Harrumph (noun) 1. An exclamation of annoyance, exasperation, rage or other negative factor or to expel anger, disgust, disappointment, etc. --urbandictionary.com
It’s a miracle that up until this past weekend, I’ve been able to avoid what may be the worst part of Presidential campaign politics: the TV commercial, the 30 or 60 second spot that packages a candidate, right in between pitches for Viagra and Bernie and Phyl’s Furniture. But to watch playoff football, it was impossible for me to escape the onslaught. So as an experiment, I viewed these mini speeches with curiosity, even hope, wondering if, perhaps, these videos might actually give me a sense of the spirit and tone of the upcoming election.
Maybe the commercials might even uplift me with their soaring rhetoric and positive platitudes, get me really excited about all the possibilities a new President might offer. Who among these fifteen men and women, on the tube and on the ballot in nearby New Hampshire, will be our next Lincoln, or Washington, or Roosevelt?
So I watched TV and…
Report: no matter who wins next November it feels like there’s a very good chance he or she will be an absolute world class harrumpher. A harrumpher. The kind of person who given the chance will always see what is wrong and then insist on telling anyone within earshot of their complaints. Watch the candidates’ commercials (and debates too) and it’s easy to get depressed about just who wants to lead us for the next four years. Harrumphers. Eye rollers, lip pursers, head shakers, arm crossers, heavy sighers, and finger waggers. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a bigger group of pessimists or doomsday sayers on the air, at one time, ever.
It’s like Eeeyore is running for President. It’s as if the cranky old guy who lives in your neighborhood and is always yelling at the kids to “STAY OFF MY LAWN!”: he wants our vote. The lady at the library who SHUSHES you with an angry glare. The self righteous college professor who glares at you from the podium in the midst of a tedious lecture. The bullying used car salesman who warns you that the deal is off if you leave the lot. The preacher who harangues from the pulpit.
HARRUMPH! America is besieged at every turn by its enemies. HARRUMPH! America is going to hell in a hand basket. HARRUMPH! The rich hate the poor and the poor despise the rich. HARRUMPH! If you elect my opponent(s), she or he will ruin our country for generations to come. HARRUMPH! Immigrants, global warming, ISIS, income inequality: pick your poison. We’re all doomed…and oh, by the way?
Funny thing about harrumphing and harrumphers. They are always better at tearing down than building up. Always ready to light in to someone and then self righteously dismiss an opposing viewpoint, without even bothering to listen. Harrumphers make for good copy in the press and great sound bites for the news and juicy grist for the mill of social media, but harrumphers usually fail as leaders. And not just for nations but in families and communities and neighborhoods and religions and companies too.
Harrumphers prove again and again that it is always simpler to trumpet bad news rather than actually share some good news. Harrumphers love to throw rocks but often don’t know how to then put the stone down and bring people together. Harrumphers appeal to the worst in us, not the best. Harrumphers use seductive arguments to convince us that there’s nothing better than self satisfied anger to stoke the fires of partisanship.
To be clear: I’m not endorsing any candidate or party or philosophy. Instead, I have just one hope and prayer. As we seek to build and rebuild the world, to do the hard work of community and face into our problems both locally and globally, we’ll demand that the harrumphers do more than just harrumph. The challenges we humans face in 2016 are too big and too serious to leave it all to the harrumphers.
We need a positive vision. We need to be called to our better natures, not our cranky selves. We need leaders who can actually lead us. Lead…the greatest number of people to do the greatest good for every last citizen and child of God. Lead and unite in us in cooperation and in hope. Heck—maybe even inspire us!
So enough with the harrumphing already. It’s time to grow up and get to the real work of making this world a better place.