluctant Bobby Kennedy. I instantly thought of how many politicians make a point of hunting. Even the late Texas governor Ann Richards pointed out her dove hunting history, meaning even women politicians are constrained to show their ‘manliness.’
What occurred to me was that hunting serves many symbolic purposes, well beyond manliness and deflecting the gun lobby. As I watched the characters take aim at a deer I suddenly realized that the willingness to kill is important. At some elemental level we know our leaders have to be able to make life and death decisions, and I do mean both life and death.
Someone who hunts demonstrates the capacity to make such decisions. Unless our leaders can make the hardest choices they are not leaders, and hunting symbolizes that choice. Anyone unable to face that choice, make that choice, will lack some essential thing we need in a leader.
I find this sobering, sad, and compelling. We still live in a world where people will have to face death in order to protect others. That means we need people who know this and can shoulder this responsibility well. I do not think hunting is the only or even best measure of such resolve, but I do know that people want to be sure their leaders have it.