It’s Too Bad We Don’t Have Leaders Like Owen Bieber. Wait…

It's Too Bad We Don't Have Leaders Like Owen Bieber. Wait...

Saturday night my my dad, my son, and I spent 40 minutes in the waiting area of a local restaurant. It was our own fault. We had failed to take into account that it was Valentine’s Day weekend, understandable considering we had just come from watching the movie 1917 and were not feeling particularly romantic. While we waited for a table to open up, I had plenty of time to take in the restaurant’s decor, the theme of which was very patriotic and with an emphasis on police officers who have fallen in the line of duty. And then also a poster of Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali? Why Muhammad Ali? Like I said, I had plenty of time to consider.

I was making no judgements. In fact, I appreciated the uniqueness (something unlikely to be seen in a corporate chain restaurant). But I couldn’t let go of the juxtaposition of the Ali poster. You could argue that Ali was a good fit as somebody who challenged the system and was passionate about expressing his freedom as an American — what is more patriotic than that? But if this was 50 years ago, Ali would definitely not be up on that wall. Back then he was widely regarded as decidedly un-American for refusing the draft for Vietnam (and, let’s be honest, converting to Islam).

I thought about this some more when I read longtime UAW President Owen Bieber died. The obits were very gracious about his life’s work. Yes, I know that’s how obits generally work, but by all accounts Bieber was a thoroughly decent human being who deserves to be remembered in positive light. But if you go back a few decades, it wouldn’t be hard to find harsh criticism about how he was a union stooge killing the American economy or a weak compromiser who ruined the union’s chances of making real progress.

Anyway, it’s always difficult to truly appreciate somebody in their own time. It makes me wonder whether Democrats won’t be looking back at some point and thinking, “why is it again we didn’t think Elizabeth Warren was the right choice to be our nominee?”

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