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Look to Berlin

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Regardless of whether you’re a staunch Republican or Democrat, the one thing that can’t be denied is that this coming election promises to be unlike any election we have experienced in our history. Barack Obama, in spite of his so-called lack of experience and knowledge has not only succeeded in becoming a Presidential candidate, he has also become a cultural phenomenon, not because of his race or the fact that he is the first black candidate, but because of his ability to generate a message that resonates with what people are actually experiencing and feeling. Certainly, the speech he gave in Berlin the other day attests to that:

That is why I’m here. And you are here because you too know that yearning.
This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that
the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from
both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice
for that better life.

Obama, as he said earlier in his speech, spoke to them “not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen—a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.”

And as a fellow citizen, he reminded Berliners of the wall that once divided them, and how Germans and Americans were able to unite together and bring about the eventual collapse of East Berlin. He spoke of duty that people and countries have toward one another, and that only by working together, will people be able to solve the major problems we are faced with today.

This September 11th will mark the seventh anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center.  Although President Bush’s quick and decisive response to the attack gave the impression we were a country not to be messed with, his unilateralist polices that have framed our response to terror have had questionable results and consequences. Our attack on Afghanistan at the time seemed to be an appropriate response to the madness that was unleashed on us by Al Qaida. On the other hand, our invasion of Iraq seemed less certain in its rationale.

But as Obama emphasized in his speech, this war on terror is very real and must be defeated, not by isolationist policies, but by partnering with Europe and other free countries that are willing to share ideas and work together in the spirit of cooperation. As he says, “it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.”

In that regard, I could not agree with him more. His speech in Berlin was not addressed so much to them, as it was to us here at home. More than anything, his speech spoke about the walls that divide us as a people. The Berlin Wall separated a city. A physical wall, though, can be torn down. It is the invisible walls created by race, religion, culture and politics that can be more impenetrable and divide us in ways not always easily understood or appreciated. In this election, Republicans and Democrats are further apart in their ideologies than ever before.

Since 9/11, we have been on the cusp of a major paradigm shift that neither party seems to have recognized or fully appreciate. The War on Terror is only one of the more serious threats we are faced with. Our addiction to oil, and the consequences we may be faced with by continuing increases in prices and eventual shortages, could force us to completely redefine how we live our day-to-day lives.

In contrast to Obama, John McCain’s campaign is fast becoming an asterisk. His is an ideology that does not resonate with the people, nor generate any excitement. He says “America needs leadership devoted to the public interest, not the special interest, and a government that fulfills its duties with unfailing integrity, accountability, and common sense.” But we have heard that before. He says he will “provide effective leadership for effective international efforts” in dealing with issues concerning low-carbon energy production, and that he will take a leadership role at the United Nations.

Mind you, I like John McCain. I appreciate his sense of duty and commitment to our country. I believe him when he says Americans have lost their trust in government. And I believe he is sincere in his intent to provide the kind of leadership we so badly need at this time. However, the pall Bush’s shadow has cast has made him appear to be more of a political anachronism than the charismatic politician that Obama has become.

Perhaps it is in that regard that I find myself conflicted; more so than I have been in any other election. That Obama is a skilled orator, able to affect his audiences’ sense of pathos by swooning them into believing his message of change and hope for the future, cannot be denied. What is questionable, though, is whether he has the fortitude and resolve to lead our country through the perils we will continue to be faced with. Oratory alone will not help us with the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, nor will it effectively resolve the continued instability in the Middle East. Oratory certainly will not persuade Ahmadinejad to give up his quest to develop nuclear weapons for Iran. And, as proven in previous elections, oratory will not put gas in our tanks, create jobs, or pay our mortgages and rent.

In concluding his speech, Obama states that “the scale of our challenge is great.”
Whether that is a profound understatement or an example of fumbling naiveté is subject to debate. Regardless, it is the fumbling naiveté I worry about, since more often than not, it leads to bitter disillusionment. Yes, as he says, “this is our moment. This is our time.” But does he have the courage to provide the real leadership we so desperately need? Come November 4th, that is the question I will be thinking about when I go to the election booth to cast my vote.

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About S L Cunningham

S L Cunningham is a freelance writer and has poems and feature articles published in several small press magazines and newspapers. His column, "Unburned Pieces of the Mind" has been featured in the Village Soup Citizen. A former resident of Belfast, Maine, he now lives in Houston.
  • Baronius

    Arch, I find Stewart’s impersonation of a dim liberal more realistic than Colbert’s shallow conservative routine. Neither of them are very funny though.

  • bliffle

    Just another of Archies errors.

  • Tcchh. Bliffle gets responses without even having to post comments. Perhaps he and Archie have a telepathic link…

    …or are sitting in the same room!

  • Arch Conservative

    I didn’t know all Democrats and liberals lived in ghettos bliffle. Thanks for the tip.

  • Arch Conservative

    That was a joke. Maybe I should have prefaced it by saying “the following is a joke.”

    It was actually a joke I stole from Jon Stewart who said the very same thing on the Daily show.

    Jon Stewart is one of the very few liberals with a sense of humor.

    Jon Stewart is one of the very few liberals that makes me laugh.

    Jon Stewart shall not be placed in a concentration camp when Mccain is elected.

  • zingzing

    oh! oh! better yet, we should put them all in ghettos first! so they can see how the other half lives. and we will take their country homes and defile them! yes….

  • zingzing

    yes, archie, i can see it now… come january 2009, we will start rounding up the conservatives and putting them into death camps, where we will boil them into petroleum jellies to fuel our conquest of the world!


    you’re silly.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Yeah, we sure do, Ben Stein.

  • Arch Conservative

    We all remembered what happened the last time a very charismatic man gave speeches to thousands of motivated, adoring Germans in Deutschland now don’t we?

  • Yes, and that is one of the reasons why I’m concerned.

  • Condor

    “The word charisma (from the Greek word χάρισμα (kharisma), “gift” or “divine favor,” from kharizesthai, “to favor,” from kharis, “favor”: see also charism, Charis) refers to a rare trait found in certain human personalities usually including extreme charm and a ‘magnetic’ quality of personality and/or appearance along with innate and powerfully sophisticated personal communicability and persuasiveness.” Wikipedia 2008

    Where in that definition (mirroring Websters and others) does is say anything about brains? It doesn’t. Confidence men have charisma. Charles Manson has charisma, so did Adolf (I won’t envoke Godwin’s law this early in the discussion). People are easily swayed; and as P.T. Barnum stated a “fool is born every minute.”

    I could care less about charisma… Charisma is for suicidal moths attracted to illumination… and fire, which they burn their wings and auger into the flames and are consumed thereof.

    Followers of charismatic people are something akin to lemmings.

  • Arch Conservative

    There’s nothing really that great about Obama.

    He’s capitalizing on anti Bush/GOP sentiment and the fact that Mccain is a horrible candidate running a horrible campaign.

    The fact Obama’s only up a few points in the major polls shows that he’s not the great uniter, messiah his cultists claim him to be.

    If he loses in the fall are the moonbats on the left going to invent all inds of conspiracy theories again about how the election was stolen? They’re already garenteeing Obama’s victory much the same way they garenteed Kerry’s in 2004.

    It’s my belief that if Mccain can get his shit together and picks a candidate that can help him (Romney) he will win in Nov. if Mccain continues to look like the bumbling old fool, we’re headed for the People’s Republic of Amerika led by premeire Obama.