Monday, June 8, 2009

The Tone and the Music

The Tone and the Music by Uri Avnery via

I've always like Mr. Avnery's writings, and everything I've heard of the man gives me a lot of respect for what he says. I'm willing to admit that he is perhaps wiser than I am. So, even though I don't really agree with what he says here, I'm happy to pass it along.

In 55 minutes, it not only wiped away the eight years of George W. Bush, but also much of the preceding decades, from World War II on.

The American ship has turned – not with the sluggishness everyone would have expected, but with the agility of a speedboat.

That is much more than a political change. It touches the roots of the American national consciousness. The President spoke to hundreds of million US citizens no less than to a billion Muslims.

The American culture is based on the myth of the Wild West, with its Good Guys and Bad Guys, violent justice, dueling under the midday sun. Since the American nation is composed of immigrants from all over the world, its unity seems to require a threatening, world-encompassing evil enemy, like the Nazis and the Japs, or the Commies. After the collapse of the Soviet empire, this role was taken over by Islam.

Cruel, fanatical, bloodthirsty Islam; Islam as the religion of murder and destruction; an Islam lusting for the blood of women and children. This enemy captured the imagination of the masses and supplied material for television and cinema. It provided lecture topics for learned professors and fresh inspiration for popular writers. The White House was occupied by a moron who declared a world-wide “War on Terrorism”.

When Obama is now uprooting this myth, he is revolutionizing American culture. He wipes away the picture of one enemy, without painting another in its place. He preaches against the violent, adversary attitude itself, and starts to work to replace it with a culture of partnership between nations, civilizations and religions.

I see Obama as the first great messenger of the 21st century. He is the son of a new era, where the economy is global and the whole of humanity faces the danger to the very existence of life on the planet Earth. An era where the Internet connects a boy in New Zealand with a girl in Namibia in real time, where a disease in a small Mexican village spreads all over the globe within days.

This world needs a world law, a world order, a world democracy. That’s why this speech really was historic: Obama outlined the basic contours of a world constitution.

The problem is, I'm not sure Mr. Avnery understands that with President Obama, his words and his actions are often quite different from each other. Ever since mounting the national stage, Mr. Obama has been very good at speaking words that sound good. He seems to understand the world's problems, and can express them with eloquence.

The problem is that there is always a lack of concrete calls for action in his speeches. And, here in America, we've learned that when Mr. Obama does later decide to act, his actions are often in conflict with his fine words. I sincerely hope that Mr. Avnery is correct and that I am wrong. That this speech did indeed mark a radical change in America. But what I see in Mr. Obama's actions is quite different.

  • The American defense budget, intelligence budget, and homeland security budget all continue to grow. And all are justified by the need to stop those evil muslim terrorists.
  • Our troops remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Mr. Obama has essentially continued the Bush policy of fighting the war now, and giving vague promises of withdrawal in the future. This is all justified by the need to stop those evil muslim terrorists.
  • Mr. Obama is escalating the Afghanistan war, and he is expanding that war into Pakistan. Again we are told that we must do so to stop those evil muslim terrorists.
  • Almost before his plane returns to the US, SOS Clinton is threatening Iran with a repeat of the Iraq war. Again we are told that it is inconceivable that a terrorist state like Iran have any possibility of getting nuclear weapons. The fact that both US 'intelligence' and the IAEA say there is no proof that Iran is working on a nuclear bomb is irrelevant and forgotten.
  • While Mr. Obama might not directly refer to Hamas as terrorists, his government still treats them as terrorists. The US government supports the Israeli government's wish to deny the fact that Hamas was the elected choice of the Palestinians. The siege of Gaza continues, with US support. And recently, US citizens were sentenced to 65 years in prison for the crime of raising money for schools and hospitals run by Hamas. The US DOJ says that this can't be allowed because Hamas only uses schools to teach and recruit suicide bombers. (When was the last Hamas suicide bombing in Israel? Several years ago I believe).

As someone who's listened over and over to Obama's fine words, only to be disappointed and shocked by his actions, I'll wait to see concrete actions by President Obama to fulfill his vision and his fine words.

Meanwhile, I get the impression that this piece was intended more for domestic Israeli consumption. My impression is that Mr. Avnery is trying to shame the Israeli people and government away from their course of more war, more detention, more starvation, more denial of medical care, and more torture. I wish him the very best in his endeavors.

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