I was pulling on my favorite jeans this morning, appreciating the lightly worn, soft look they now have. They seem as if I have been wearing them for years – although they are relatively new. It’s the result of stone-washing. Launder the denim fabric with some stones and, behold, the finished product is aged, lightly discolored and feels softer.
You see the same trick with distressed leather. That beautiful leather bomber jacket that looks as if it has been worn since World War II was made just a few months ago in China. And, often, leather goods will come with a printed disclaimer that says that leather is subject to natural imperfections (i.e. scratches or striations in the cowhide) that is part of the natural beauty of this fabric.
I used to live in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I had friends who were cabinet and furniture makers who used similar “distressing” methods to make tables and other furniture appear to have been left behind by a Spanish conquistador hundreds of years ago.
There is definitely a market for making some things look older than they really are, by beating them up.
This year, however, it appears that the fashion for well-aged products does not apply to politicians. Much of the public is demanding that candidates be virgins, unsullied by Washington politics, innocent of any executive experience with government, and reticent about revealing their intentions.
In the Republican race, all the governors, senators and former Cabinet members fell by the wayside as the Colossus of New York, a real estate developer, a reality television personality and an organizer of Miss Universe competitions, dazzled and bamboozled his way to the top by boasting that he was the only one who knew how to manage the most powerful country in the world. His very lack of experience in government, his dearth of knowledge, his absence of policies, his bragging about his assets, all confirmed that here was, at last, the perfect Virgin, the Immaculate One, who could make all well with our nation. Just by making a deal or two…
In contrast, Hillary Clinton is the political Crone. She has been around forever. She has a long track record. She has had great successes and has made many mistakes along the way. She has been First Lady of Arkansas for over 10 years, First Lady of the United States for eight years, a U.S. Senator for eight years and Secretary of State for four years. Thirty years of public service makes for leather that is naturally distressed. No need for other abrasives.
I find it curious that someone with so much experience is polling so low for trustworthiness. Just four years ago, as she was finishing her stint as Secretary of State, she had a 65% popularity rating in most polls. But, this year, experience, whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, is scorned as being part of “the Establishment” that has failed. Never mind that the U.S. economy is doing much better than nearly every other country. It’s not good enough.
All of us make many mistakes as we grow though life. Some small, some major, but all of them often turn out to be the way we learn lessons about who we are and what we value. We make mistakes about jobs, bringing up our kids, marriages and relationships, dealing with our own parents, hair styles, lapel widths, money, and people we trust. How we all loved you, Lance Armstrong.
Those mistakes become the compost for us making different and better choices. If we are sensible and compassionate, we do not spend our lives beating ourselves up for those mistakes. We forgive ourselves, our parents, our old loves, our lack of wisdom. It’s possible to learn to appreciate the value of the many wrong steps that led us to be in the right place now. Experimenting and taking risks might not always work out the way we hope.
Which brings me back to Hillary. She too has made many mistakes, large and small. Her vote for the Iraq war (large), her decision to use a private email server instead of the State Department email system (small), her advocacy for helping rebels in Libya to oust Gaddafi (large): these choices have come back to haunt her. But set against these mistakes her lifelong commitment to empowering women and children. As First Lady, she helped create and guide through Congress the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a key program that brought health care coverage to millions of children. As a Senator, she worked across the aisle to provide full military health benefits to reservists and National Guard members. As Secretary of State, Clinton accomplished the seemingly impossible task of getting China, Russia, the European Union and many other countries to support crippling sanctions against Iran. This is what brought Iran to the negotiating table.
Like all our lives her life is a mixed bag. What intrigues me is how so many of us choose to see only one side of the picture. She is either totally wrong, corrupt, and a serial liar or she is caring, determined and an experienced woman leader. We reduce our judgment to this binary choice when, as with all of us, the truth more resembles a chocolate and vanilla ice cream swirl with a few toppings thrown in.
Shakespeare says in The Merchant of Venice:
The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
We could all do with some of that blessed mercy, that forgiveness: both the giving and the receiving.
June 2, 2016