Saturday, January 31, 2009

Obama's Address to Muslim World Received Widely Divergent Reviews

In his unprecedented address to the pan-Arab world on satellite station al-Arabyia,  Obama spoke to the Muslims as though he were one of them,   and assured them that they would be treated with dignity if they would take that same stance toward us.  He admitted that the US has been too dictatorial at times,  too aggressive;   and has had a fractured view of the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

On the right,  and among those who "stand with Israel",  this is viewed as nothing less than Obama "showing his true colors",  "putting the US in harm's way"  ,  "a major security breach",  a secret signal to the Muslim world that as President he will put an end to Israel's gravy train.  "  I am one of you,  and I am on your side,  and will put an end to this American bully-fest":  This is the subtext which the right-wing ear hears.  Drew Weston of Huffington Post was slammed as a sort of naive,  liberal, idiot psychologist.  To many on the right,  Obama is nothing less than Osama bin Laden's secret ally. 

On the left,  Obama's address is seen as gentle,  kind;  diplomacy at its best.  A new venue,  a fresh and psychologically sound break with the Bush-Cheney hubris.  Humane,  reasonable,  almost paternal:  "Let's all get along."  That is the liberal subtext which reaches liberal ears.  

My own view:  It is a mix of both.  It is real change:  Some reasonable and very good,  even excellent and noble ideas,   delivered with a regally Presidential diplomatic stance,  and a very slight taint of resentment,  caused by many factors:   some more extreme than others;  some personal and some collective and social.  But Change it is.  Change and a veering away from the Bush decade.  "Whither are we tending?" can certainly be answered at least in part:  In a new direction;  that much is certain.  Whether it will be better or worse remains to be seen ( although I think it is less likely that it will be the latter,  and most probably the former);  but it will be new and different.

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