Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Far From Exceptional

The president took a sabbatical from his family vacation to return to Washington to address the ongoing events in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri.

In a hastily held news conference the president said the US air attacks coupled with Iraqi and Kurdish ground forces had halted the advance of ISIS insurgents and had retaken a key dam near Mosul. The president said that the air strikes would continue for the foreseeable future. Media types speculate that the president may be preparing the country for the insertion of US ground forces into the fray. The president’s critics stated flatly that he isn’t doing enough. “ISIS is preparing to attack our homeland” say the critics on the right; as if eliminating ISIS will bring eternal peace and tranquility to the region.

On the subject of Ferguson, Missouri the president announced that he is sending Atty. General Eric Holder to provide federal oversight into the investigation of the shooting of Michael Brown. When asked if there wasn’t more that he could do to quell the violence the president said: “I have to be careful not to be seen as prejudging these events because the Department of Justice works for me. I can’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or another.” As expected the president’s remarks brought criticism from both the right and the left. The left called his comments “bloodless” and “Cosbyism;” labeling him “disengaged” for sending Holder instead of making the trip himself. The right ripped him for “not having the back of law enforcement.” Damned if you do…damned if you don’t. You have probably hit the right tone if both sides are pissed at you.

I believe the president hit the right cord on the situation in Ferguson. He is not the president of the Black States of America or the White States of America. He is the president of the United States of America. As such his words have power and influence. Allowing the justice system to play out is the right thing to do. Sending the Attorney General is a clear statement on how seriously he takes the situation. After all, how many criminal investigations are assigned by the president to the nation’s chief law enforcement officer?

Regarding Iraq, I do not believe that short of indefinite occupation there is anything our nation can do to bring a to an end a civil war that has been ongoing for centuries. It is up to the Iraqis to bring this war to an end.

We can however end the civil war of racism that continues to fester in our country. We can marginalize those who believe that a person’s worth is somehow determined by the color of their skin. We can marginalize those who believe that a broken home, miserable childhood and economic difficulties justify the use of violence against one’s fellow citizens. We can marginalize those who believe that wearing a badge gives one the right to play God and that use of excessive force, abuse of power and police brutality are a path to civil tranquility. Until we remove the blight of racism in this country I don’t see how we can ever become the exceptional nation we claim to be.

The president returns to Martha’s Vineyard today to resume his vacation. I wonder how restful it can be. Surely, when the president first took the oath six years ago he could not possibly have envisioned that six years hence the key issues on his plate would be Iraq and race riots in the heartland.

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