Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What's worse than a US President "everybody" hates?

One that "everybody" loves.

Or at least, it's just as bad. I can't make up my mind which I find more repugnant - the simple and sweeping assumption that "everyone" agrees George Bush = Bad or the equally simple and sweeping assumption that "everyone" agrees Barack Obama = Good. The only thing that either assumption proves is that today's populace needs unquestioned heroes as much as it needs unquestioned enemies.

This letter in yesterday's Age appears to be axiomatic:
Tomorrow, thank God, when the new president is sworn in, we will be finally rid o fthe Axis of Evil--Bush, Blair and Howard.
Anyone watching the pomp and ceremony and hype surrounding current activity across the big pond would be forgiven for thinking they are preparing not so much for the inauguration of a president, as for the coronation of a king. In fact, given how much the journalists here in Oz are fawning over the new incumbant of the White House, why not make him King of Australia too? Now is our chance to be part of the "good empire" rather than the "evil empire".

Hey, there's a thought... Why doesn't someone suggest to PM Kevin Rudd that he officially join hands with the new "axis of goodness" and publically bind himself to cooperate with King Barack in support of all his foreign policy actions?

I must confess that I am rather looking forward to that first touch of schadenfreude when the Americans begin to experience the inevitable disappointment that comes with the realisation that they have elected a man, not a god, and that the world today continues to be very much like the world yesterday. Just as a reminder of this, yesterday, rummaging through some old newspapers for something to line the guineapig cage with, I found a page from The Age dated September 1998. The topic: How long can Bill Clinton hold onto power in the face of the Lewinski scandal...

Louise linked to this picture on her blog the other day:

Original Source
So, once more, "everyone", with Louise: "Barack Obama, can he fix it? Barack Obama, no he can't."

(BTW, Louise has changed the address of her "Purcell's Chicken Voluntary" blog to http://pcv-louise.blogspot.com/

25 Comments:

At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 10:15:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

David,

I think your posting here misses much of what my country celebrates today. I, as I hope you know, am deeply distressed over President Obama's stand on abortion. I pray that the Lord may yet chance his heart and mind on that! But the jubilation that swept much (not all) the US today was simply that an African American has assumed the highest office in the land. It's a new America where that can happen, and that's not a matter of agreeing with his policies or thinking of him in any Godlike way - shoot, you think for a second Michele gonna let him get away with that? No way, Jose!

In a sense, it was a covenant renewal to us today - a return to a vision that was bigger than our forefathers even were able to realize. I pray that the President's eyes are opened to see it's bigger than even HE realizes and that it embraces especially the little ones in the womb and the old ones who have become incapacitated in various ways.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 11:39:00 am , Blogger Chris Jones said...

What Fr Weedon said.

Maybe it's hard for folks from other countries to understand what this means for us. We've been struggling for pretty much our entire history to overcome and transcend the legacy of slavery and racism. In the last thirty or forty years, we've actually made a lot of progress. But there is always the niggling fear that the "progress" is only superficial, that the racial divide is really still there under the surface. The election of Barack Obama is a confirmation that the change is real, because it is something that simply was not possible a generation or two ago.

I wish President Obama were not pro-choice. It is an issue on which I am prepared to fight him tooth-and-nail. I wish, too, that our first African-American President had been a conservative and a Republican (like J. C. Watts, for example). But even though I disagree with our new President on many issues, I can still recognize that the change in our national psyche that he represents is real, and it is important. This is a great day for our country, a day on which I am proud to be an American.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 12:14:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

You are the cynic David.

Sure there are those who's ideals will be crushed -- probably as soon as tomorrow (if it hasn't happened since the election!) -- but this is a great moment that, it seems to me, only America can produce.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the USA

Leonard Cohen 'Democracy'

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 12:47:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

Yes, I suppose that to David, myself and other Aussies it's all rather strange and very different from our own understated way of doing things, this all-but-Messianic adulation of a man I do indeed hope will serve his nation well, whose election all wish will signal great progress in combatting remaining racist attitudes, and who hopefully will perhaps not implement further pro-abortion measures after all; as an American friend of mine put it, he won't be as bad as conservatives fear nor as good as liberals think, which puts things in proper perspective after all the hoopla.

I suppose it is the difference inherent in having a unitary executive, rather than the arrangement common to Canada, NZ, Australia, the UK and so forth of a ceremonial Head of State and a separate Head of Government. The history of the USA being what it is, patriotism there has its own distinct flavour, and is bound up with the office of the President in a way not analogous to the situation in other nations. Australian Prime Ministers are accused of having become more presidential in style over the decades, but they and their office do not hold anything like the total image of the U.S. President.

Interestingly, all the main free-to-air channels here in Australia (except SBS) covered the inauguration live, which is an entirely new thing reflecting something of the way Pres. Obama has been made into an iconic figure; I had thought to get up to watch his swearing-in live, but didn't; I saw the parade though while breakfasting, etc.

I must say, I think it rather unfortunate that the new presidential limousine has been nicknamed "the Beast", since that's bound to overexcite those suffering religious mania!

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 2:08:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

I hope President Obama governs well and is the fullfilment of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream".
I note that a number of mainly protestant ,dispensationalist web sites are seeking to draw analogies between Obama and possible shades of the AntiChrist.Never mind Chris Jones I (should that be Ah) hear tell that the Governor of Louisiana-of Indian migrant parents-who is a Catholic convert ,is been mentioned as a possible Presidential contender for 2012.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 2:13:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

I protest. I'm NOT a cynic. I am a realist. Joshua has it right. We just don't get you yankees on this one.

I have absolutely nothing against the man himself (except the abortion thing, of course, which you all mention and which IS a biggy). What I'm getting at here is the overdone RHETORIC and HYPE that surrounds this man's inauguration. A "New Dawn", a "New Age", a "New Era". All I am saying is: "Really?"

You all say how great it is that you've elected a "black American". Well good for you. But doesn't that just make my point? You've elected a "symbol", not a man, an you've gone an attached all sorts of hopes and expectations to that symbol. From my perspective, all I see is that you've elected a man who spent US$750 million to get where he is today. No-one in this country has to spend that sort of money to win public office.

Yet he is also a man who is defined by the man he replaces in office. Would Mr Obama have had a chance of winning office if it were not for the fact that his predecessor (and everything he stood for) was so unpopular?

Nor have we here in the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit been spared the mania hype. As Josh points out, our televisions and radios and newspapers have been full of it. I haven't seen anything like it since the papal election - and even then, it was really only Catholics in this country who gave a damn (sort of "citizens" if you get what I mean).

There is an article that sort of captures what I mean in the paper today (from the Guardian: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/rekindling-hope-for-the-future-20090120-7llc.html). It begins:

"THIS was the morning for a magic spell. A man who 12 weeks ago was a mere political candidate would be transformed, with the incantation of a few words, before a vast crowd and a television audience in the hundreds of millions, if not billions, into the head of state, the embodiment, of the most powerful nation on earth.

It is an act of political alchemy that happens every time a president is inaugurated, but rarely has the moment been as anticipated as this one."


You know what? That's religious language, that is. That "political alchemy" or "magic spell" stuff, is what they used to talk about with reference to kings and priests. Yesterday Joe Blow, today (after the mystical annointing and prayers): Behold your King!

Now you know that I have nothing against monarchy or priesthood. I believe in both. But according to your own doctrine there in the United States, you aren't supposed to believe in either. All created equal and that stuff. But, boy, when you guys do alchemy, you do alchemy, and you can take one of these "created equal" guys and put them up there on a pedestal with the best of the Medievals.

I'm sorry, if you want a king, then do it properly. You know, hereditary office and all that. But this mixture of popular election and messianic expectation really puts a nasty taste in the rest of the world, whose citizens are not (at least legally) subjects of your new president.

I'd better stop now. Jumping Judas in January, I'm beginning to sound like PE.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 2:27:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

That 's right Schutz we just don't get them thar yankees.The the secret ballot that would have been used for their elections ,where did it originate from?Yep here in Victoria,the first place in the world to have the secret ballot-after the short 40 minute long Eureka rebellion,in 1854. But I think the division in the powers of Government is far better than the sometimes parliamentary dictatorship we have here.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 2:29:00 pm , Blogger William Weedon said...

David,

My family owned slaves. My sister still has the receipt for one of them from one of my ancestors. The "Late Great Unpleasantness between the States" is not long ago in my family - MY father's grandfather fought for the Confederacy and was a prisoner of war. Even I remember the riots in Washington upon Dr. King's death - my brother was a police officer in D.C. at the time.

There's simply no way to say strongly enough: NO, he is not a symbol and it is not a symbolic gesture. He's a man. A man who happens to be half black, half white. And he's our president today because his race DOESN'T matter; and it never should have ever mattered in our country. But it used to; now it doesn't. THAT's a big part of what we're celebrating today.

It's not a symbol when you can point to the man and I can say to my great niece and nephews (who also happen to be biracial): you can be president someday, kiddo! Dream big. He did.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 3:11:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

We in Australia have not had a defining moment in our history such as the War Between the States,(unless you count our 68000 dead out of a volunteer army of 323000 in World War one,blooded on Gallipoli and the Western Front)but the feeling and emotions would be the same in Canberra as they are in Washington today, if after the election of 2013 ,Noel Pearson (an indigenous Australian) became Prime Minister.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 3:26:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

I like the Jumping Judas in January. But as to the rest:

The White House was built in part by the labour of African slaves; to-night an African-American sleeps in it as president.

It's easy to say how could a man (Jefferson) write words like "all men are created equal" and yet hold slaves; but the wonder is, that a man who held slaves could attain to the thought that all men are created equal. Our founders themselves knew that the reality around them did not match the ideal they forged, and that the contradiction could not last. Working that out has been a long and bloody path.

I think Jefferson would be absolutely delighted -- to-night a black woman sleeps in the White House as the wife of the president, rather than snuck in as a love that could not be public.

We had something like this before, when a Catholic was elected president, and an Irish-American, whose ancestors were met with "No Irish Need Apply" right under "Help Wanted" too. But they came here on their idea, to escape.

Now it visibly extends to the people brought here on someone else's idea, to be held captive.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 4:30:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

Can PE or WW tell us how Rick Warren went in his inauguration prayer. i did not see it and the TV news reports that i viewed did not carry it.
Was it a prayer that Glorified God,or did he play the Gene Robinson??

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 5:06:00 pm , Blogger Paul said...

Hi David,
Even though I'm interested in this topic, I'm hesitant to comment on it because politics often has more heat and emotion than rational content, since it is usually based on tribal loyalties. Having said that I have 3 comments:

- The hoop-la last night is of course OTT and will probably lead to tears and disappointment. Obama, from what I have seen on TV, is smart, a little arrogant, hard working, committed to community service (we can never know, even for ourselves if this is tainted by ambition), misguided on life issues and very evasive on many issues like religion (in other words, he is a successful politician). I really don't know who I would have voted for if I were a US citizen.

- we can never underestimate the wounds of the race issue, so the enthusiasm is understandable. My Mother tells the story of a white US army officer she knew in Sydney during WWII. When they boarded a tram, a black soldier saluted and got off the tram, because he was not allowed to stay on a tram with a white officer. The white officer said "they are not all like Paul Robeson, you know!!" Those petty humiliations all add up.

- finally, the political comment, and I hope I don't anger or upset anyone, but I'm glad Bush has gone, because, like Ronald Regan he seemed to make a virtue out of ignorance. I know some of his moral positions were very good and very important, but there is a big risk in depending on a flawed champion of a good cause. I also think he lied over the motives in the Iraq war. When I was taught the examination of conscience, we were told that if you weren't sure of the truth of what you were saying, and made no attempt to find out if it is true (because you want it to be true), that is the same thing as a lie.

As I say, I certainly agree that moral issues are far more important to petty politics, and I worry about what Obama will do, but in the end if we really believe in the power of prayer, we have to accept that he won the election and pray that he will be given and will accept good guidance.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 5:12:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

He prayed in the name of Jesus, in four forms, then "who taught us to pray" followed by the Our Father.

Full text:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jXNqyw4oiojN9JQHtitxwyEqJGhgD95R5DG80

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:25:00 pm , Blogger Paul said...

I like the "cloud of witnesses" references in the Rev Rick Warren's invocation.

Also, the text of the benediction by Rev Lowery is at:
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5h4SrWpZNd-yocKSO7_9FO51iLJowD95R4RTG0

I don't understand the distinction between invocation and benediction in this usage, but whatever it is, and no matter what you think of the theology, Rev Lowery's address is a lovely piece of poetic writing.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:28:00 pm , Blogger Joshua said...

The only quibble I'd have with it as a prayer is that, though Dr King was a great advocate for civil rights, he was also a rather poor observer of the 6th Commandment (Thou shalt not commit adultery), and so while I pray he's saved, well, I wouldn't necessarily assume he's ranked among the holy martyrs for Christ...

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:55:00 pm , Anonymous robert said...

For what it is worth, here's a Yankee that shares your concern. This irrational excuberance is not sitting well. We are out of touch with reality. Pray for us and our country.

 
At Wednesday, January 21, 2009 7:26:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

David,

On the one hand you say

What I'm getting at here is the overdone RHETORIC and HYPE that surrounds this man's inauguration. A "New Dawn", a "New Age", a "New Era". All I am saying is: "Really?"

Yet your post opens with:

What's worse than a US President "everybody" hates?

One that "everybody" loves.

Or at least, it's just as bad. I can't make up my mind which I find more repugnant - the simple and sweeping assumption that "everyone" agrees George Bush = Bad or the equally simple and sweeping assumption that "everyone" agrees Barack Obama = Good. The only thing that either assumption proves is that today's populace needs unquestioned heroes as much as it needs unquestioned enemies.


It seems to me you've got it (overblown hype disease) yourself!

Even your point

... all I see is that you've elected a man who spent US$750 million to get where he is today.

is a fair as far as it goes, but dig a little deeper and you'll find a difference: much of this money came from a grass roots movement.

And then you blow us away with

Yet he is also a man who is defined by the man he replaces in office.

To which I can but reply 'Really?'.

And then this gem

You've elected a "symbol", not a man, an you've gone an attached all sorts of hopes and expectations to that symbol.

What popular election process doesn't do that to some extent?

Surely Regan was elected as a symbol and was the product of those who detested Jimmy Carter? And surely Clinton was elected as a symbol and was the product of those who detested Regan/Bush Snr? And so it goes. Thus it ever was? What is so different about Obama in terms of these two points?

Finally the BIGGY. The history of abortion in the US, since Rowe V Wade (1973), can be characterised as a steady decline since the early 80s (see http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html).

If anything the figures show slight upward trends during some GOP administrations which are, to be fair, probably not statistically significant.

In other words, if you take away the rhetoric, neither party has presided over significant declines (or, for that matter, increases) in abortion numbers.

Yet you get this kind of rhetoric from LifeSite News (overblown hype warning):

It is evident to all who have eyes to see that those storm clouds will unleash a torrent of attacks upon life, marriage and family all over the world, and Human Life International (HLI) is bracing for the worst. Ref: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/jan/09011908.html

If we have to reduce things down to simplicities then YES, Obama is pro-choice. But, just as he's not the Messiah, he's not the Devil either. Pro-life people can work with Democratic administrations. Republicans court the pro-life vote but history shows they are no better (or worse) than the Democrats.

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 9:24:00 am , Blogger William Weedon said...

Thank you, Tony. Very well said.

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:17:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

Righto. I get it. The point is: I don't get it. OK? I think on that we are all agreed.

I was listening on the radio this morning to an Australian woman who lives in the States. She told me the same thing. In fact, she said we as Australians just don't get the race thing in America. She described the situation there - where the two groups just don't generally mix socially and where intermarriage is still rare. OK, if that's the case, I get it why this president is so special to you guys, but the essential point is: I still don't get why that should be something for AUSTRALIANS to go ga-ga over.

For the record: when I look at Obama, I see an American, not a black American. He is president of the United States, just as George Bush was. His interests, just like George's interests, started and stopped with the United States.

Yet now, my morning paper is saying it would be a great thing if our Kev got in good with your Mr Obama.

And this after YEARS of drivel about how bad it was for our Johnny to get into bed with your Mr Bush...

And it still somewhat mystifies me why my Australian newspaper needed to be wrapped in a 12-page "Souvenir edition" on the inauguration this morning...

What's a bet when Prince Charles finally gets crowned as King of Australia (and the other pink bits on the map) we won't get our morning edition of "The Age" wrapped in a 12-page souvenir?

THAT's my point. OK? That's all. I don't want to pour cold water on this "special time" for you Yankees. BUT HE ISN'T MY PRESIDENT, OK? I'm ALLOWED not to be bowled over by this "historic moment". I'm allowed to yawn while you guys party. That's my democratic right as an Australian! OK?

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:18:00 pm , Blogger Schütz said...

PS. This has got nothing to do with Pro-Life issues. It has more to do with my general "anti-American" and "anti-liberal" bias.

I might out grow it over time with psychiatric help, but I don't know...

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:30:00 pm , Anonymous matthias said...

Interesting comments about race in the USA. As a student nurse i can recall viewing VD films put out by the Marine Corps and all the patients were African Americans,and the doctors were white.
However Schutz remember that if it was not for Hermmansberg mission,the arente people would have been exterminated. The Jardine Brothers in cape York were known to shoot aborigines on site. But I think race here-especially in Vic,NSW Tas,ACT is not as much an issue as it was 20 to 50 years ago.Believe me i know as my mother was Eurasian

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:52:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

I dunno David, I think you'd have to have been living in a cocoon all your life not to 'get it' to some extent.

Surely it's no news that race is a HUGE issue in the States?

I invite you to read Obama's inaugural address and think about it in the context of the current situation the world is in and the smallest smattering of US history.

It's not going to blow you away with one liners, but it is weighty (and, yes, with its share of rhetoric too!) and considered. I drips with symbolism -- and that's a good thing -- and has an eye on the past and a determination about the future. I think it will go down as one of the great speeches.

Beyond that, I share the love/hate relationship most Aussies have with the US, but this moment is still special.

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 5:18:00 pm , Blogger Past Elder said...

Well Judas, I'm not about to explain why an Aussie paper says what it says -- take it up with them, write another letter to The Age, since it seems to be they and not we who insist you be bowled over.

 
At Thursday, January 22, 2009 6:52:00 pm , Blogger Tony said...

A little levity fo the D-man: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/21/tuesdays-best-late-night_n_159734.html

 
At Saturday, January 24, 2009 1:52:00 am , Blogger Louise said...

I still don't get why that should be something for AUSTRALIANS to go ga-ga over.

I agree, David, it's the besotted Aussies that are the worst. It seems pretty pointless discussing American politics, anyway, since we don't have the vote!

I am very pleased to see, however, that the O-man has immediately addressed the torture issue and wants it to cease.

Good.

He's still not the Messiah, he's a politician, but I am glad the Americans finally have black president.

Bush was wrong about torture and probably wrong about Iraq, so I'm not sorry he's gone.

Now, if only Aussie radio presenters could stop getting all breathless about the Big O we might get the arrant stupidity out of the way.

I'm suffering from dial-up atm, so I'm not likely to be here much until we get the broadband working again.

At least I'm getting some other chores/projects done...

 

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