No matter how intelligent, skilled and capable one is, constant bombardment of carping, laced with hatred and disdain, takes its toll at some level. Has anyone ever been subjected to more?
Americans on a less exalted level who have worked for bad bosses can understand what such treatment can do to shrivel a sense of self-worth. What if they were trapped in such a situation with no escape and the whole world watching?
This is not to excuse the President’s shortcomings but to remind fair-minded critics of what he must be enduring.
I learned about it dramatically in my teens. In an office I worked briefly for a lieutenant who was a former college English teacher and life was good. We talked for hours about books and life, and one evening he suggested we take the office jeep to the post movie.
Someone had given me driving lessons and, a few days earlier, I had gone solo to deliver a file across the base. I put it on the seat next to me. At the first turn, papers flew into my face and, by the time I braked to a stop, the jeep was in a ditch on the left side of the road nuzzled against a tree.
We started for the movies in proper military fashion; I was driving, my unsuspecting lieutenant in the passenger seat. A minute later, he was braced against the windshield, gasping. When we arrived at the movies, soldiers were staring at a private being chauffeured by an officer.
That kind of dumb luck did not last. My boss was shipped out and replaced by his polar opposite, a high-school dropout who had earned a commission during the officer shortage after Pearl Harbor. He despised me on sight and, from then on, it was like being in a Shrinking Man movie. Every day his beady eyes and sarcastic voice shriveled me with disdain, criticism and mockery, and I soon found myself becoming what he saw, an incompetent jerk. I started making mistakes I had never made before.
That experience gave me something of great value. A few weeks showed me what could happen if I let myself be treated that way. I swore I never would again, no matter what. I never did.
Until Barack Obama writes his memoirs, we will have no idea of how years of massive disrespect affected his psyche, but one former private has the utmost sympathy for what the Commander-in-Chief is enduring. As he steps to a podium to rebuff the latest attacks, at least one old soldier is saluting him.