Friday, September 11, 2009
That was my Facebook status today. I still mourn when I recall how that perfect September morning morphed into surreal horror as more than 3,000 Americans and foreign guests lost their lives – and thousands more lost their way in the aftermath.
Free commerce and global trading as we know it vaporized as the World Trade Center towers collapsed upon themselves.
The enormous gash in the Pentagon punched straight through to our very sense of American security and complacency.
The peace and tranquility of ordinary citizens living ordinary lives abruptly shattered when Flight 93 slashed through a Pennsylvania meadow in a searing jolt of terrorism with global reach.
Revulsion still shudders through every angry nerve when I recall the glee expressed by Osama bin Laden and his minions over the unprecedented success of their attacks.
I still weep at recordings of the last phone calls made by Flight 93 passengers to their loved ones, knowing they would not see them ever again.
My patriotic blood still courses at the phrase, “Let’s roll”.
Our very sense of American identity was transplanted that day. We were forcibly torn from our deep-rooted belief that because we stand for freedom, because we are the strongest, most able nation in the world, because we devote untold human and capital resources to helping less fortunate global neighbors, deep down other nations must like us – or, at the very least, have a grudging respect for us. Since entire generations had grown up in a post Cold War world with America as the only superpower, we had absorbed a complacent belief that we were invincible. The terrorist attacks of 9/11 ripped out that diseased belief structure and replaced it with Homeland Security, hundreds of thousands of combat soldiers in action, fighter jet patrols over our major cities and fundamental economic upheaval.
In the eight years since the attacks, we have behaved very much like transplant patients. Even though we know we now need these things – these intrusions into our civil liberties, these daily security inconveniences, these economic restructurings – to stay alive, our body politic still tries to reject the new transplanted reality. We still long for our old belief structure, even though we know it was diseased and unsustainable. We still try to avoid taking our daily dose of reality medicine, even though we know it’s the only way to stay strong and healthy. And we will always bear the permanent scars of our ordeal, no matter how much we try to eradicate them.
We Americans, eternal optimists that we are, need to strive forward. It is part of our national DNA. However, we also now carry with us the sorrow of knowledge that not everyone shares our outlooks and our beliefs, and they want us dead. Wisdom can spring from that sorrow. We can use that wisdom to improve how we influence the world. We can look to the world stage with our eyes wide open and see our friends – and our enemies – for who they are, understanding that our beliefs and our traditions may not necessarily reflect today’s current realities. We can then act accordingly to further the ideals of freedom, democracy and justice in the world. Let us pray that we do so with grace, fortitude and discernment in all things.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
The heated controversy around an upcoming speech planned for the beginning of the school year by President Obama on the importance of education is dangerously close to at least equal mankind’s annual contribution to global warming. Parents are threatening to pull their children from school on September 8th, political organizations are calling for boycotts of schools that show his nationally televised speech, teachers’ unions are issuing marching orders for their members to show the speech no matter what parents and school administration officials say, and policy think tanks are renewing their arguments for private and charter schools to ensure that students have “freedom of thought” rather than suffer from government-imposed indoctrination of leftist values.
This is the President of the United States. This is the leader of the free world. This is the highest office of the most free and prosperous nation in the history of mankind – one that considers the right of free speech as one of its most sacred foundational cornerstones. Yet people are calling for a ban on his welcome back to school speech. Consider what is being demanded: people are calling – no, they are howling – for public schools to suppress a speech from the President of the United States.
Have a large number of Americans suddenly lost their minds? Have they decided that free speech is no longer an essential right, and the best way to set the example is to gag the President?
I would suggest that this is not quite the case. Rather, the outrage is coming from a keen sense of deep distrust on this particular President’s motives. It is unprecedented for the President to deliver a back to school welcome speech, but that isn’t enough to raise this kind of ire. That his soft, feel-good message of working hard and staying in school comes precisely when his approval ratings are suffering a TKO and his bungled health care plan is barely hanging on life support smacks of pandering still doesn’t deserve such passionate opposition to a mere back to school speech. No. Anger this visceral comes from a deep-seated belief that Barack Obama isn’t addressing our nation’s students to encourage them to stay in school. Instead, concerned people believe that Barack Obama is trying to indoctrinate their children over to his side on policy, pitting child against parent in a war over values, priorities and a fundamental vision of what America should be as a nation. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
But does he deserve such a reputation? Well, let’s look at his very short history:
In the first month of his administration, Barack Obama shoved Republicans aside from discussions on economic stimulus, smugly telling them “he won”, so things were going to be done his way;
In the second month of his administration, Barack Obama put together a plan to take over the financial industry and the auto industry all while protecting those who decimated the housing industry;
In the third month of his administration, Barack Obama appointed multiple Cabinet and staff whose tax dodging and other legal entanglements compromised his pledges of honesty and integrity in government;
In the fourth and fifth months of his administration, Barack Obama’s right hand Rahm Emmanuel was caught trying to take control of the U.S. Census process to tilt the counting of American citizens to favor Democrats in election politics;
In the last three months of his administration, Barack Obama has tried to shove an unbelievably bloated, contorted, impossible to understand, implement and pay for healthcare system under the guise of reform without letting people read or debate it. We also discovered that he had reached back room deals with a number of insurance companies in the process – a practice he specifically said would not happen during his term.
Now, it has come to light that Barack Obama’s education speech isn’t just a speech, it’s the focus of a lesson plan developed by the White House to challenge children to find ways they can help him.
I’m sorry, but if the shoe fits…
Barack Obama has caused this outrage because of his heavy-handed tactics to push his policies through, his arrogance and smugness, his willingness to intentionally surround himself with people who do not measure up to public standards of moral and ethical conduct, and his brazen (and ill-conceived) intentions of taking control of just about every industry in America. That kind of conduct breeds intense distrust in Americans; we don’t like people who act like they’re better than we are, and we surely don’t like people who try to pull the wool over our eyes and then insult us for taking it off. Barack Obama has politicized the office of the Presidency so much so that 63% of Americans (according to a recent Facebook poll) would rather ban public addresses by the President in schools unless they have been reviewed by parents and teachers first than let those addresses happen without oversight. This is a serious problem. If Americans distrust their President so deeply they would rather censor him than listen to him, how can we hope to build any kind of common ground anywhere going forward?