Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Universality of the American proposition: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under a constitutional government of limited powers

Obama’s American Idea By ROGER COHEN Op-Ed Columnist NYT: December 10, 2007
As Joyce Carol Oates wrote in The Atlantic: “How heartily sick the world has grown, in the first seven years of the 21st century, of the American idea!” It has become a “cruel joke.”
If a global survey were taken, that might prove to be a minority opinion, but I doubt it.
Still, Obama stands by the universality of the American proposition: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness under a constitutional government of limited powers. “I believe in American exceptionalism,” he told me, but not one based on “our military prowess or our economic dominance.”
Rather, he insisted, “our exceptionalism must be based on our Constitution, our principles, our values and our ideals. We are at our best when we are speaking in a voice that captures the aspirations of people across the globe.”
It is dangerous, of course, to speak of being exceptional; people tend to resent it. If the United States said its ambition was to be normal, few would object. But Obama is right to retain a belief in America’s capacity to inspire; it remains unique. And I still see no credible stabilizing alternative to the far-flung American garrisons that act as the offsetting power to old rivalries in Asia and Europe.
Pax Americana, being neither perfect nor peaceful, is not popular. Only its absence would convince its detractors of its worth.
Obama’s main Democratic rivals, Senator Hillary Clinton and former Senator John Edwards, have joined him in calling for a shift from fear, militarism and unilateralism toward interaction, including with enemies. But Obama’s global engagement seems visceral in unusual ways.
“If, as president, I travel to a poor country to talk to leaders there, they will know I have a grandmother in a small village in Africa without running water, devastated by malaria and AIDS,” he said. “What that allows me to do is talk honestly not only about our need to help them, but about poor countries’ obligation to help themselves. There are cousins of mine in Kenya who can’t get a job without paying an exorbitant bribe to some midlevel functionary. I can talk about that.”
Referring to the time he spent in Indonesia, Obama said: “I have lived in the most populous Muslim country in the world, had relatives who practiced Islam. I am a Christian, but I can say I understand your worldview, although I may not agree with how Islam has evolved. I can speak forcefully about the need for Muslim countries to reconcile themselves to modernity in ways they have failed to do.”
Al Qaeda attacked the West in Kenya, Bali and New York. Obama’s father was Kenyan. The senator was schooled partly in Indonesia. He attended college in New York. The parallels are strange. They can also be a source of the toughness married to intuition for which he still seeks complete expression.
Nowhere in American history has the gulf between ideals and sordid practice been greater than on questions of race. It is precisely the gulf between high principle — not least habeas corpus — and unprincipled actions that has done the most damage to America’s image in recent years. Once again, Obama appears to bridge and reconcile.
“We can’t entirely remake the world,” he told me. “What we can do is lead by example.” Blog: Passages

No comments:

Post a Comment