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Hope hurts

From Martin Varsavsky:

On November 5th Americans will discover that the world did not hate them. That they just hated Bush.

(Knocking wood.) And (knocking entire old-growth forests) maybe we’ll discover that we don’t have to hate ourselves. May the war between the Red and the Blue begin to end.

It will not be a love-in. In particular, the culture warriors on the left will discover that they didn’t elect a tribal leader. They elected (feverish wood-knocking) a person with liberal values who will continue to repudiate the touchstone liberal issues precisely as touchstones, just as he has done throughout this campaign: Drill, baby, drill, if you can find places where drilling truly wouldn’t hurt the environment. Merit pay for teachers, baby, so long as all teachers are paid respectful wages. Obama’s hope is that we can get past the kneejerk positions that are used to test the loyalty of the faithful, that is, that are used to drive our country apart.

It’s not compromising, in which each side grudgingly gives up a little. It’s certainly not triangulating, by which cowards flee to the least dangerous position. It’s called listening — finding what’s best in what’s being said. It is the only way we heal. It’s what Obama has been about throughout his life.

So, get ready for some hope. It’s going to sting at first.

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7 Responses to “Hope hurts”

  1. “The World” does not dislike just Bush; they dislike the US due to its pre-eminent position. Clinton learned this in the 90’s, and Obama will learn the same thing next year.

  2. I find Varsavsky’s quote naive and unsuitable. What matters is not whether or not “The World”, as proclaimed by some billionare, likes or dislikes the US. And it’s never as easy as that. Obama will do and say things that we don’t like. And he will do and say things that we love. He will do and say things that my neighbour in Berlin down the street will love, and that I will hate. And vice versa.

    The only thing that matters is that reason and careful deliberation reign supreme in the White House. Regardless of what “the World” may think.

    Whether I like it or not – the US president determines the spirit of world politics. And it’s just so much more conducive to progress if that position is held by someone who believes in listening, careful thinking, acting. And not so much in hunting, careless kneejerking, screaming.

  3. The only thing that matters is that reason and careful deliberation reign supreme in the White House. Regardless of what “the World” may think.

    But the Bush administration would tell you that that is exactly what they’ve done — in fact, what you lay out here is a rationale for continued pure unilateralism in its strongest “we make our own reality” form.

    What I think Varsavsky is saying (and he’s not a naive guy) is that the recognition that there are international feedback loops leads to a different kind of calculation, in which the risk of unilateralism itself has to be part of any consideration of action. The practical effect of such considerations is to act with more regard to the effects of such actions on the larger world.

    Note that this is not about abandoning the concept of self-interest; instead, its a recognition that the considerable near-term advantages of unilateral action don’t look so rosy in the longer term. (I’d put that single issue forward as a principal cause of the failure of US public diplomacy efforts post-9/11, in fact. A host of unilateral actions from pre-emptive war in Iraq to the use of torture have all been rationalized on the very terms you raise, yet their long-term value has, from my pov, been negative.)

  4. @Clay: If I came across as a unilateralist, then that was not my intention. Being German, I find it hard to be that, actually. We have borders with more countries than any other nation in Europe (I believe), and I find that adopting different perspectives and trying to understand them, in order to make better decisions, is fundamental for holistic and long-term political thinking.

    But I resent the simplification that says “Vote Obama and the world will like you again”. That is not something US citizens need to read and consider when thinking about tomorrow. It’s a matter of perspective, once more. We should not stress that other countries like the US more when Obama is president, but rather that the US will simply fare so much better internationally when they have a leader who is interested in true dialogue and joint initiatives.

    (Am I mincing words?)

  5. As a patriotic American, I think we can be perfectly hateful without Bush. And as James implies, we’re big enough that we can even produce hateful consequences when we try to help (spending a fair amount of time in Latin America can bring that lesson home).
    Martin and Clay bring out the higher level aspects of the situation. At a lower level, in years spent overseas, I have found few who waste much energy on either loving or hating the US, and practically none who are not ready to make an exception for the individual American they happen to meet.

  6. Our mind is changing
    we are witnessing and discussing the entire planet
    our market is already one and only one
    our cultures are merging
    we cannot stop this, even if we want it
    if you are reading my lines right now
    you are already past the here vs there mind set

    lets face it
    Here is neither the US neither any other country on earth
    is just the ‘Public opinion’

    may be tomorrow or in the near future
    we have to deal with this
    and start listen to each other, the sooner the better,
    there is simply no other way to go into our future
    like or not
    you can convince way more people with a net campaign that you can kill in an week of bombing
    that is why I hope a guy with a firm understanding of the Net mentality will be in charge of the most powerful army on earth, whoever that belongs to

  7. In the case of my wife’s french cousin and her husband, that is a true statement. They have steadfastly refused to visit us in Florida for the past 7 years because of Bush. In a phone call last week, they said they were praying for an Obama win and would come see us next spring.

    Lest some troll leaves some remarks about the French, let me add that the many French I have met and known think highly of the country. (That includes France’s first woman senator — who is from my wife’s family) Their dislike of Bush/Cheney, however, predates America’s awakening to their ineptitude.

    The 100K people that attended Obama’s Berlin visit/speech is a good indication that Europeans (at least) view him positively as a representation for our country.

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