Monday, November 29, 2010

Monday Reruns: The Bully Pulpit

(original post-date: December 2, 2009)

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.


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?


Cheryl said...

Frankly, I think we're idjits. I remember studying and discussing isolationism. If nothing else, some thoughtful isolation might help us get our own house in order before we attempt to change the world. I think the ship has sailed on that one though.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Katie---Your lines about "first blush, a spoiled teenager," and how you kept the metaphorical thread running through til the end...Brilliant!

I don't know if you've heard the John Prine song, "The Great Compromise" (it's almost 4 decades old) but it's about America, and compares our country to a girl in a drive-in.

I agree about Obama being a thinker. In fact, I'm just thrilled we have a president with any gray matter...

Linda Medrano said...

I am proud of Obama as our president. I was ashamed of Bush. That said, I don't know what we are doing in Afghanistan. Nobody wins there. My husband is a vet (25 years AF, retired last year) so I really do understand the sacrifices we ask our military to make. But sometimes we have to ask the question, "why?".