Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Angry, Scared and Rudderless

The American ship of state is on fire and drifting, and her President is on vacation.  Few would argue the man has more than earned some R&R, but the inevitable contrast of book-shopping on Martha's Vineyard while Lower Manhattan erupts in Islamophobia is almost impossible to avoid.

The picture it paints, in addition to the obvious, garden-variety "fiddling while Rome burns" analogy, is one that goes to the core of Obama's strengths and weaknesses:  no-drama Obama staying above the fray vs. the careful statesman unwilling to "let [himself] be perfectly clear".

The lunatics have been running around the asylum for quite some time and it needs to stop.  Someone needs to grab the megaphone and remind citizen and politician alike of some basic American ideals, for instance:  you are not at liberty to run amok disseminating blatant untruths and expect to get away with it. You are not at liberty to wrap yourselves up in the flag and then embrace the kind of discrimination that was roundly rejected long before there even was a country for the current flag to symbolize...and expect to get away with it.  You are not at liberty to mock American values and call yourself a patriot...and expect to get away with it.  You, Michelle Bachmann; you, Sarah Palin, you, Newt Gingrich; you are pouring gasoline on the flames that will consume you, too.  So, even if you don't give a whit about the country, you might want to consider your own well-being.

Barack Obama knows this summer's silly season is bull-shit.  He would know it even if he were not partially of Muslim descent -- the fact that he is only makes it that much more infuriating that he won't lead on this issue!    Just like his post-Rev.-Wright race speech, Obama is the person we've been waiting for to school his fellow countrymen and -women about what the rest of the Earth is like a few feet away from white, Christian navels.  If he cannot, who can?  Obama easily won his present job; a clear majority of Americans duly elected him; even the ones who did not vote for him could not help but recognize his story as compelling...so why isn't he using that story to move our society forward?  We are a nation of mutts, and he's the muttiest leader of the pack yet.

Chelsea Clinton was just recently married to a Jew.  Did anyone bat an eye?  No.  Why not?

Barack Obama doesn't have to check his family's myriad racial, religious, national, cultural identities at the door to be a practicing member of the United Church of Christ in Chicago, or an American, or our President. Quite the opposite:  he needs to use them, celebrate them, teach with them.  They're his strength and he alone right now stands the best chance of helping us understand that these are our strengths, too.

Enough is enough.

[Image:  Monument to Multiculturalism by Francesco Pirelli at Union Station donated by the Italian community of Toronto in 1985.  Other copies are in South Africa, China, Bosnia and Australia.  See Wikipedia.]