By Ernie McCray
I loved the image Obama projected abroad although I could have gone without the scene wherein our troops in Iraq stood wide-eyed listening to him, in so many words, say to them: “You don’t have much longer to stay but you just might end up shooting and ducking and covering your behinds in Afghanistan someday.”
He assumes that organizations like Al Qaeda and the Taliban will just surrender to our massive power and lick their wounds and run away and abandon their fiendish schemes along with the ripe supple virgins that frolic in their dreams. There has to be other ways to monitor what our enemies are pursuing.
Oh, but what a boost Obama gave to our sons and daughters in uniform and putting my thoughts of war aside, I saw his trip abroad as quite the ride. I’ll forever envision him in my mind flashing that killer smile, knocking fists and grabbing and slapping hands with both dignitaries and ordinary people. His was the trip of our times. And it didn’t come a minute too soon.
We’ve so desperately needed a president to recognize and apologize for our past bad behavior as a nation and he did just that. As he shared with his audiences how he forsook the torturing of our perceived and real enemies and as he acknowledged our shameful days of slavery and repression of Native Americans, some soul present there had to, as I did, feel his passion, his love and concern for all people.
Is there a more hopeful sight than one of the leader of the free world reaching across a multitude of cultural divides, embracing Jews and Christians and Muslims and encouraging young people to create the changes needed in their societies to build bridges to understanding? I don’t think so.
There are those, though, who see Barack Obama in a different light than I do, viewing him as one who displays “more style than substance.” Thomas Donnely, a resident fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute said, regarding Obama’s trip: “People already liked Obama; that’s nothing new. The president already had the world’s good will, but he has yet to translate that into action for the public good, especially on the security issue.”
I think Donnely spends too much time sitting around large tables in think tanks with people like himself who, I would guess, have little to no experience in reaching out to a diverse humanity with open hearts and souls. Such people, I’d venture to say, seek quick answers, failing to realize that solving complex social and political problems requires substantive good spirited well intentioned approaches that could take years. The accomplishments of the Great Civil Rights Movement certainly weren’t earned in a few weeks.
The Donnelys of the world have to understand that there is no magic wand that can wave away, in an instant, the effects of a past administration’s refusal to try to understand and care about our planet and its pressing needs. Nothing can immediately wipe away the horror of our kids having been sent off to “Shock and Awe.” Repairing the damage to the economy caused by the criminal actions - aka “playing by the rules -of a bunch of rich and powerful and greedy shysters will be like a ship ride on choppy unchartered waters. Easing the minds of a world that has looked on as our nation sponsored the torturing of prisoners is not an episode on Dr. Phil. The deep wounds felt by so many as a result of our country’s lackadaisical response to Katrina are still fresh and open. But these major blunders contributed to something truly wonderful. They awakened a sleeping electorate and delivered us a president who is more than up to the challenge of turning this thing around.
Some people get it. Emre Erdogan, the head of a Turkish research firm, feels that Obama’s message of change is resonating with Turkish youth. “Turkish young people are not optimistic about their lives,” he says. “They are looking for a sense of confidence and security in their lives. Obama gives them hope.”
Nothing, I don’t think, translates “into action for the public good” more than giving people hope, especially young people as Obama has done before the eyes of the world both stylishly and substantively. Our charge, as a nation, in the spirit of “Yes We Can,” is to resist what divides us and help him keep that hope alive. For however long it takes.
Ernie McCray is a San Diego resident.