Saturday, July 26, 2008

Obama Overseas

Obama's speech to 200,000 Berliners underscores the hopes of the world for a new American president.

My European friends have scratched their heads in wonderment at Bush's shenanigans, not so much angered by his behavior, but stunned that America could elect such an abysmal failure, an ignorant man made dangerous by his contempt for the world.

Obama's effort to reach out to our Allies is important. Our future can no longer be conceived independently from the rest of the world. We are a mighty nation, but not the only nation that counts, and only through cooperation will we find a better world and a safe future.

Yet America's reaction to Obama's trip, and McCain's carping, reveal a tragic element in our heart - many of us still believe that America has no need for the world, and that the world should be coweringly grateful for how good and great we are. We want allies to sign on for our ventures, but we fail, again and again, to be ally. What did Jesus say, "Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you"? If we want allies, we have to learn how to be an ally, to be a friend among friends, a nation among the nations of the world.

It is difficult for Americans to understand that anyone else could have a better idea, or could do anything better than we do. It's been a long time since we've listened to our Allies.

We went to war in Iraq against the advice of long-standing friends; we ignore their work on global warming; we have continued to produced gas-guzzling behemoths when the rest of the civilized world has been committed to downsizing and recycling for decades, and our medical system is equivalent to the home-lone debacle.

And, from my point of view, Americans grow dumber - yes, I said it. We are a fun-loving, gun-loving, self-loving culture losing touch with the larger realities of our behavior and the issues of the larger world. American isolationism has been growing since Vietnam; and when we've needed to look at the world, we've done so through a gun sight.

Our behavior is akin to the outrageously funny film, Step Brothers - two "men" still living at home with their respective parents, one 39, the other 40, suddenly become step brothers when their parents marry. To watch "grown men" acting like hormonally-driven 13-year olds, scrapping and hating one another, is funny, but when a nation behaves like that, it's tragic, and not for the nation alone, but for the rest of the world as well.

Hats off to Obama for behaving presidentially, for showing us what a president might look like.

Boos and hisses to little Johnny McComplain - who's lost whatever character he once possessed. Though once looked upon as an independent, a man who challenged both Bushes, he's now a vote-chaser, selling his soul to the worst instincts in the American personality, instincts embraced and celebrated in the far right and in fundamentalist Christian covens, and subliminally held by many Americans.

It's true, I believe, that America gets the president it deserves.

But the world deserves something far better, and I'd like believe that we do, too.