Monday, January 14, 2008

Obama's Ideals and Abstractions

I highly recommend that no one swoon before the Obama phenomenon. If we have learned anything from the "past" (please don't let me name him), the American Muslim electorate must not fall to its knees over the silliest of phraseologies and promises. The Republicans at least have shown the courtesy of unabashedly deciding to ignore the over-touted "Muslim vote" and are competing as to who sounds the most militant against "Islamic extremism," a short phrase whose first word will be remembered most.

But here’s what interesting about the Obama debate. His opponents assail not merely his “inexperience” but his use of abstractions and ideals, his academic style. This is a problem, not for Obama, but for this country. We must remember that ideals and abstractions sound startling alien because they have been conspicuously absent for many years now. We've been subjected to decisions that are severed from any discernible ideal that can be debated or examined with some degree of rigor. Instead, we have been expected to "trust" that the decisions that move on the ground are based on sound judgment (usually invisible to the public for "security" reasons) or some clinking beer-steins, gut level earnestness. When abstractions or ideals are pulled from sight, how do we make any kind of moral or ethical analysis of major decisions? For huge frickin example, take the Iraq war. The debate was about WMD's and security. There was hardly a public debate on the very notion of applying violence to spread an ideal like democracy. Even as a pretext (ie, oil), the democracy card was used. Does anyone remember a robust discussion on whether or not it is even possible to cram a new political system down a nation's throat? Has it ever worked? Can we have the dignity of exploring that possibility before the bombs fall? Islam spread by sword, the nut-jobs invent and complain. And what of democracy?


Blogger UmmFarouq said...

"For huge frickin example"
Now that one made me laugh, professor.

I am surely not swooning over Obama and his prospects; first of all, I'm too far away, and secondly, as you mentioned, we've all gotten burned from being caught up in the momentum of 'things are finally gonna change,' and then they just worsen. No, they didn't worsen, they plummeted to the bowels of hell.

We can only go up from here, can't we? Here's to ideals, abstractions, and oh yes, literacy in the White House.

1/15/2008 1:49 AM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Literacy would be nice. I've always been pro-literacy. I'm on record for that.

1/16/2008 10:28 AM  

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