Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Bully Pulpit

When I hear or see the phrase, “the bully pulpit,” the wordsmith in me cannot help but do a word scramble. And the result of that is pitbull.

(But I don't also think of lipstick, a la Mizz Palin.)

The country I call home – the “good ol’ USA” – seems always to have had the best possible billing on the world’s bully pulpit, and while I question our authority and stellar positioning, I must confess that I am grateful for the passage of time…

It wasn’t even two years ago, I guess, when the news was all about water-boarding. I was listening to NPR one day, and the story included a sound byte from our then-President. I can’t claim to quote him verbatim, but his comment went something like this: “In our country,” our then-President said, “we do not torture people.”

I leapt from the couch.

I ran toward my stereo.

I spoke into the base of the sound system that was providing radio frequency.

“YOU ARE TORTURING ME NOW!” I screamed.

Because he was (simply by speaking). Because he did (simply by assuming such an important role). Because he could…

Every time that entitled son-of-a-bitch opened his mouth, I felt tortured.

Not so with Obama.

I appreciate the fact that the man thinks. I appreciate that he cares and is willing to take the time to explain. I appreciate that he has more “on his plate” than any predecessor in the Oval Office.

But, no matter my opinion of the person standing at the world’s premier bully pulpit, I remain confused. I will probably never understand international politics and the thought processes that allow it to unfold as it does. I will probably never understand why “we” think that sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will get the job done.

And what is “the job,” anyway? It’s about al Qaeda, right? And the Taliban? I don’t know, but unless I’ve missed something, that group doesn’t exactly exist in ground-war circuits. That group is about belief systems. They are about psychology. And that’s a totally different kind of war.

According to what I know of the 9-11 attacks, these people want to die. The process takes them that much closer to their purpose.

So, have we asked our troops about their philosophies? Do they want to die? And if they do, do they know what they’re dying for?

It’s a shame that our country became so powerful so quickly. At first blush, we were the spoiled teenager. You know the one – who, on the same day, gets both a driver’s license and a brand new car. We’ve been speeding about quite cleverly since then, amassing riches (and more recently, debt). It seems, though, that we’ve yet to stand back and take stock of our own worthiness.

Our own worthiness… a broken public education system, marked by increasing illiteracy; hunger and homelessness on the rise; growing rates of unemployment; home foreclosures left and right; millions without affordable healthcare coverage; collectively dismal credit ratings reflecting lives outspent…

Who are we to show some other country how to behave? And, if Bin Laden and his band of merry men are really what we’re looking for, does it have to take 30,000 troops to bring them to their knees?

America – once the unrestricted adolescent – is now closer to thirtysomething.

Sure, we might have traded in that first car (a few times), and we may now be driving a hybrid, but… do we know where we're going?

On-star, are you with us?

1 comment:

raindance said...

there are so many things to comment on. wow. i think that's very valid point that groups like al qaeda are more psychological which is something i think the US isn't so great at handling. we are more brawn oriented perhaps because we are such a youngish country still although some countries who have been around longer still feel the need to create havoc and unrest.

i cannot understand countries that spend so much time on destruction. they lose so many of their own citizens and though i'm sure they grieve for their loved ones as we do it never seems to halt the destruction. it just keeps going. it can be so depressing sometimes.