Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Well, that was nice while it lasted.

In his comments on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq quagmire, Barak Obama said that "this war has now lasted longer than World War I, World War II..."

Really? Sounds like Mr. Obama needs to bone up on his history. This war has now lasted longer than US involvement in World War I or World War II.

Unfortunately, I'd expect this mistake from someone who said yesterday "I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

I beg your pardon?

He has the same tunnel-vision as those he claims to be smarter than. His claims of greater diplomacy and improved foreign relations - for which I had great hope - ring hollow due to these little Freudian slips that show him to have the same Americentric blinkers as those he claims to be smarter than.

John Edwards keeps looking better every day. Unfortunately.




Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...


Also, as Chris Clarke notes over on Creek Running North, "It would not do, for instance, to point out that the whole bitter, complex, intransigent conflict between Black and White has taken place, for centuries, on land stolen from people neither Black nor White. I do not wish to risk comparison of atrocity," but there you go, anyway.

As admirable as some parts of The Speech were, Obama seems to be falling prey to the inevitable over-simplification of rhetoric that accompanies American campaigns' endgames.

John Churchill, in his editor's notes for the current issue of the Key Reporter, writes:

"[E]verybody knows that candidates for public office oversimplify complex issues. Very complicated problems are wrapped neatly in concise terms ('terrorism,' for example). Equally concise terms point toward solutions of tremendous underlying complexity ('war').
"Candidates who reduce complexity succeed in proportion to the reduction. That means that when we hear candidates reducing issues to simple slogans or bumper-sticker language, they are just responding in a rational way to what works. They are giving us what we want.

"There has been much discussion, as the 2008 presidential campaign has rolled along, about candidates’ eagerness to embrace the concept of 'change.' This is a stunningly simple, but also, without a more specific articulation, a troubling message. Its forward edge is entirely missing, and what is left is the rejection of whatever now prevails. It’s Marlon Brando’s great line from The Wild One: 'What’re you rebelling against?' the girl asks. And Brando’s character replies: 'Whadd’ya
got?' However desirable change may be, it needs the specificity produced by engagement with complexity.

"The disturbing part, then, is that this strategy works because people dislike complexity and reject it. This leads straight to what [Shankar]Vedantam calls a paradox: the skills needed to get elected — to falsify by oversimplifying things — are the reverse of those needed to govern effectively — to understand the complexities of
things and to cope with them. [...]
In other words, we elect people for success in displaying abilities that are the opposites of those they will need if they are elected.

I agree with you about Edwards. However, the cynic in me believes that he would have succumbed to this oversimplification by now, too.

Sorry for such a lengthy comment, but this touches a nerve.

9:10 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

my sediments exactly, ronnie.

happy spring!

3:10 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Never apologize for the length of the comment when you make such an excellent contribution to the discussion, Sherwood!

Churchill's comments are worryingly on-target. I am especially worried about the use of "terror" and "terrorism" and "terrorists" as words that mean nothing and which seem to be able to be used to justify literally anything, including suspension of Constituional rights and torture.

M.E. Happy Easter right back at you - something tells me you'll get a kick out of this!

7:48 p.m.  
Blogger Mike said...

A little context:

"I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas.

"I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners -- an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters.

"I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible."

Until Canada dredges up a more oppressive history of slavery and segregation, and then has a black man whose heritage is, on the surface, such an amalgam of those two worlds with a smattering of having lived overseas and having contact with cousins in a Third World nation, I'd say his words are true.

The closest Canada can come would be when someone from a First Nations community is tapped for Prime Minister, and, even then, you never slaughtered your native people the way we did. Remember, we also made them poor and we also sexually assaulted them in boarding schools -- but we also killed them in large numbers. It's a distinction Canada just can't match.

When someone from the bottom of OUR social ladder is able to climb to the top, you have to measure the depth of the muck, blood and sweat in which that ladder is imbedded.

And I think we Yanks can fairly claim that nobody -- nobody -- has set that ladder so deep and yet allowed someone to climb out of it to the heights to which Obama aspires. (Unless, like some of the native people of South America who have become head of state, we later discover just how much in the pockets of an oppressive and corrupt power structure he is, and then it will be a tie.)

9:04 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

haha...oh, yeah...i love that one. my daughter sally sent it to me several years ago.

your cuba photos are most enjoyable!!

10:40 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Mike, your comment certainly stopped me in my tracks. Little I can disagree with there. You are right - the comparison would not be a Canadian black candidate for PM, which would be entirely plausible, but an Aboriginal one... which we are decades from even seeing be a contemplation, much less a reality. Sigh.

With your context, Obama's comment makes more sense indeed.


2:44 p.m.  

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