At age thirty-nine, Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with polio, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Thirteen years later, in 1933, America was suffering from the greatest economic collapse in America history.
Unable to stand without the aid of braces, and most often holding the arm of the one standing next to him, Roosevelt ran for the Presidency of the United States and won.
Roosevelt managed to unite the country to both overcome the Great Depression and build a military strong enough to march on and defeat Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan during WW II.
The Irony Of Roosevelt’s Life
There are many ways to describe what Roosevelt accomplished, one being heroic, another inspirational. However, for this article, I choose to call it ironic.
Irony means a story full of interesting contradictions, and surprising twists and turns.
For example, usually we think of the strong building the strong. In this interesting turn of fate, America chose a very weak man to rebuild an economy that not only became the strongest one in the world, but the strongest one in the history of the world.
The incongruity between what is expected and what occurs is what keeps us on our toes mentality. Irony keeps life interesting. We are both inspired and surprised by the incongruity between the handicap of Roosevelt and the achievement of Roosevelt.
No Situation Exists Without Its Ironies
Very seldom do we go through life without experiencing some unexpected twist or turn.
For example, Mitt Romney is the most disciplined political candidate for President I have ever seen. It’s discipline that has gotten him this far. But at the very moment of his greatest achievement in accepting the nomination of his party to be President of the United States, the most unscripted and least disciplined moment in Presidential politics occurred.
As you probably know, actor Clint Eastwood was invited to speak before Mr. Romney, in order to excite the audience before Romney was to give his acceptance speech. But irony struck. As if he had collapsed into acute senility, Eastwood carried on a conversation with an empty chair.
It was a moment of lasting irony. Just think, the most scripted, disciplined man in Presidential history being sideswiped by the most unscripted and undisciplined moment in political history. Go figure.
The unexpected twists and turns to our lives can drive us crazy. Irony seems to always be hiding just around the corner, ready to jump out and surprise us when we least expect it.
So how do you handle these unanticipated surprises? Just like Romney did. You suck it up, smile and make the best of the hand you are dealt.
Beware The Moment Of Irony
My mother was a Roosevelt Democrat. Early on I broke with her and started voting as a Republican. I’ve voted in every Presidential election since 1968. I voted for Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George W. Bush.
I loved voting Republican. I loved being a Republican. My wife became an important leader within Utah’s Republican Party. I was rolling along, confident with my political philosophy.
Then, all of the sudden I changed. I drew a new line in the sand, and have decided to vote democratic.
For me, it is one of the most ironic experiences I’ve ever had. It’s almost been 45 years since my mother passed away. Since that time I’ve traveled far and wide, yet I’ve ended up returning to the same place I started out. That’s worth a scratch or two of the head.
Shakespeare Was In The Irony Business
Many of Shakespeare’s plays are laced with ironic twists. His theme, in the tragedies he wrote, was how strong and powerful men are often ensnared by trivial personal weaknesses of which they are unaware until it is too late.
General Othello, the Moor from Venice, was brought down by his juvenile gullibility and outrageous jealousy.
King Lear, the Celt from the south of Britain, was downed by personal pride and the need to be flattered.
And, Macbeth was felled by his insatiable ambition.
These men conquered the world. In the end, however, they were unable to conquer themselves. The tragic irony comes when each finally has a flash of insight, and recognizes that it is his personal flaw that is his undoing. But, alas it is too late. The idea that it is never too late to change comes to an end. Indeed, it is too late, at least for these three.
Ah, the ironic twists and turns of life.
I’ve seen enough irony in my life to know it is ever lurking just below the surface. The incongruity of life keeps us guessing. Just when we think we have things figured out, we end up not having things figured out.
Be alert. Try to stay humble, and by all means don’t take anything for granted.