#36 – Dick Bernard: President Obama builds a wall behind U.S. (and everyone else)

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Today President Obama is at Normandy; yesterday at Buchenwald; Thursday at Cairo….
The analysis of the Presidents words is and will be unending, but one particular piece of analysis by a single “special interest” group, and some more general articles about what the speech meant have most caught my attention:
At Cairo, the President, glaringly,  seems to have not used the “T” word, not once.  This has caused great distress in certain circles in our country and elsewhere.  Symbolically, I felt, with his speech he seemed to deliberately end the War on T, the war on a word and the war on everybody, everywhere….
Also, in more than a few instances in that speech, he had made promises – commitments – such as closing Guantanamo, which are politically extremely difficult.  And he challenged others in other countries to figure out  how to solve their problems, with our help.
President Obama’s rhetoric is solutions driven, not problem centered.  Solutions by their nature require cooperation, working together towards a common goal.  They do not presume delegation to someone else or defending the status quo.
The more I think of his words during, and the symbolism of, this most important trip to Europe and the Middle East, the more I am convinced that his administration is consciously and deliberately building “a wall behind” all of us, to at minimum make it more difficult for each and every one of us to retreat back to the familiar, of what was, however dismal that past might have been.
For those whose reputation was made, and whose future relies, on the war on “T” , that “wall behind” has a certain meaning.
For those who railed against that mindset, the same “wall” is as certainly built behind them.  They can choose to take the risk of moving forward into an uncertain future, learning new ways of engagement; or to turn around and try to tear down that wall to go back to the comfort of what was.
Likely each of us can remember some time or circumstance when we built a “wall” of some kind behind us which forced us to go forward, doing something we didn’t want to do.  (Sometimes this is also referred to as “burning bridges behind us”).  This is a good time to reflect on what our “wall” (or “bridge”) might have been, and how we grew when forced to move forward rather than able to go back.
George Santayana was correct in his famous statement “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it“, but there are certainly equally persuasive arguments about the folly of becoming mired in the past and refusing to move on.   It is hard to move forward while always looking back.
We need to look forward, and personally own the future we’re all creating.  The future for ourselves and our fellow world citizens is a future that we build, together.  We depend on this forward looking and acting; even more so, the future of the generations which follow us depend on us.

1 reply
  1. Bruce Fisher
    Bruce Fisher says:

    The “wall” is an interesting metaphor for what Obama needs to do to have a transformative presidency. He needs to create a new ideology one of generosity, compassion, mutually supportive community. All of his programs, initiatives, and trips need to exemplify this ideology. This new ideology will replace the ideology of selfish autonomous individualism based on competition and domination. Programs, initiatives, solutions like people need to be part of a larger idea and not be forced to compete with each other for dollars and recognition. For instance, when advocating for social security, make it clear that we are standing up for one of histories great manifestation of intergenerational care and concern, rather than be pulled into “how we fund it debate” that fails to evoke its clear moral purpose. Or, when proposing environmental reforms, give voice to the sacredness of the earth and the wonder of nature rather than the importance of reversing global warming. If he can create this new ideology of generosity, compassion, and awe and wonder at the universe to replace the autonomous competitive individual, when his presidency ends and his personal power is out of office the forces of the old ideology will have a difficult time restoring the old status quo because a new status quo will be in its place. He needs to build a wall behind us so we can’t go back.

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