HOPE

21 Jan

Hope, Not Change, and Change
A three part response to Obama’s inauguration speech
In late December I wrote down the following:
“Now that we have an intelligent President, can we stop believing that the very foundational concept behind a “war on terror” is anything but a fallacy? Terrorism is an ideology. “The use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims” says the OED. I wonder how it defines war then?*
Terror is a feeling. An emotion. What effect will a bullet or a bomb have on terror but to increase it?
Fighting fire with fire results in a bigger fire. Fighting terror with war results in more terror. Can we perhaps fight fire with water?”

I ask and Obama answers, “we have chosen hope over fear.”

I managed to catch the end of Obama’s inauguration speech during my lunch break and was powerfully struck by how smart the man is. Perhaps it’s easy to appear smart in that venue in comparison to what had recently been there, but even so. My overwhelming initial response was a wave of gratitude for intelligence in power. Speaking of power (intelligently):

“our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.”

Watching the whole speech later on I was struck by the thing that’s always impressed me most about Obama in the first place: for whatever reason(s) the man can inspire the masses. Two million people were there to watch this man take a 40 second oath and give a 20 minute speech. Two million people. Two million people heard him say in person that

“The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.  The success of our economy has always depended … on the reach of our prosperity, on the ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.”

Two million people stood in the cold and heard him say

“we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.”

Countless millions more heard and saw the speech on television, the internet, the radio, etc. Who knows how many billions of people heard him say that “we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” All these people heard him present a nuanced and complex view of the state of the world, and America in particular. Even my mother, the devoutly pacifist hippie sex therapist, after hearing him say

“Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life.  They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions, greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction”

was ready to enlist. Seriously. My mother told me that if Obama asked her to, depsite being physically unable to carry a gun, she would enlist and do what she could. If you know my mother at all, that may blow your mind a bit, as it did mine. She heard him give a message laced with a spiritual undercurrent of a changing world and a new inspired generation of Americans. She saw hope. So did I.

I see hope that humanity will move beyond tribes, beyond political affiliations, beyond countries, and beyond all but our humanity. I see hope that we will move toward a common good, a common humane state of being.
I hope for this “new era of peace” to be of a peace that is more than the mere absence of violence but the presence of the humane art of living.

Part 2 of 3 tomorrow.

* a state of armed conflict.

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