Cat and Deer; You and Me



Cat and Deer

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

He was a Nigerian man, a foreign-born nationalist, a terrorist, or one who at least attempted to threatened the tranquility of a plane.  Most people see this individual as someone unlike “me.” The word is we must do all we can to protect ourselves.  Surely, this incident reminds us that we must require stronger security measures.  Today, with the news of another “menace” in our midst people, once again, presume society as we know it is not a safe place.  

Americans, Afghanis, Anglos, African Americans, Armenians, Asians, [name the archetype of your choice] proclaim the other is an opponent.  Millions muse; is us against them.  Enemies are everywhere.   Forever humans find reason to call our brethren brutal, a bully, and, or a bad person.  In a world where we typically think of the alien, those different than us, as a potential antagonist, it is important to realize that aggression is not instinctual.  Hatred and hostility are born out of fear.

Mankind kills in order not to be killed.  He, or she, massacres the masses in hope that one person, a foe will be found.  Rarely do humans reflect on the kitten and the deer.  Nor do we dare take the time to learn of the authentic you and me.  We race ’round.  Few stop to smell the essence of friendship. Less let themselves feel what their fellowman feels.  Empathy is barely evident in our culture.  Compassion is not as common as cruelty.  

Perchance, people might ponder; a bit of curiosity did not kill the kitty who sniffed the deer.  A fawn becomes a friend, a cat a compassionate companion.  Oh, what a wonderful world it would be if you, and me, were as those beings, that humans are quick to define as beasts.

Please ponder possibilities.  If you wish to, you might see the world beyond conventional wisdoms or the apprehensions we share.

You Are the Gift!

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On this the twenty-first year anniversary of my first holiday season without what are thought to be tangibly traditional gifts, I can truly say that, I, Betsy, remember it well.  The occasion changed my life forever.

It was October 12, 1988.  Mommy, Berenice Barbara sat across from me at the kitchen table.  This was just as it had been all of my days.  We chatted cheerfully.  Conversation between us was never superficial.  Nonetheless, for us, serious contemplations were fun.  A pleasure for the profound has not left me. It was and is the reason I revel in the company of my Mom.

On this one extraordinary occasion, Mommy declared my family would no longer celebrate any of the traditional holidays as we had.  No gifts would be exchanged in the future.  Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, the Winter Solstice, whatever we might wish to call the customary holiday, in our family home presents would not appear.  None would be purchased or placed under a tree.  Trinkets would not sit on a shelf, nor would these be stashed in a closet for a charitable sharing on a December day.  The season of gift giving would not be ours.  

Once the words entered my ears, I exclaimed in horror.  I inquired; why would this be our newly adopted truth.

In her defense, Berenice Barbara offered a dismissive statement that I knew was suspect.  Mommy had never thought the notion of age appropriateness a wise or welcome one.  She forever spoke of the need to honor individuals for whoever they might be.  My Mom often discussed; people need not be constrained by a chronological age.  Yet, perchance her experience of my reaction caused her to offer a rapid retort.  “You are too old for presents,” she proclaimed.  “Too old?” I responded.  For minutes, we talked to no obvious avail.

It seemed nothing could be done to change my Mom’s mind, thankfully.  Her steadfast stance evoked my evolution.

Days later I learned, her own distress for what had recently occurred in our lives encouraged this unexpected and ultimately, very welcome reflection.

While it is true, on that day, Mommy and I had our first and only significant argument, I am grateful for what emerged.  The lesson I learned was a truer value than any bobble or bangle.  Occasions are worthwhile when one feels no sense of obligation to give or receive.  Gifts are given daily in every exchange.  

A word, a touch, a look, the mere presence of a person can mean more to those who bequeath and receive than any material object might.  This veracity is one that fills our hearts, our heads, our bodies, and souls.

More than a score has passed since that date.  I look back on what, for me, was once an unbearable idea.  Today, I treasure what has been my ideal.  

To those beings who I experience as beloved, beautiful, inside and out, to individuals familiar to me, and who intentionally interact in a manner that honors reciprocal reverence, you are the gift.  Your presence in my life is all that I cherish.

I thank you Mommy!  I like and love you more than mere words might ever begin to express.  You, just as all beings, are genuinely a gift!

Santa Claus Has Come To Health Care Reform



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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

“Tis the season to be Jolly” This was the sentiment expressed by President Barack Obama.  The actual words were, the health care Bill passed on Christmas Eve was “the most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act passed in the 1930s.” Together with the proposed regulations our Representatives approved weeks ago, citizens of this country can rest assured “the toughest measures ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable” will soon be law. This would be wondrous news if only the legislation brought joy to the land or authentic health care coverage to the American people.  

Millions muse; it will not.  The American people are reminded of the professionally wrapped gift boxes left under the tree or stashed on a shelf near a Menorah, Kinara, or near the Fanouz, These too, may glitter like gold.  Still, the contents can be as lackluster as the new directive, meant to better manage America’s medical system, would seem to be. Whether we celebrate traditional holidays or only observe those who do, most of us have learned, all is not as it appears to be.  

Sure, some may wish to reassure the public in the same way they would if a lad or lass learned that Mommy and Daddy not Saint Nicolas, bought the presents, and they will return what the tot thought a disappointment.  The conference committee has yet to meet. Congress seems posed to impose initiatives, that establish every individual must be insured.  Allowances will be made for those who cannot reasonably afford medical coverage.  Only Americans who experience an extreme hardship will qualify for government assistance. For the masses, a substantial financial penalty (2 to 2.5 percent of a persons income) will be charged to citizens who violate the mandate.  

People who now think themselves comfortably ensconced in an employer paid policy may be fine with the bequest, for now.  However, once they learn, what they thought beautiful ribbons and bows are strings attached to the package, sorrow might set in.  If a forty percent [40%] proposed excise tax is adopted almost two-thirds of the employers recently surveyed by Mercer, a benefits consulting firm, said they expect to reduce employee benefits rather than pay the levy.  

Nevertheless, an ebullient Barack Obama asserted Americans need only  Trust us.”  The White House is as Santa’s Workshop.  Good gifts are made here.

The American people are skeptical.  Today, throughout the land many wonder whether they can trust that life is lovely in this holiday season or that the President can produce as he promised.  The country’s Chief Executive appears certain he can; indeed, he has.  The Obama family delayed their traditional Christmas departure to Hawaii until the President was sure his health care reform plan was safely secured in the Senate.  Sadly, for common citizens, this legislation was as a Christmas stocking full of coal.  It was not wondrous or reason for a celebration.  For the American people rest and relaxation was not possible.  The sense of good cheer was lost.  It went the way of Single Payer and the public option. Average Americans had awaited the treats President Obama pledged to provide.

Few recognized that in 2003, the precedent was established.  Then, in an Illinois campaign speech, in front of an AFL-CIO chapter, the candidate declared his dedication, “I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” (applause) “I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its Gross National Product on health care cannot provide basic health insurance to everybody. And that’s what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in, nobody out. A single payer health care plan, a universal health care plan. And that’s what I’d like to see.”

All those years ago, just as Mister Obama had done more recently in his presidential bid, after he offered reason to believe in the best of possibilities, did he dash all hope.  He articulated his angst and said, “But as all of you know, we may not get there immediately. Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”   Before Americans knew him well Barack Obama “presented” reasons that passed for resolve.  As his momentum increased so too did the mission.  Give the gift of hope and then withdraw it.  

It was September 7, 2009.  As President Obama stood with union members, who gave him an enthusiastic reception at Cincinnati’s Coney Island Park, he stated his commitment “I continue to believe that a public option within the basket of insurance choices would help improve quality and bring down costs.”  This pronouncement was not an exact proposal offered for execution.  

Later, Senator Obama espoused the need to insure everyone affordably in Iowa, at the The Heartland Presidential Forum.  A Plan for a Healthy America appeared prominently at his website during his Presidential bid.  Even after he took residency in the White House, Mister Obama sang the praises of the “public option.”  He did so in a speech given in front of a confrontational crowd, the American Medical Association.  

These stalwart supporters remembered what the President has now presumed was but history buried long ago.  In a Cable News Network interview, aired on Super Tuesday Primary Election Day 2008, Senator Barack Obama stated, “If a mandate was the solution, we could try that to solve homelessness by mandating everybody buy a house.”

The Presidential aspirant articulated what millions of Americans avow; “The reason they don’t have a house is they don’t have the money. So, our focus has been on reducing costs, making it available. I am confident that if people have a chance to buy high quality health care that is affordable, they will do so. And that’s what our plan does, and nobody disputes that.”  

No one, except perchance, President Barack Obama.  After less than six months in the White House, the once seeker, and speaker of a much-admired truth, disputed his own plan.   Nonetheless, just as little ones do during the holidays, those devoted to the dream retained hope.  

Whilst Mister Obama called the public option his preferred choice and stressed his want to ensure broad coverage, he has never demanded that it be part of a final bill. The need for competition, or a choice other than private insurers policies would be nice, however, Mister Obama did not require these.

Earlier and now again, Barack Obama waved the possibility that pleased the American people, and then did not fully work to make the dream come true.  

As summer began, and the spring was no longer evident in Barack Obama’s steps.  It was then that Obama first explained he was Open to a Mandate on Health Insurance. Independents and the more Progressive began to understand; the Emperor wore no clothes.  Perchance, it was thought by the more enchanted, Santa’s bright red suit was only a bit soiled, stained, and worn

One need only ponder the duality of words dispensed.  President Obama acknowledged that his acquiescent approach to health care legislation had likely been a mistake and that he had “probably left too much ambiguity out there” by allowing the House and the Senate to draft bills.  Yet, just as the mythical reindeers and the Claus’, Mister Obama has chosen to do nothing other than let the narrative lie.

Definitive details, or even a refined design, were not outlined.  Not in the Presidential campaign; nor from the halls of the White House.  He did venture out on occasion and give voice to his signature issues: hope and change.

However, only days before the President bequeathed his gift on the American people, in the White House, President Obama defended himself against abundant criticism.  In an Oval Office interview with The Washington Post, Mister Obama rejected the notion that he has compromised too much to secure health-care reform. He said that it was not true that he anointed Congress the sole authority to pursue what was thought to be his broad legislative agenda.

In the dialogue, Obama vigorously sanctioned the soon to be health care reform law. He said it was just as he pledged to deliver.  Like Santa Claus, President Obama had looked at his list.  He had checked it twice.  The President postured that he was not naughty.  Indeed, he had been very, very nice.  Mister Obama had no misgivings, and offered I am  “not just grudgingly supporting the bill. I am very enthusiastic about what we have achieved.”

“Nowhere has there been a bigger gap between the perceptions of compromise and the realities of compromise than in the health-care bill,” Mister Obama said. “Every single criteria for reform I put forward is in this bill.”  Challenged by the claims that he had not done as he vowed to do, the President stated,  “I didn’t campaign on the public option.”

With an abundance of contradictions many muse, that, just as children, the American people have been carefully led through the Santa lore, Americans slowly and surely came to believe in “change.”  Barack Obama, as a Senator swayed the malleable minds of those desperate to believe in a dream.  He offered opportunities.  He showed us why it was vital that we serve someone or a cause greater than ourselves.  

As a candidate, Mister Obama presented the American people with possibilities.  As he spoke, unimaginable sugarplums that would satisfy a nation hungry for health care improvements danced in the heads of voters.   On Christmas Eve morning, as Mister Obama celebrates his transformative triumph, citizen cry out. “Is this the health reform Obama promised?” The answer is indubitably “No!” What has been passed in the Halls of Congress is not even close to the change Americans were led to believe in.

In an Albuquerque town hall, August 2008, heard the poised United States Senator speak.  Then, and there, he was eager to please, He offered “If I were designing a system from scratch, I would probably go ahead with a single-payer system,”   However, he added, there is a distinction between his desire and what he would do.

Little more than a year earlier, Candidate Obama concluded what he now says he never did.  With circumstances as they are, there would be widespread opposition.  In his days as a candidate, Barack Obama deduced; we must tread lightly and carry the big stick called change.  Such was the pattern on the path to the Presidency.

The “fierce urgency of now” was prominent in the Obama rhetoric Mister Obama proclaimed. “People don’t have time to wait,” Obama said, “They need relief now.”  Then, in the same breath, careful not to claim that he could convert the current health care behemoth, the Presidential challenger relented. , “So my attitude is let’s build up the system we got, let’s make it more efficient, we may be over time-as we make the system more efficient and everybody’s covered-decide that there are other ways for us to provide care more effectively.”

Back then that was the rationalization,  believers bellowed with Barack Obama.  There is a Santa Claus.  Fairy tales can come true.  It can happen to you if you are young at heart and elect Mister Obama to serve as President.  The public trusted the person who now occupies the Oval Office, when he said we will not fail.  There will be change “Not this time.”  

With words warped in time and space, the thought is President Barack Obama has become practical, or perchance he is as he always was, anything but Santa.

Yes, there is a Santa Claus?  Reality, Reform, References and a Skewed Reality  . . .

Kill The Health Care Bill



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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

Kill the Bill or be killed by the Senate Health Care Reform Bill.  That is the choice Americans face.  Death looms large in the United States today. The Single-payer health care plan died in the Senate.  Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont, and the father of the more recent Single Payer Plan “which eliminates the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste, administrative costs, bureaucracy, and profiteering that is engendered by the private insurance companies” was brought to his knees on the floor of the Senate.  As he tried to cope with the loss of common sense and what the citizens crave, reluctantly Mister Sanders acknowledged the proposal did not have the votes to pass.  

Former supporter of the President’s medical insurance improvement agenda, Doctor, Presidential candidate, Democratic Party Chair and former Governor Howard Dean asserted, Kill The Senate Health Care Bill  It is better to Start Over.  Correspondent Keith Olbermann, who months ago offered a heartfelt sympathetic commentary in favor of the reform, also suggested that the legislation would be better left alone.  

Former supporter of the President’s medical insurance improvement agenda, Doctor, Presidential candidate, Democratic Party Chair and former Governor Howard Dean asserted, Kill The Senate Health Care Bill, it is better to start over.  Correspondent Keith Olbermann, who months ago offered a heartfelt sympathetic commentary in favor of the reform, also suggested that the legislation would be better left alone. The American people, weary, worried, and unable to find work that pays, do not have the energy or enthusiasm to join in the ostensibly futile fight for the right to choose a medical plan,  Common folks, whose conditions are critical,  have not provided the passion necessary to reach their Congressional Representatives.  Those most in need of improvements are overly exhausted.  Economic woes weigh heavily on their shoulders. Besides, average Americans are not afforded access to the Halls of Congress or the President.  Only Insurance and Pharmaceutical Lobbyists, those with lots of loot, can persuade the policymakers.  Thus, the forces of obstructionists rule and regulate.  

Aware of this essential truth, Senator Tom Coburn, Republican from Oklahoma, whose major contributors benefit from the status quo, exercised his prerogative.  The well-funded friend of insurers required Senate clerks to read the 767-page plan aloud.   An effectively empty chamber, for three hours, echoed with the utterance of 139 pages until, Bernie Sanders could no longer take the pain.  With much sorrow, the Senator from Vermont surrendered.  Once again, the American people are sacrificed.  This was not the first time that the electorate was forsaken.

What the President thinks would be his most glorious accomplishment, health care reform, was abandoned right from the beginning.  Before the seed was firmly planted and a foundation for changes in the health care system was formed, the father of the comprehensive change movement chose to forego his commitment.  Never actively involved, admittedly, Mister Obama turned the keys over to Congress and a clamorous Conservative community.

President Obama acknowledged on Wednesday that his hands-off approach to health care legislation had likely been a mistake and that he had “probably left too much ambiguity out there” by allowing Congress to take the lead in drafting a bill.

Mister Obama held on to hope and dreams.  Yet, he did next to nothing to bring these to fruition.  Observers, stated, months ago, in August, President Obama made a Mistake when he left health care reform in the hands of the House, the Senate, and people with the interest, investment, time, and money to massacre true health care reform.

It was not always like this, or so some believed.  Six years earlier, at an AFL-CIO, the now President definitively declared, “I happen to be a proponent of single-payer, universal health care plan.”  At the time he said, before we could achieve, we must not only conceive, we must act.  As a United States Senator, Barack Obama audaciously asserted, “We may not get there immediately.”  He proposed that, “First we need to take back the White House.  We have got to take back the Senate.  We have to take back the House”  Done.  Done. Done, and then . . . Barack Obama has deliberately left undone, Health Care for All. That was thought to be the original objective.

Today, the uninsured, underinsured, and overcharged Americans are left to wonder. The realization is rampant, as are the statements submitted by members of Congress. Major modifications to our medical system were dead on arrival.  The one person given the power to put a forceful agenda forward killed revision, or the vision.  Barack Obama did not use his persuasion acumen.  Nor did he deliver as he promised and as the American people desire.

Regardless of the abundant evidence, the public longs for reform, the President did not heed the call.  Perchance, once in Office he forgot that on October 19, 2003, an ABC News, Washington Post Poll affirmed Growingg Health Care Concerns Fuel Cautious Support for Change.  “In an extensive ABC News/Washington Post poll, Americans by nearly a 2-1 margin, 62- 33 percent, prefer a universal health insurance program over the current employer-based system.”  

Perchance, all these years later, Mister Obama dismissed what he had observed, at the time. Then, he stated, the Executive and Legislative Branches of government were not compassionate enough to provide the people with what they craved.  The implication in oft-heard Obama rhetoric was, someone who could feel the pain of an average American, such as a President, Barack Obama would give the people what they wanted and what the still yearned for.

It is impossible to know what drives his decision to abandon virtually all that he once advocated. for,  yet, as he wields the weapons that does the patient in, or does not, today, Mister Obama tells lawmakers not to allow disagreements to kill health reform,  He himself seems oblivious to what he has destroyed. The possibility of real reform was in his hands.  Yet, he chose not to give birth to the program he once promoted and pledged to support.

“I, out of an effort to give Congress the ability to do this thing and not step on their toes, probably left too much ambiguity out there, which then allowed opponents of reform to come in and fill up the airwaves with a lot of nonsense,” said the President.  

The American people, left forlorn, hopeless, and unable to believe in the change they had once embraced and the change candidate they elected could only respond. “Kill the Bill, or be killed by the Senate Health Care Reform Bill.”

The Bill.  The Blunders . . . .

Prescriptions



Lieberman: I Won’t Vote for a Health Care Reform Bill with Medicare Buy-In, Public Option

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

On the eve of what was thought to be, perhaps, a sign of progress in the six-decade long health care reform debate, joblessness mounts.  Depression increases.  The intensity of illness is on the rise.  Few if any can afford to visit a doctor.  People are unemployed, under-employed, and if an individual has an income, hours are reduced.  There is barely enough to pay the most basic bills. let alone insurance premiums.  Yet, staffers have been asked, no told, by business owners, workers must pay a larger portion of their health care coverage.  Bosses bellow in unison; with profits down, certainly the corporations cannot continue to offer perks.  Medical indemnities are a privilege, not a guarantee.  If you feel ill, if you are injured, take two pills and call no one in the morning.  

Do not dare telephone the Democrats.   They have made their peace with the health care crisis. Republicans will not respond to the cries of a public, and Independents are, as you know independent! The decree; health care reform was dead on arrival.

Each of these bodies assures the American people.  A prescription for the cost of exceedingly high health care in America, well essentially, there is none.  Any cure will be but a compromise.  That is the way Congress works.   Representative are comfortably covered.  Senators are too.   The American people can suffer, and they do.

Universal Single Payer, Not for Profit programs as an idea was scrapped before it ever reached the Halls of Congress.  The possibility of a Public Health Insurance Option?  Tea Party protesters, who were persuaded by advertisements bought and paid for by Pharmaceutical companies, Insurers, and an Ex-Chief Executive Hospital  Entrepreneur eliminated any hope for that opportunity.  

Should the poor, the poorly covered, or the persons who cannot possibly pay for policies become sick, magnate, underwriters, and makers of medicines will worry not.  Illness and accidental injury will add to their shared incomes.  Drug manufacturers, those who assess risks, and moguls will all be fine.  Each will be financially made more comfortable if nothing changes.  Senator Joseph Liebermann, Independent, [in name only] “Democrat,” from Connecticut will also be firmly fixed if prospects for reform are dashed.

For less than a week, there was chance, the slightest potential, that the ever-popular Medicare program  would be  expanded.  While Medicare For All was another unfulfilled dream, swiftly dropped from the Congressional debate, it was proposed that the program as it exists today, could be enhanced.  The thought was persons ages 55 through 64 could begin to collect benefits if only the Democrats and Republicans agreed to this compromise.  That would help twelve percent of Americans who are without health insurance.  That amounts to 4.3 million people, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Yet, as of late, Monday, December 14, 2009, the word was that Medicare Buy In Plans may also be dashed.  Senator Lieberman would see to that.  On the weekend, the Connecticut independent Democrat, indicated he would not vote for it.  Tonight, a closed-door meeting was held, or perchance, the “Progressive” Party was held hostage from within the Chamber.  

Mister Lieberman understands that the majority  cannot move without his support.  The American people will not procure a health care reform Bill unless Joe votes for, rather than against any proposal.  

Some consider what might have motivated the Senator.  Granted, Connecticut has the highest U.S. concentration of insurance jobs.  However, the Senator pledges, this, and ample contributions from these corporations, do not play a role in his decision.  Lieberman says, he is concerned solely for the citizens of this country.

Regardless of what is true for the Connecticut Senator, the expansion of Medicate depends on him.  Hence, the Democrats relent.  Those who most desire a radical transformation have resigned themselves to the reality, without Joe, resolutions are a “no go.”

As he exited the Monday evening meeting, Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana was heard to murmur, “If dropping the Medicare expansion is necessary, that’s what should be done.”

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia said that it was not yet clear if there would be enough votes to pass the bill, but that he believed Democrats would rise to the challenge. The American people wonder as they ponder all that has occurred so far.

Meanwhile, with the memory of a breakthrough behind us, the number of unemployed grows.  Misery and melancholy amongst the masses multiplies.  infirmity increases, and wounds go unattended.  Time with a physician is thought too pricey.  People are out of work, without adequate wages, and earnings have eroded.  Essentials are expensive and many have been eliminated. Dollars for insurance dues?  Only Congressmen and woman can afford those, or the time to dilly-dally with the destiny of those who long ago lost the power to govern.  Thus, the prescription remains the same.  Take two pills, or none, and call no one in the morning.

Health Care Reform, and the Reality of Party Politics . . .

The Two Faces of Obama

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

~ Barack Obama (President of the United States.  Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. December 10, 2009)

For years, Americans saw live, and in person, or on television screens, Presidential aspirant Barack Obama.   Several mused; the man is calm in a crisis.  “No drama Obama” was the phrase most often associated with the candidate.  Those closely and personally connected to the potential President corroborated what was for most only an observation.  The election did not change Barack Obama.  His calm demeanor remained intact.  Yet, many perceived a difference, not in his response to a predicament, but in the President’s rhetoric.  Empathy evolved into escalation.  This was perhaps most evident on two occasions, when Mister Obama delivered his Address on the War in Afghanistan, and then again when the Commander-In Chief offered his Remarks in acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.  After these events, the pensive pondered; what was there all along, Cerebral Discord, the Two Faces of Barack Obama.

During the Presidential campaign, millions were aware of the dichotomy.  For Barack Obama the need for empathy and the escalation of armed forces seemed to safely coexist.   Others, hopeful, for a change may have chosen to forgive what was a concern.  Perchance Mister Obama’s persuasive language assuaged the American people, or they too may have suffered from the same condition, intellectual disharmony.  

Possibly, the public was either so eager or expectant, that they did not wish to wonder what might occur if Barack Obama acted on the more aggressive stance he often took.  Troop escalation in Afghanistan is a must.  The words the President of the United States postured in his recent remarks at West Point and in Oslo, at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, while countless thought anathemas, were as he presented in his published plan on July 14, 2008.

As president, I would pursue a new strategy, and begin by providing at least two additional combat brigades to support our effort in Afghanistan. We need more troops, more helicopters, better intelligence-gathering and more nonmilitary assistance to accomplish the mission there.

Yet, most Americans and the Nobel Prize Committee were stunned when as President, Barack Obama fulfilled his promise.  More struggled with what they heard days later.  In his acknowledgement of the award he was about to receive, the Peace Prize, Barack Obama explained, and exclaimed, as has been his well-established habit; empathy is essential and compassion can not cure the world’s ills.  

While the rhetoric was exquisite, and the rationalizations seemed sound, the inconsistency awakened awareness.  At once, observers were alarmed by what was apparent for quite awhile.  There are Two Faces of Barack Obama.

The few who had feared his empathetic side welcomed the warlike stance of the current Commander.  Others felt the sacramental observance, the Nobel Peace Prize Presentation, was not the place to promote war.  Nor is it thought apt for the beneficiary of such a significant award to advocate for armed conflict.  Even those who trusted he would do as he had done, and say as he did, found it difficult to grapple with what Barack Obama has for all of his life: cognitive dissonance.

Some may ask; how can one man, woman, or one mind so adamantly adhere to the idea of empathy, and also embrace the notion that our fellow man is our enemy.  What is it that drives a desire to reason love and peace are  harmonious with hatred and war?  Why would a brilliant being think violence builds benevolence?

The cause, or perchance the effect, of the President’s condition was delineated and defined in 1956.  five years before Barack Obama was even a thought in the mind of his mother Ann Dunham.   Prior to his conception, few imagined that today a baby, born to an average Americans schoolgirl, would be addressed as Mister President.  All those decades ago, an individual whose background was as varied as Barack Obama’s is, could not be expected to achieve the grandeur he has.  At the time, to even ponder the possibility might evoke Cognitive Dissonance,  had the notion been a known construct.

Today, Social Psychologist Leon Festinger’s theory is an accepted truth.  Humans have honed the art of rationalization.  Some offer seemingly reasonable interpretations better than most others.   Mister Obama spoke of his skill to allegorize, to offer an analysis that is coherent, and cogent.  Indeed, as he wrote in his most recent tome, The Audacity of Hope,  President Obama offered that through conversation, he could conquer an adversary.

Readers of his book may recall the beloved tale that endeared the President to those who hoped Barack Obama might be a man of peace. The story led many, perhaps even the Nobel Peace Prize Committee 2009, to believe this Head of State is worthy of the honor he was awarded.

Like most of my values, I learned about empathy from my mother. She disdained any kind of cruelty or thoughtlessness or abuse of power, whether it expresses itself in the form of racial prejudice or bullying in the schoolyard or workers being underpaid. Whenever she saw even a hint of such behavior in me she would look me square in the eyes and ask, “How do you think that would make you feel?”

But it was in the relationship with my grandfather that I think I first internalized the full meaning of empathy. Because my mother’s work took her overseas, I often lived with my grandparents during my high school years, and without a father present in the house, my grandfather bore the brunt of most of my adolescent rebellion. He himself was not always easy to get along with; he was at once warmhearted and quick to anger, and in part his career had not been particularly successful, his feelings could also be easily bruised. By the time I was sixteen we were arguing all of the time, usually about me failing to abide by what I considered to be an endless series of petty and arbitrary rules–filling up the gas tank whenever I borrowed his car, say, or making sure that I rinsed out the milk carton before I put it in the garbage.

With a certain talent for rhetoric, as well as an absolute certainty about the merits of my own views, I found that I could generally win these arguments, in the narrow sense of leaving my grandfather flustered, angry, and sounding unreasonable. But at the same point, perhaps in my senior year, such victories started to feel less satisfying. I started thinking about the struggles and disappointments he had seen in his life. I started to appreciate his need to feel respected in his own home. I realized that abiding by his rules would cost me little, but to him it would mean a lot. I recognized that sometimes he really did have a point, and that in insisting on getting my own way all the time, without regard to his feelings or needs, I was in some way diminishing myself.

There’s nothing extraordinary about such an awakening, of course. In one form or another it is what we all must go through if we are to grow up. And yet I find myself returning again and again to my mother’s simple principle–“How would that make you feel?”–as a guidepost for my politics.

It’s not a question we ask ourselves enough, I think; as a country we seem to be suffering from an empathy deficit.

I believe a stronger sense of empathy would tilt the balance of our current politics in favor of those people who are struggling in this society. After all, if they are like us, then their struggles are our own. If we fail to help, we diminish ourselves.

~ Barack Obama excerpt from The Audacity of Hope

At the time he wrote those words, as Senator, and an author who aspired to inspire, Barack Obama reminded readers, No one is exempt from the call to find common ground.”  That is, unless, as he clarified with the Nobel Peace Prize in his grasp, “(A)s a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.  Today, the man who occupies the White House would seem to no longer believe as his followers thought, or hoped he did,  

Perchance, a culture mired in its own cerebral discord did not acknowledge that Barack Obama has always been a mirror image of society.  He speaks of his love of peace.  He yearns for global harmony, yet President Obama believes war is a worthy endeavor. For the once candidate and also for the Commander-In-Chief who currently occupies the Oval Office, empathy is thought as  necessary as escalation. The Two disparate Faces of Obama are as they were, united.

Barack Obama has not changed.  Only people’s perception of him has been transformed, transitioned just as predicted, or has revealed itself to be as the President pledged.  The public saw the side of Mister Obama that he presented, and or, the one as individuals, each American might prefer.  He has always been one who embraces empathy as he asserts evil exists.

Little more than a year ago, when but a Presidential hopeful Obama offered his carefully crafted message while in Church, Christians rejoiced, as did those of many faiths.   On August 16, 2008, the world watched the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.  Barack Obama presented his peaceful posture, not the face of the person who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for to us have some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil, because a lot of evil’s been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil. . . .

In the name of good, and I think, you know, one thing that’s very important is having some humility in recognizing that just because we think that our intentions are good, doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”

What a difference a day makes.  As a potential representative of the people, on the night of the Presidential Forum, Obama expressed as he had in his tome,  “Mutual understanding is not enough.  People must practice as they profess to believe.”  However, as he himself once chimed “Talk is cheap.” The philosophy Presidential candidate Obama bequeathed upon the American people, the thought that gave constituents hope has been shelved.  The sentiment is available only in archives far from the White House Situation Room.

When I was a community organizer back in the eighties, I would often challenge neighborhood leaders by asking them where they put their time, energy, and money. Those are the true tests of what we value, I’d tell them, regardless of what we like to tell ourselves.  If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.

The Nobel Committee might have read the passage, and as was stated, they wanted to support Mister Obama’s approach.  Accolades for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples” was thought to be sufficient to explain what those who were troubled by the March 2009 escalation could not understand.

Perchance, his mere election alone meant that “Obama has, as President, created a new climate in international politics.” After all, near a year before the Nobel announcement, Barack Obama had completed his original mission as articulated in 2004, “My job is to inspire people to take ownership of this country.”

Possibly, at the time of the official announcement, the Norwegian group was as mesmerized as the world was.  They too reveled in what Barack Obama acknowledged in his book; he has a “gift for rhetoric.”

That may explain why in an October Press Release the Nobel Institute stated that they thought Barack Obama embodied the essence of their belief “Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.”  At the time, the Norwegian Stortingof might have recalled the eloquent and empathetic language of the world leader.  The Committee may have been so moved by the peaceful prose of the President they did not realize they had only caught sight of one of the Two Face of Obama.

While the Peace Prize is intended to go to whoever “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” on this occasion it did not.

A warrior, or one who sends tens of thousands of American sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and sibling off to slaughter and to be slaughtered received the honor. The combatant face of Obama who surrenders his more peacefully stated principles claimed the accolade.

In his Oslo lecture, the President did not acknowledge his cerebral discord.  Instead, he reasoned as researchers realized those who wrestle with cognitive dissonance do.  From the windows of the White House, President Obama, tells us, decisions look very different, (or did they, since Barack Obama actually did as he penned he would in his July 2008 plan)  Protected in the cocoon of a title, Commander-In-Chief, it is possible to order the massacre of a population comprised mostly of children, under the age of fourteen (14) and to do it “faster.”

Rationalization realized when cognitive dissonance dominates allows for avoidance and less authentic analysis.  Simply stated, President Obama professed to the Nobel audience, “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”  This is the Obama escalation truth, regardless of a reality shared by his National Security Advisor, General Jim Jones, on Cable News Network’s “State of the Union” only days before the Peace Prize Committee announced that President Obama would win the award.

“Obviously, the good news is that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies.

Now the problem is the next step in this is the sanctuaries across the border. But I don’t foresee the return of the Taliban and I want to be very clear that Afghanistan is not in danger — imminent danger of falling.

The intelligence General Jim Jones imparted was ignored just as the guidance from U.S. Afghan envoy, retired General, Karl Eikenberry was.    General Eikenberry advised against escalation.  However, the empathetic President, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient exclaimed to his Cabinet and Commanders, “What I’m looking for is a surge.”

Barack Obama favors, the fight.  An Afghanistan Apocalypse. seems reasonable when rationalized through the eyes of one comfortable with cerebral discord.  From the Executive Office, empathy equates to a troops escalation.

Perhaps, one day, anathemas such as war will advance authentic prospects for global harmony. Intellectual cacophonies, two faces shared by a man, (a nation, or the world) will merge into one.  Then, and only then, will change emerge, and peace be truly prized.

Surge reduced violence; but distracts us from long-term goal.

~ Barack Obama. CBS News interview with Katie Couric, July 28, 2008

End the war, and end the mindset that got us into war.

~ Barack Obama. 2008 Democratic debate in Los Angeles, California, January 31, 2008

Never fudge numbers or shade the truth about war.

~ Barack Obama. Keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention July 29, 2004

References for a dual realty . . .

War Is Not Peace



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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

War Is Not Peace.  Nor is there reason to think a warrior can be cleansed of the blood on his hands because he receives the Nobel Peace Prize.  Words can work to express justifications, or espouse the possibility that war is just, good, or even necessary.  However, when man wields weapons and bodies are intentionally broken there can be no defense.  To deliberately take the life of another, or to purposely cause people harm is to wage war.  Such transgressions will not produce peace.  Nor will aggressive attacks articulate a desire for diplomacy.  Democracy will not thrive in a world where all men are not treated as though they are created equal.  Only death and destruction will survive if a President who professes a need for bigger and bolder battles is proclaimed to be benevolent or the one who will bequeath global harmony.

One Thousand words or four will not convert combat to calm.  Nor will the Nobel Prize change the message of a military Commander-In-Chief.  A Head of State who chooses to engage with guns and tanks cannot be the bearer of peace, regardless of the eloquent rationalizations.  

Please peruse what some think profound or scan what others trust to be a shallow excuse for the escalation of Armed Forces. . .  The words of President Obama as he accepts the Nobel Peace Prize, after he declared the need to send more troops to Afghanistan

Obama’s Nobel Remarks Text.  The New York Times. December 11, 2009

Your Majesties, Your Royal Highnesses, Distinguished Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, citizens of America, and citizens of the world:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility. It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations – that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate. Our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice.

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened of cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women – some known, some obscure to all but those they help – to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars. One of these wars is winding down. The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 43 other countries – including Norway – in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

Still, we are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict – filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

These questions are not new. War, in one form or another, appeared with the first man. At the dawn of history, its morality was not questioned; it was simply a fact, like drought or disease – the manner in which tribes and then civilizations sought power and settled their differences.

Over time, as codes of law sought to control violence within groups, so did philosophers, clerics and statesmen seek to regulate the destructive power of war. The concept of a “just war” emerged, suggesting that war is justified only when it meets certain preconditions: if it is waged as a last resort or in self-defense; if the forced used is proportional; and if, whenever possible, civilians are spared from violence.

For most of history, this concept of just war was rarely observed. The capacity of human beings to think up new ways to kill one another proved inexhaustible, as did our capacity to exempt from mercy those who look different or pray to a different God. Wars between armies gave way to wars between nations – total wars in which the distinction between combatant and civilian became blurred. In the span of 30 years, such carnage would twice engulf this continent. And while it is hard to conceive of a cause more just than the defeat of the Third Reich and the Axis powers, World War II was a conflict in which the total number of civilians who died exceeded the number of soldiers who perished.

In the wake of such destruction, and with the advent of the nuclear age, it became clear to victor and vanquished alike that the world needed institutions to prevent another World War. And so, a quarter century after the United States Senate rejected the League of Nations – an idea for which Woodrow Wilson received this Prize – America led the world in constructing an architecture to keep the peace: a Marshall Plan and a United Nations, mechanisms to govern the waging of war, treaties to protect human rights, prevent genocide and restrict the most dangerous weapons.

In many ways, these efforts succeeded. Yes, terrible wars have been fought, and atrocities committed. But there has been no Third World War. The Cold War ended with jubilant crowds dismantling a wall. Commerce has stitched much of the world together. Billions have been lifted from poverty. The ideals of liberty, self-determination, equality and the rule of law have haltingly advanced. We are the heirs of the fortitude and foresight of generations past, and it is a legacy for which my own country is rightfully proud.

A decade into a new century, this old architecture is buckling under the weight of new threats. The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Moreover, wars between nations have increasingly given way to wars within nations. The resurgence of ethnic or sectarian conflicts, the growth of secessionist movements, insurgencies and failed states have increasingly trapped civilians in unending chaos. In today’s wars, many more civilians are killed than soldiers; the seeds of future conflict are sown, economies are wrecked, civil societies torn asunder, refugees amassed and children scarred.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war. What I do know is that meeting these challenges will require the same vision, hard work and persistence of those men and women who acted so boldly decades ago. And it will require us to think in new ways about the notions of just war and the imperatives of a just peace.

We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations – acting individually or in concert – will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones.” As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life’s work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaidas leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter the cause. At times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the worlds sole military superpower.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions – not just treaties and declarations – that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest – because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

So yes, the instruments of war do have a role to play in preserving the peace. And yet this truth must coexist with another – that no matter how justified, war promises human tragedy. The soldiers courage and sacrifice is full of glory, expressing devotion to country, to cause and to comrades in arms. But war itself is never glorious, and we must never trumpet it as such.

So part of our challenge is reconciling these two seemingly irreconcilable truths – that war is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human folly. Concretely, we must direct our effort to the task that President Kennedy called for long ago. “Let us focus,” he said, “on a more practical, more attainable peace, based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions.”

What might this evolution look like? What might these practical steps be?

To begin with, I believe that all nations – strong and weak alike – must adhere to standards that govern the use of force. I – like any head of state – reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation. Nevertheless, I am convinced that adhering to standards strengthens those who do, and isolates – and weakens – those who don’t.

The world rallied around America after the 9/11 attacks, and continues to support our efforts in Afghanistan, because of the horror of those senseless attacks and the recognized principle of self-defense. Likewise, the world recognized the need to confront Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait – a consensus that sent a clear message to all about the cost of aggression.

Furthermore, America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. For when we don’t, our action can appear arbitrary, and undercut the legitimacy of future intervention – no matter how justified.

This becomes particularly important when the purpose of military action extends beyond self-defense or the defense of one nation against an aggressor. More and more, we all confront difficult questions about how to prevent the slaughter of civilians by their own government, or to stop a civil war whose violence and suffering can engulf an entire region.

I believe that force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans, or in other places that have been scarred by war. Inaction tears at our conscience and can lead to more costly intervention later. That is why all responsible nations must embrace the role that militaries with a clear mandate can play to keep the peace.

America’s commitment to global security will never waver. But in a world in which threats are more diffuse, and missions more complex, America cannot act alone. This is true in Afghanistan. This is true in failed states like Somalia, where terrorism and piracy is joined by famine and human suffering. And sadly, it will continue to be true in unstable regions for years to come.

The leaders and soldiers of NATO countries – and other friends and allies – demonstrate this truth through the capacity and courage they have shown in Afghanistan. But in many countries, there is a disconnect between the efforts of those who serve and the ambivalence of the broader public. I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: The belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it. Peace requires responsibility. Peace entails sacrifice. That is why NATO continues to be indispensable. That is why we must strengthen U.N. and regional peacekeeping, and not leave the task to a few countries. That is why we honor those who return home from peacekeeping and training abroad to Oslo and Rome; to Ottawa and Sydney; to Dhaka and Kigali – we honor them not as makers of war, but as wagers of peace.

Let me make one final point about the use of force. Even as we make difficult decisions about going to war, we must also think clearly about how we fight it. The Nobel Committee recognized this truth in awarding its first prize for peace to Henry Dunant – the founder of the Red Cross, and a driving force behind the Geneva Conventions.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. And we honor those ideals by upholding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.

I have spoken to the questions that must weigh on our minds and our hearts as we choose to wage war. But let me turn now to our effort to avoid such tragic choices, and speak of three ways that we can build a just and lasting peace.

First, in dealing with those nations that break rules and laws, I believe that we must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something. Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable. Sanctions must exact a real price. Intransigence must be met with increased pressure – and such pressure exists only when the world stands together as one.

One urgent example is the effort to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, and to seek a world without them. In the middle of the last century, nations agreed to be bound by a treaty whose bargain is clear: All will have access to peaceful nuclear power; those without nuclear weapons will forsake them; and those with nuclear weapons will work toward disarmament. I am committed to upholding this treaty. It is a centerpiece of my foreign policy. And I am working with President Medvedev to reduce America and Russia’s nuclear stockpiles.

But it is also incumbent upon all of us to insist that nations like Iran and North Korea do not game the system. Those who claim to respect international law cannot avert their eyes when those laws are flouted. Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia. Those who seek peace cannot stand idly by as nations arm themselves for nuclear war.

The same principle applies to those who violate international law by brutalizing their own people. When there is genocide in Darfur, systematic rape in Congo or repression in Burma – there must be consequences. And the closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.

This brings me to a second point – the nature of the peace that we seek. For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based upon the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting.

It was this insight that drove drafters of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights after the Second World War. In the wake of devastation, they recognized that if human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.

And yet all too often, these words are ignored. In some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development. And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists – a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values.

I reject this choice. I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please, choose their own leaders or assemble without fear. Pent up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence. We also know that the opposite is true. Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace. America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens. No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests – nor the worlds – are served by the denial of human aspirations.

So even as we respect the unique culture and traditions of different countries, America will always be a voice for those aspirations that are universal. We will bear witness to the quiet dignity of reformers like Aung Sang Suu Kyi; to the bravery of Zimbabweans who cast their ballots in the face of beatings; to the hundreds of thousands who have marched silently through the streets of Iran. It is telling that the leaders of these governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. And it is the responsibility of all free people and free nations to make clear to these movements that hope and history are on their side.

Let me also say this: The promotion of human rights cannot be about exhortation alone. At times, it must be coupled with painstaking diplomacy. I know that engagement with repressive regimes lacks the satisfying purity of indignation. But I also know that sanctions without outreach – and condemnation without discussion – can carry forward a crippling status quo. No repressive regime can move down a new path unless it has the choice of an open door.

In light of the Cultural Revolution’s horrors, Nixon’s meeting with Mao appeared inexcusable – and yet it surely helped set China on a path where millions of its citizens have been lifted from poverty, and connected to open societies. Pope John Paul’s engagement with Poland created space not just for the Catholic Church, but for labor leaders like Lech Walesa. Ronald Reagan’s efforts on arms control and embrace of perestroika not only improved relations with the Soviet Union, but empowered dissidents throughout Eastern Europe. There is no simple formula here. But we must try as best we can to balance isolation and engagement, pressure and incentives, so that human rights and dignity are advanced over time.

Third, a just peace includes not only civil and political rights – it must encompass economic security and opportunity. For true peace is not just freedom from fear, but freedom from want.

It is undoubtedly true that development rarely takes root without security; it is also true that security does not exist where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive. It does not exist where children cannot aspire to a decent education or a job that supports a family. The absence of hope can rot a society from within.

And that is why helping farmers feed their own people – or nations educate their children and care for the sick – is not mere charity. It is also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, famine and mass displacement that will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and activists who call for swift and forceful action – it is military leaders in my country and others who understand that our common security hangs in the balance.

Agreements among nations. Strong institutions. Support for human rights. Investments in development. All of these are vital ingredients in bringing about the evolution that President Kennedy spoke about. And yet, I do not believe that we will have the will, or the staying power, to complete this work without something more – and that is the continued expansion of our moral imagination, an insistence that there is something irreducible that we all share.

As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are, to understand that we all basically want the same things, that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families.

And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities – their race, their tribe and, perhaps most powerfully, their religion. In some places, this fear has led to conflict. At times, it even feels like we are moving backwards. We see it in the Middle East, as the conflict between Arabs and Jews seems to harden. We see it in nations that are torn asunder by tribal lines.

Most dangerously, we see it in the way that religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war. For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint – no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one’s own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith – for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Adhering to this law of love has always been the core struggle of human nature. We are fallible. We make mistakes, and fall victim to the temptations of pride, and power, and sometimes evil. Even those of us with the best intentions will at times fail to right the wrongs before us.

But we do not have to think that human nature is perfect for us to still believe that the human condition can be perfected. We do not have to live in an idealized world to still reach for those ideals that will make it a better place. The nonviolence practiced by men like Gandhi and King may not have been practical or possible in every circumstance, but the love that they preached – their faith in human progress – must always be the North Star that guides us on our journey.

For if we lose that faith – if we dismiss it as silly or naive, if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace – then we lose what is best about humanity. We lose our sense of possibility. We lose our moral compass.

Like generations have before us, we must reject that future. As Dr. King said at this occasion so many years ago: “I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him.”

So let us reach for the world that ought to be – that spark of the divine that still stirs within each of our souls. Somewhere today, in the here and now, a soldier sees he’s outgunned but stands firm to keep the peace. Somewhere today, in this world, a young protestor awaits the brutality of her government, but has the courage to march on. Somewhere today, a mother facing punishing poverty still takes the time to teach her child, who believes that a cruel world still has a place for his dreams.

Let us live by their example. We can acknowledge that oppression will always be with us, and still strive for justice. We can admit the intractability of deprivation, and still strive for dignity. We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that – for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

The Change; Hope

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copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

It is said, as individuals, we can achieve all we conceive, if only we truly believe.  President Barack Obama once knew this.  He lived this veracity.  Indeed, candidate Obama’s audacity and accomplishments gave Americans hope.  When Barack Obama reached for the sky he realized what no one thought he could. The electorate was energized.  People came to expect the country was in for a change.   Now, it seems Mister Obama is bogged down by what Eisenhower understood, concerns of the Military Industrial Complex.  

The intricacy of the Armed Forces mission does not confine itself to forceful martial escalation.  Nothing escapes the wide reach of combative nation building.  Lives are lost.  Limbs crushed.  With bullets ablaze, brains are battered or blown to smithereens.  Hope suffers.  Hearts are hurt.  The economy is also affected.

Education policies are altered.  There are few pennies left to provide for adequate instruction.  Health care coverage fiscal calculations related to medical treatments and delivery of services are transformed.  The  billions of dollars spent on defense surpasses any other consideration.  This fiscal truth is obviously not lost on a Commander-In-Chief burdened with the need to appease his many Advisors, most of whom, from the beginning, were intent on war.  

President Obama could not ignore or forget his own earlier rhetoric.  After all, his words “Afghanistan is a war of necessity,” helped him win over the hearts and minds of Conservatives and Independents during the recent election.  As one who believes and works to builds consensus, some say President Obama chose to take the middle path.

With his decision to send more troops, into Afghanistan, the President  has shattered the dreams of many.  Another surge will mean countless communities will wait for more dollars to spend at home.   A patient nation, for a while longer, will remain proud and stay the course.

For now, only eight percent, the progressive fringe, feel a deepening sense of hopelessness.   Millions of Independents have also lost faith.  When only 36 percent of these think President Obama has done a fine job that could prove to be a problem.  

If, over time, personal pains become more profound, the exorbitant budgetary imbalance will not be ignored.  Misery amongst the masses will likely bring more voices of dissent.

In this moment, those on the far Left feel they must vocalize the sentiment heard in society at-large. However, without reason to believe, with signs that change has not come to those most in need, the public will turn nasty. Timidity, as history reveals, is transitory.  

Just as we witnessed in the 1960s, again in 2008, a war weary population becomes disheartened, and loud.  Americans who struggle to survive, and who realize billions, no trillions of dollars are spent on the fight, will ultimately, speak out vociferously

This week, President Obama quoted his predecessor, General Eisenhower,, “Each proposal must be weighed in the light of a broader consideration: the need to maintain balance in and among national programs.”  Then, contrary to Ike’s caution, he bowed to the Military Industrial Complex, Should Mister Obama continue down this path people of all walks of life are likely to rise up and say; The change we once believed in, our hope, has become our sense of hopelessness.

References for the reality of hope and hopelessness . . .

Ben Bernanke. Bernie Sanders; Who Will Build A Better America?



Sanders outlines his objections to Ben Bernanke re-confirmation

copyright © 2009 Betsy L. Angert.  BeThink.org

The adage is “Time moves on.”  The assumption is all will get better.  However, for the little people in the United States, those who work, pay taxes, and still cannot make ends meet, life has been a backward motion.  Throughout the history of America, it was believed the people, with the assistance of elected Representatives, and well-chosen regulators would ensure that the United States was solid, strong, and fiscally viable.  Currently the public is told. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has saved the country from certain crash.   However, for the first time in generations, the population feels as though it is in free fall.

Children cannot necessarily expect to earn more than their parents.  The plight of average American Moms and Dads is, in 2009, the burden of their brood.  Each asks, as they had not felt a need to do only years earlier.  Who will build a better America?

Policymakers, once thought to have that charge assigned to them , today are insensitive to the needs of the people who labor for a living.  Those in the Halls of Congress and government offices, elected and appointed, disregard the realities of those who reap little if any real rewards.  Public policy officials praise each other, pat the backs of those responsible for the nation’s decline.  Indeed,  Administrators are anointed and then reappointed, just as Fed Chair Ben Bernanke has been and is about to be!

Presidents and Representatives have long reveled in the presence of the Federal Reserve Chairman who helped make the once possible and predictable American Dream, now impossible. This week, as Ben Bernanke’s second appointment was being considered US Senators posed pointed questions in regards to the role Of Fed, But Largely Praise the Chair, Bernanke. A few within the Senate Banking Committee were critical.  Nonetheless, the conventional wisdom was Ben Bernanke would be easily approved again.  Then Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont spoke.

The Senator pointed out that the Fed Chair has held the position for years.  On this occasion, he, Sanders, would do all he could to stop another Bernanke appointment.  It seemed, until this moment, just as inn the past, no one apart from Bernie Sanders had dared to even stall or block the process.  Certainly, Congress would present arguments, offer advice, grand stand, and then make the supreme gesture.  Ben Bernanke would be anointed in charge of the people’s cash.  With the Senate Floor under his feet and the face of a stunned Bernanke in his sight, Bernie Sanders spoke of what no one else had the courage to do, at least not while in the Congressional Chambers.

“The American people overwhelmingly voted last year for a change in our national priorities to put the interests of ordinary people ahead of the greed of Wall Street and the wealthy few,” Sanders said. “What the American people did not bargain for was another four years for one of the key architects of the Bush economy.”  . . .

“The American people want a new direction on Wall Street and at the Fed.  They do not want as chairman someone who has been part of the problem and who has been responsible for many of the enormous difficulties that we are now experiencing,” . . .

The Federal Reserve has four main responsibilities: to conduct monetary policy in a way that leads to maximum employment and stable prices; to maintain the safety and soundness of financial institutions; to contain systemic risk in financial markets; and to protect consumers against deceptive and unfair financial products.

Since Bernanke took over as Fed chairman in 2006, unemployment has more than doubled and, today, 17.5 percent of the American workforce is either unemployed or underemployed.

Not since the Great Depression has the financial system been as unsafe, unsound, and unstable as it has been during Mr. Bernanke’s tenure.  More than 120 banks have failed since he became chairman.

Under Bernanke’s watch, the value of risky derivatives held at our nation’s top commercial banks grew from $110 trillion to more than $290 trillion, 95 percent of which are concentrated in just five financial institutions.

Bernanke failed to prevent banks from issuing deceptive and unfair financial products to consumers.  Under his leadership, mortgage lenders were allowed to issue predatory loans they knew consumers could not afford to repay. This risky practice was allowed to continue long after the FBI warned in 2004 of an “epidemic” in mortgage fraud.

After the financial crisis hit, Bernanke’s response was to provide trillions of dollars in virtually zero-interest loans and other taxpayer assistance to some of the largest financial institutions in the world.  Adding insult to injury, Bernanke refused to tell the American people the names of the institutions that received this handout or the terms involved.

“Mr. Bernanke has failed at all four core responsibilities of the Federal Reserve. It’s time for him to go.”

Senator Sanders stressed and asked, under Ben Bernanke, what happened to the middle class.  Average Americans could not sustain a comfortable life.  Mothers and Fathers feel as though they have failed.  Yet, without guilt for abundant greed, the banks flourished.  Parents poured out their hearts and expressed pain to progeny they yearn to support.  Young children learned to fear whether there would be adequate food or shelter.  Adolescents postponed their dreams.  Some near adulthood have come to realize they cannot consider college education an option.  

It is not that teens and twenty-something’s do not work hard enough to succeed in school. Indeed, the young must labor harder and harder.  There are bills to pay.  Moms and Dad’s are often unemployed,, or barely hanging on.   Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke receives accolades from the ruling class, big businesses, banks, and beneficiaries of policies that further profits for the few, and force the many into bankruptcy and foreclosure.

Health care costs have soared in the recent years.  The reality is employers no long guarantee benefits.  Indeed, 0ut of pockets expenses charged to laborers are on the rise.  Companies have cut back.  People are pleased just to have paychecks.  Consequently countless have made the sacrifice.  Less funds, increased hours, such is the life of paid staff in America during an economic recession, or so is the explanation.  

The past is and was prologue.  As the American people reflect on The Great Depression and draw comparisons, they sense the pressure is on.  Vermont Senator Sanders accepts that, and hopes to alleviate the load on the people.  Just as he had tried to do in the Spring of the year Senator Bernie Sanders, on behalf of the American people asked the critical question.  Might the American citizens insist that every Senator and the President pose the same.  Why would we the people, the country wish to hire Ben Bernanke again?  What has he done with the people’s money, to meet the needs of the American population, and why?



Bernanke will you tell American people to whom Fed Res lent $2.2 trillion of their dollars?

The voice from Vermont bellowed what had Chairman Bernanke done and an actual answer could not be heard.  

Americans could know, under the direction of Ben Bernanke financial institutions have been allowed to hide from regulators and regulations.   Banks have built an empire.  Numerous financial firms failed.  Faulty oversight, aggressive acquisitions, and an insatiable hunger for greater profits have driven the country to the brink.

However, most citizens are by necessity concerned with their own daily doings.  The few amongst the electorate who have time or energy to read the papers, listen to the news might acknowledge as Bernie Sanders has.  Ben Bernanke has been lauded with much praise from powerbrokers and The White House under Republican and Democratic rule.  The people could say as the Vermont Senator has; Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke has not built a better America.

This reality is invisible from government limousines, or from the vantage point of officials who walk on the most venerated streets within the District of Columbia.  Thankfully Bernie Sanders has stayed in touch.  He talks of what is real for the American people, those not in the beltway.  Perhaps, the question not asked in the Senate Banking Committee hearing is, who will build a better America, Ben Bernanke, or Bernie Sanders, with the help of the electorate.

References, Regulators, Representatives, and the Republic . . .