Jesse Jackson: Man of the Moment, Nation of One

Posted: Mar 30, 2002 12:00 AM
"Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm - but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves." - T.S. Eliot Throughout Daniel Pearl's kidnapping, I kept wondering: Where's Jesse? Rarely does the Rev. Jackson miss an opportunity to save someone in distress, and Pearl's mysterious disappearance seemed to meet all his usual criteria: high profile, high profile and high profile. But Jesse never showed. Naturally, I was concerned. Ever since I heard Jackson compare himself to Jesus Christ and Mahatma Gandhi a couple of years ago in Paris, I've been trying to keep a close eye on him. I mean, I didn't want to miss him healing lepers or saving nations from colonial occupation or anything. My concern has grown recently. Ever since he had to decline the Taliban's invitation a few months ago to drop by Kabul and chat, he's been keeping a lower profile than Gwyneth Paltrow's bodice. It's not clear why Jackson never made it to Afghanistan - constitutionally, a U.S. citizen has the legal right to travel anywhere - but one can surmise that the Bush administration wasn't pleased. Perhaps a well-placed "suggestion" managed to permeate Jackson's ego shield. Finally, this week, I got an answer to my question. Jesse is back center stage, offering to settle this Israeli-Palestinian mess once and for all. I'm trying unsuccessfully not to picture a large brown mouse, arms outstretched, red cape whipping parallel to his elongated, airborne body, singing operatically: "Here I come to save the daaaaay!" This time, Jackson didn't wait for an invitation. Like a snubbed dinner party guest who's just sure his invitation got lost in the mail, Jackson picked up the phone and called friends in both Israel and the Arab world. He's ready to step in and get this peace ball rolling. Although there's been no official word from Washington on Jackson's uninvited overtures - would that be "political harassment"? - one can surmise again that President Bush would rather Jackson resume his ministerial duties elsewhere. As eager as Jackson apparently is to be an ambassador to Somewhere, perhaps now would be a good time to consider reinvigorating the space program. It is true, as Jackson's fan(s) undoubtedly will note, that The Reverend has had some diplomatic success in the past. In 1999, for instance, he negotiated the release of three U.S. soldiers captured during the Kosovo conflict. He also negotiated the release of a U.S. Navy pilot from Syria in 1984. Admittedly, were any of those young men my son/brother/husband/father, I wouldn't care if Popeye had negotiated their release. But it seems clear enough that Jackson's success has resulted
not from his magnificent diplomatic skills, but from the captors' wish to embarrass the United States and insult our leaders. Apparently unbeknownst only to him, Jackson is not an official representative of this country. Every time he sets foot on foreign soil, Jackson becomes an ambassador of his own private country, the Nation of Jesse, and in the process - inadvertently or perhaps not - undermines U.S. authority. His humanitarian imperative is narcissism masquerading as altruism. He is - unlike the Jesus he claims as his "predecessor" - a textbook narcissist, the definition of which includes the following characteristics: needs attention and adulation, is self-important, has feelings of being unique, special (see Jesus Christ/Gandhi references). Who else but Jesse Jackson would feel that his special talents could resolve a decades-old conflict where presidents, ambassadors, secretaries of state, congressional leaders and special envoys have failed? Who else but Jackson would insinuate himself uninvited into such a deadly serious game? Whether Jackson's Palestinian and Israeli friends will respond to his offer to save the Middle East, not to mention the world, remains to be seen. If he goes and succeeds, I'll write a daily apology for the rest of my life, or at least a week. If he goes and fails, I'll trytrytry to refrain from gloating. If he stays home where he belongs, it will be an act of patriotism long overdue and much appreciated.