Friday, June 05, 2009

The Wrong Speech...but Not a Bad One

Yesterday in this space, I wrote that President Obama was preparing to give the wrong speech to an audience that doesn't want to hear it. I pointed out my strong belief that Muslims who refuse to face reality, insist on living in an imagined past paradise, and applaud those who murder in the name of their faith are the real problem. I wrote that it shouldn't be an American president who "apologizes" to the Islamic world, but Muslims who should be apologizing to America.

That said, I have read the text of President Obama's speech (and you can watch it at the link posted on Mike's blog), and am less angry (if no less concerned) that I was at this time yesterday.

That Mr Obama is an excellent speaker is well known - my concern was that his speech would be long on unnecessary apology and short on presentation of facts the Islamic world doesn't want to hear, truths it doesn't want to acknowledge, and responsibilities it refuses to face.

On balance, I think Mr Obama did a very good job. He acknowledged some of the mistakes the United States has made in the past, but without begging for forgiveness. He underscored the role of Islamic extremists in spreading hatred and violence, and America's determination to fight them. He affirmed our support of Israel, but also called that country to renounce its self-destructive policy of building settlements in contested territory.

Naturally, there are those who condemn his remarks. Predictably, blowhard moron Osama bin Laden did. Hard-line Israeli settlers didn't like his comments about their illegal settlements. Islamic extremists didn't like anything. Many Palestinians claimed that his condemnation of Israeli occupation policies was insufficiently strong. Some Americans believed he went too far in praising Islamic religion and traditions, and not far enough in condemning its extremist violence.

There was something for everyone to like, and everyone to object to. But on balance, I think it was a good speech presented to a tough audience, every member of which was prepared to denounce all or part of anything he said.

Whether or not the Muslim world will hear his call to renounce violence and focus on building, rather than destroying, remains to be seen. Whether Israel hears his admonition to seek a just peace with the Palestinians and the larger Arab world also remains to be seen.

In the final analysis, as Mr Obama said, "We cannot impose peace." People have to want it and work for it. He spoke the right words. Now, it's time to see if those words spur people of all nations and faiths in the Middle East to the right sort of action: to building, not destroying; to communicating with each other, rather than shouting death threats in the streets; to recognizing the rights - and responsibilities - of all rather than the narrow interests of a few.

I'm still not holding my breath, but maybe - just maybe - there's a glimmer of hope out there.

We'll see.

Have a good day. Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday - be here!

More thoughts coming.



Debbie said...

Just 3.5 more years, then we can apologize to the world for the previous 4. Can't wait for Cartoon Saturday!

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Cartoon saturday is definitely needed.

Personally I don't think Obama will need to apologize for too much at the end of his run as opposed to Monkey Boy ....

anOCgirl said...

i was confused by your last post because i really didn't think that obama needed to apologize for anything. but i too noticed the balance in that he seemed to admonish each country involved in conflict but also recognize our own failings (torture, etc).

i don't expect this speech to bring earth-shattering change. even obama acknowledged the speech's limitations (I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight.). but i do hope that it's the beginning of something positive in that region.

Mike said...

Remember, it only takes one 'aw shit' to wipe out a thousand 'at a boys'. We've had 8 years of 'aw shits'. It's going to take a long time to wipe them out.

fiona said...

I'll be here for Cartoon Saturday!
It gets me through my "work" weekend ;0)

Leslie David said...

As I said yesterday, I thought it was a good speech and we'll just have to wait and see if anything comes from it. I hope it does.

abby jenkins said...

Recently returning from the Middle East, Jordan to be exact, I was brutally aware that my misconceptions of Muslims being US hating vigilantes could not have been farther from the truth. They love Americans and are a very kind, giving, intelligent, peace-loving, hospitable people.

Comparing all Muslims to the 19 who carried out 9/11 is like stating that all Americans are just like Timothy McVeigh, Jeffrey Dahmer, Howard Stern, Jerry Springer, Jerry Falwell, Rush Limbaugh or God forbid..George W. Bush to name a few.

The people we met and broke bread with praised us for electing Obama and look forward to the next four years with optimism and hope, as do I.

Bilbo said...

Debbie and Andrea - you two go ahead and duke this one out.

OCgirl -

Mike - too true.

Fiona - happy to be of service!

Leslie - I agree.

Abby - on one level I agree with you about radical stereotyping. But my fundamental point still stands: while most Muslims may be "a very kind, giving, intelligent, peace-loving, hospitable people," that presumed majority is not taking a stand against the very loud, very violent minority that is causing all the trouble. One of my best friends is a Muslim, Egyptian-born American citizen, who is one of the kindest and most gentle people you could ever want to meet...but he very strongly supports the Ayatollah Khomeini's death sentence against author Salman Rushdie. How do you get past something like that? Food for thought.