Sunday, September 30, 2007

Whatever Happened to Charisma?

Sure it sounds trivial. Charisma, originally a theological term denoting a "spiritual gift or grace giving a person a gift of prophesying or healing", now commonly meaning a magnetic and compelling personality.

History records some genuinely charismatic leaders - Roosevelt and Churchill, surely; John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Pierre Trudeau's charisma was palpable, even to his opponents. Then again I suppose you could say that most Germans found Hitler charismatic just as Italians were drawn to Mussolini.

Where are the charismatics today? They seem to be in short supply. There's certainly none in that cold, wooden plank we have for a prime minister, Stephen Harper. You pretty much have to come from the ranks of those who like their undies starched to find anything magnetic in Harpo. Stephane Dion? Well at least he's not cold but he's anything but magnetic either. Jack Layton? No, guys who look like siding salesmen aren't charismatic. Too sleazy.

Obama is heralded as charismatic and he probably is somewhat but not nearly enough to topple the completely anti-charismatic Hillary Clinton. Rudy Guiliani? He tries hard to connect but, let's face it, he's a cross-dressing, serial divorcee. Fred Thompson? Sort of but much too wrinkled and, again, he's not really connecting.

Americans think Ronald Reagan was charismatic but that's largely a delusion based on their refusal to accept what a murderous, lying thug he really was. They also found their current fuhrer charismatic as hell until he sent their desperate hopes and dreams swirling into the toilet of Iraq.

We all need a good shot of charisma every now and then and we're in a real "now" moment. We need an orator, a real firebrand, someone who can stand up on a stage and make us say "yeah, yeah". Haven't we had enough Harpers and Hillaries and even Dions? I've had my fill. We're at a crossroads, a confluence of serious problems that challenge our very civilization. It's time for a genuine leader, one with the spiritual gift of charisma. Someone we can really follow.

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