Tuesday, November 24, 2009

He Doesn't Know His Own Strength

The Obama administration is like the huge bodybuilder who is nonetheless convinced that he is small.

The other day, Valerie Jarrett, one of President Obama’s closest advisors, told CNN’s Campbell Brown, “It is our job to speak truth to power.”

No, Ms. Jarrett, it is the little people’s job to “speak truth to power.” Truth is all the little people have. It is your job, as occupants of the White House, to project power. You have had close to a year in the White House, and apparently you haven’t figured this out.

(If) and when you do “figure it out,” you might want to tell your boss. He is the one standing in the mirror wondering why his arms are so skinny.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peace: The Height of Idealism

There is a reason why Americans are having a hard time reconciling with Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize: Pure selfishness.

More than any other American president, Barack Obama is an international. He hails from Indonesia and Pakistan and Kenya; from Hawaii, Kansas, and Chicago’s southside. He is a man of peace if for no other reason than he inspires more oppressed and disenfranchised peoples worldwide than all of the other nation’s leaders combined. It is those Americans who think only of themselves who will fail to appreciate this.

I, too, was surprised at Obama’s selection for the Nobel Peace Prize, not because of his “lack of achievement,” but surprised that a world body (like Norwegian Nobel committee) could actually see.

Idealism aside, Obama appealed to the most basic instinct in human beings—that of being social creatures. He said to us: “Let’s talk.” Nothing promotes peace like “talk”; and no president has been more willing to talk to “the despised” than has Obama.

When he said, “I will talk with Chavez; I will talk with Ahmadinejad,” in one fell swoop, he sent a message—not just to world leaders, but to human beings worldwide: “Talk to those with whom you disagree.” The message is peace.

Not that there is anything wrong with idealism. (The concept of “peace” is the height of idealism.) That Barack Obama graduated from on of the most prestigious universities in America does not matter to many of the world’s dispossessed. They do not see in him, “ A man from Harvard.” In Obama, they see another “dispossessed”—spawned from the soil of a quaint and dusty Third World village. His story is more than an American Dream. To them, it is the dream of billions worldwide.

More than anything, Barack Obama has piqued the imagination of children. From ghettos to “favelas”, from Maui to Mozambique, a half billion Third World children are thinking about being presidents. They are believing now. That is peace.

Blood Droplets on a Phony War

There comes a time…when spending the last vestige of life’s blood on the enemy is what the last vestige of life’s blood is meant for you. -The King of Pearl

America has set November 7th as the date for Afghanistan’s run-off election. The weather has turned bad, and the Taliban is threatening bombs. So why should the Afghan people go to the polls and risk life and limb again when no matter who wins—Karzai or Abdullah—it shall

be America who calls the shots?

In seeking to prop up a corrupt regime, America has no choice but to call for a run-off

election, (considering the low turn-out and massive fraud in the last election). But with conditions being worse than before—with winter setting in—why would we, or the Afghans, expect a different result?

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman, Azam Tariq, vows “The Taliban will fight to our last drop of blood…to defend our land.” That should be no surprise, either. For what is a man’s last drop of blood good for if not to defend what he holds most dear?

We call these men all sorts of bad names—terrorists, extremists, illegal combatants. But in the end, they are just men. They were born in Afghanistan, they lived their entire live there, and they expect to die there, comme il faut.

Only we are the misfits there: We were neither born there, nor have we lived there, and we don’t want to die there.

So, why are we there? National security? Chicken-sticks!! Most Taliban couldn’t find America if you gave them a map.

One of the Taliban’s chief claims to fame, however, is that they fight corruption; they challenge corrupt Afghan rule. Though their ways are draconian—they want their women at home and their men sober—they reject government that preys on its people through bribes and police shakedowns. They would never sleep with Karzai and his cabal; neither with corrupt, money-flinging Americans.

It is ironic that America would send its precious sons to fight men who truly combat what we only pretend to combat—corruption. Welcome to Obama’s war in Afghanistan.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Write the Way You Referee

When people ask me, “How do you write?”, I tell them, “I write the way I referee.” That is, I call them like I see them. I can’t be right all of the time, but I can be fair. In the end, being treated fairly may be the best any of us can hope for.

They asked me, once, to referee a basketball game. I had never refereed before, but having played the game, I knew the rules. And for this particular game, I knew all of the players.

Funny how it all came over me the moment I took on the mantle of “referee.” I didn’t see the people any longer; I only saw the game. I called it like I saw it.

I write the same way. It doesn’t matter to me who is black or white; all that matters is who is right or wrong.

Of course, I am not always right, though I try to be. But being right is something we have less control over than being fair. At times, I may not be right, but I will stake my claim on being fair.

The Hamlet Presidency

"And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with a pale cast of thought..." Shakespeare, Hamlet

Hamlet, for all of his good looks and intelligence, was known for being a waffler—someone who could not make the tough decision because he was too busy exploring both sides.

You might remember, it was Hamlet who asked, “To be, or not to be…”, perhaps the greatest question of them all. At one point in his soliloquy, he acknowledges, “And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with a pale cast of thought…”

Has our president become the Hamlet of our time? Has this become the Hamlet Presidency?

Recently, Republicans excoriated President Obama for wanting to have a chat with America’s school children. In particular, Obama wanted to ask each of them, “What can you do to help the president?” The far right went visceral, accusing Obama of seeking to brainwash the nation’s children, among other ridiculous charges.

To appease this noxious lot, Obama retracted his question—which was perfectly wonderful in how it summoned each child to a public duty—and replaced it with this banal call to self-service: “What are your goals, and how will you achieve them?”

That is only the latest example of our president buckling to pressure rather than overcoming it with steadfast decision-making from the start.