Saturday, June 6, 2009
NIXON IN CHINA
when nixon finally restored relations w/china & made his historic trip there(where he most certainly DID meet w/mao), i remember reading someone saying that only nixon could have pulled it off. a democrat would have been branded a commie sympathizer & been ruined politically for even suggesting such a thing. nixon got it done & that's a good thing because they're at least covering our debts for the time being.
watching obama in cairo yesterday, it struck me that if anyone could do the impossible over there(a palestinian state recognized by israel, peaceful co-existence between the us & iran, bringing hamas somehow into the whole equation, etc etc etc), it may well be him. he seems pretty determined to at least start the process honestly & openly & that may be what the rest of the players have been waiting for. you just can't have war all the time(or seeming to be on the brink of it all the time)& NOT want it to stop. these countries(& even some of the peripheral groups, for the most part)aren't run by blood thirsty tyrants. they're not crazed despots like edi amin or charles taylor or that little guy in korea. it is in everyone's interests over there to work things out.
let's be clear about something: just wanting to be open & honest isn't what's going to do it. that's a good start. the precise thing that the republican party tried to "saddle" obama with during the campaign will be what does it. obama's early contact w/the religion of islam is the key here. americans aren't comfortable w/religions outside of christianity(the uneasy history of the jews & catholics in this country pretty much demonstrates that & judaism & catholicism are part of the history of christianity!)& are blithely ignorant of them. if there were ever a prime failure of buber's i/thou dichotomy, just picture mike johnson(southern evangelical baptist)&, say, the dalai lama. it wouldn't be possible for an i/thou to function here, only i/it, mike johnson facing the classic "other." the i/thou equation is impossible because mike johnson wouldn't be capable of seeing the dalai lama as anything other than foreign & inscrutable. furthermore, he wouldn't WANT anything other than that because it would encroach on his comfort zone. this would probably not be the case if mike johnson had gone to school w/the dalai lama or worked at the toxic chemical plant w/the dalai lama or drank at the outrigger w/the dalai lama.
obama is willing to accept differences & put them aside when they can be put aside. he can do that because he has a firm & deep understanding of faith. he's seen how faith is held in religions other than his own(christianity). he's seen how others live their faiths & work their faiths & love their faiths & also seen that fundamentally it's all dealing w/pretty much the same thing. that's more than anyone from our side of the table's been willing to do for the last eight years. i think it will take all eight years of an obama presidency to shift the tides there. i think that's what his speech yesterday was all about: pointing to the willingness to see a possibility where none seems to exist.
like nixon in china.