Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Let's Rest Now and Bridle Our Tongues

When I first arrived in the US in 1999, many members of the diverse Asian community let me know that in the US no woman or non-white could ever be the President. I did not form an opinion on this sweeping statement until about 2 years later when I disagreed with them and against prevailing sentiment. Today they have been proved wrong resoundingly. We had a magnificent election in which a black man with an unusual name and a history of international upbringing and education won the elections, competing first against a powerful white woman within his own party and then against a white woman and a white war hero. The naysayers still ominously add that it is the war, the economy and any number of other disasters that led to this- but the fact still remains that the immense margin of victory lays to rest such speculations. It is an historic day for America. And what a fantastic perspective from a pillar of contemporary American Christian Conservatism- Al Mohler. His column, while mourning the setback for pro-life activism, nevertheless declares the moment's glory unabashedly. Quote:
That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans -- not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama. As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again. Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States. The President. The only President. The elected President. Our President.

This is glorious. I was talking to my friend about how President Obama's victory will change the quality of discourse among lawmakers. He has demonstrated his gracious speech and consensus building approach. It is safe to say that most lawmakers will treat him with more respect than they showed President Bush if only for the reason that he is a minority. This is all good, regardless of that twisted motivation. Al Mohler's article reflects Christian grace, but outside of such bright lights, the quality of the current discourse on both sides of the centre is terrible. This Wall Street Journal article talks about how ungracious Americans have been in their treatment of Mr. Bush. Regardless of the fact that his presidency has been followed by a trail of problems, some created by the presidency and some not, this shabby behaviour reveals more about ourselves than about Mr. Bush. Quote:
Earlier this year, 12,000 people in San Francisco signed a petition in
support of a proposition on a local ballot to rename an Oceanside sewage plant after George W. Bush. The proposition is only one example of the classless disrespect many Americans have shown the president.
Last Thursday's Presidential Bash on SNL showed Mr. Bush's daughters talking about the fact that "everybody's calling Dad dumb"- although this was supposed to be funny, it proves how irresponsible we have become in our public discourse. The incredible lies that have been circulated in emails about Mr. Obama belong in this same category. I'm reminded also of George Clooney's comments about Charlton Heston's Alzheimer's, when he refused to apologize for a joke he made about it with "I don't care. Charlton Heston is the head of the National Rifle Association. He deserves whatever anyone says about him." I've written elsewhere in this blog about the declining quality of conservative bickering about liberalism, from religious leaders.

All these statements are intended to hurt, not build up; it is full of malice and spite; it reaches families; it alienates and divides us as a people. Yes, some Americans for all their progress against racism have become a crass, crude bunch of people- and I sincerely hope that Mr. Obama's term will lessen that. In that sense we look to him not only for leadership but an example. The Messianic fervour not withstanding, I think it is right for us to expect that level of class from every lawmaker. I'm glad that so far Mr. Obama has indeed given us the right signals.

And thankfully, Mr. Obama has the media on his side. I hope that a few months of economic and social upheavals do not turn the media against him. When that happens it will time to run for the hills.

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