Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wisdom From A Good Episcopalian

As reported in the New York Times, Colin Powell puts his finger on the problem with associating all conservative criticism of the President with race:

Former officials who served under President George W. Bush have been quick to recall this week that protesters frequently compared him to Hitler and that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, called him a “loser” and a “liar.”

In an interview Wednesday shortly after meeting privately with Mr. Obama in the Oval Office, Colin L. Powell, secretary of state under Mr. Bush, said: “You can find pictures where Bush was called all kinds of names, with all sorts of banners being held up and burned in effigy. I’ve seen it in every presidency.”

Mr. Powell said he believed that Mr. Obama might be facing even more apparent hostility but that the blame lay not necessarily in racial bias, but instead with the partisan culture of the Internet and cable news and the way they amplify the more extreme voices.

“The issue there is not race, it’s civility,” Mr. Powell said. “This is not to say that we are suddenly racially pure, but constantly talking about it and reducing everything to black versus white is not helpful to the cause of restoring civility to our public dialogue.”

1 comment:

MK said...

At home today so I have a chance to post right now. You notice that the President himself is staying away from the Carter statement and the fray. These are very tricky issues, very hard to get to the bottom of and consequently to resolve. Obama seems uncommonly centered and equipped to deal with whatever is flung at him, regardless of the source or reason for it.

A poster at Ta-Nehisi Coates's blog at the Atlantic made an interesting observation yesterday. Starting with a reference to a scene from an unnamed movie (In the Heat of the Night), the poster wrote:

"The worst thing Pres. Obama can do right now is to go all “Virgil Tibbs” and slap that old White man back. There are millions of White people who voted for Obama, many of them political independents who really do want to see an end to the culture wars, who really do want to out grow their history, who really did vote for “change.” But real change is usually scarier than the status quo–under the best of conditions. That’s why Obama’s zen-like calm, his almost unfailing grace in the face of the hate and his strategic rather than tactical thinking, will, in the end, serve all of us well.

It really doesn’t matter if this hate is based in racism or political calculation or a hunger for ratings or a combination of all of the above. What matters is his and our response to it.”

As Powell points out, the Internet and cable amplify partisan views. He notes that other Presidents have faced extreme rhetoric, as well. (I happen to think Obama faces some extra challenges, given the nature of some of the anti-Obama signs I've seen.) Perhaps the best way for a President of either pary to frustrate them is to display a zen-like calm. Even better when it comes from a securely centered place of strength within.

RN once said that going through fire strengthens people. Of course, people react in different ways to adversity and burdens, some become resentful and bitter, others become stronger and better equipped to handle future challenges.