Anyone who knows me well knows that I missed the year of high school in which all my classmates learned about American history. That said, most of what I have learned has been self taught and, frankly, many lessons I simply haven’t learned. So, usually I know a bit about the outrage of human atrocities committed by public figures because I have been known to read socialist academic journalists and/or my friends’ facebook statuses – on occasion. But, I don’t usually own opinions in the same way as if I had heard about these events in the height of my pubescent years of awakening to a world that’s more bitter than sweet. Needless to say, this profession I’ve chosen often seats me close to more recent historical figures for whom I’m supposed to show respect, if not admiration, and about whom I’m supposed to know the basic of details, if not full biographies.
So, last week it was none other than Dr. Henry Kissinger. Imagine the pinch I found myself in as folks buzzed with interest and/or indignation. My general indifference was persistent – as it is with the majority of public personalities, save a few exceptions. There was Colin Powell – whose hand I giddily shook and vowed never to wash my hand again (until I went into the NYC subway after and figured the memory would have to suffice). And there was Abdias do Nascimento, but he’s Brazilian so I’m not sure if he counts. And if Amilcar Cabral were to come back to life I would hold a ‘Amilcar for UN Secretary General’ campaign benefit concert and be the President of his fan club. But, you see where I’m going here… Kissinger didn’t really tip my scales. After his talk, though, I found myself in a slight haze. General “wow, is this my life?!” and “wtf just happened?” thoughts came to mind. As it’s been a few days and the dust has settled, these are the 5 take aways from my audience with Herr Kissinger.
5 – We all put our pants on one leg at a time: Kissinger is a larger than life figure, but when I saw this aging, arguably disheveled, hearing aid assisted gentleman, he looked like somebody’s grandpa – which I’m sure he is. No matter what job we do, or where we sit in the world, we’re subject to the human condition. We’re born, we get old, we expire. No matter how many books you’ve written, or lives you’ve shaken – some things in life are just equalizing.
4- We are our own mystique: Most people say that confidence is sexy. And some find confidence to be self fulfilling. In the end, what we think of ourselves – our entitlement, our insecurities, our goals are never played as close to our chests as we think. In the end, the big Kiss projected an “unfuckwitable” air that I’m sure comes from years of truly believing that isht. Apparently, the earlier you start hardening your chin the sooner people will stop chipping at it. Go figure.
3- When I’m past retirement age, please just give me a microphone: So I don’t have much to say about the substance of the talk, because I couldn’t hear most of it. I’m sure the traffic outside didn’t help, but when I’m at the age of receiving a pension – please, dear God, don’t give me the task of projecting my voice. That’s just cruel and unusual punishment. Show some respect young bucks and get me a mic, so I can drop it after I’m done talking.
2- People who do amazing things rarely have anything interesting to say about it afterward: I’ve met lots of people who I admire and most of the time they answer questions in the most annoying way possible. You want to hear that they came up with the theory of relativity through some awesome burst of genius that was induced by Dr. Pepper and Jaegermeister shots, after a sunshine ray hit a window pane in a Guyanese strip club at just the right angle. You want to hear some inside scoop on how things came to pass. But, usually they answer questions with questions like, “Well, could YOU have predicted it?” “Well, what do you think happened?” And Kissinger was no exception. Surely some of it is a bout of humility, and the rest is that somethings just come to you. Some people say that art is born, it simply channels through you. Apparently, art, science and politics have something in common – if you listen to their creators tell it.
1- Could someone have done a better job, yes. Could I? No: Alright, I didn’t get the exact quote, but when Kissinger was asked one of those God awful questions about whether or not he would have done something different in retrospect, he said that one day he’d come up with a good answer. In the end, he took stock of who he was – his perspectives, training, personality, POV and said well I did the best job I could do. Emphasis on the ‘I.’ It’s not to say that someone else could not have done a better job, but I certainly could not have. I respect that. In positions of extreme power, competing interests, opposing personalities and lives at stake, decisions must be made. These decisions are not divorced from the limitations of their maker – but when it’s all said and done, we have to be who we are in taking the actions we take. Sometimes, asking for better judgement calls means asking for someone else to make the judgement altogether. So long as you got the microphone, you have to speak your piece. The standing ovation may be meant for another character. That doesn’t change your mission.