So he can’t walk on water.
Nor heal the sick with a touch.
His smile won’t summon sunrise, nor cause angelic choirs to sing from the skies.
Still. Of all the presidential candidates ever to rise on the world stage, none have appeared more attuned than Barack Hussein Obama to notions of the common good–notions of inclusion, openness, nurturing, forgiveness and reconciliation, in keeping with our best spiritual traditions.
It showed in all the beautiful acts of his first 48 hours in office.
Our savior? On some level he’d better be, else we are lost.
Economically, environmentally, diplomatically, judicially, militarily, culturally and ethically, we have fallen.
Our challenges are existential, not in some mysterious, intellectual way, but in that our existence has been put at risk. And it’s been put at risk mostly by forces that spring from the darkness inside our own hearts.
False prophets led us to this abyss mostly by pointing fingers at the alleged shortcomings of others as the source of all our troubles. The result has been ill-advised invasions, torture, deregulation, military budgets that grow insanely, politics of personal destruction, waste, corruption, assaults on personal liberties, the Constitution, our very earth.
To acknowledge we’ve lost our way, marching off in every direction with drums pounding, violins skirling and banners flying, is to acknowledge the need for salvation. Our civilizaton hangs by a thread. One false move and we risk unimaginable chaos and violence. Business as usual, politics as usual, will not save us. Pandering, blaming others, drawing down dwindling resources, building fierce new weapons and marching off against imagined enemies are luxuries we can no longer afford.
Has anyone challenged such old ways of doing business as Obama has? Of all the presidential candidates I’ve witnessed, his message has been the most hopeful, at least so far.
So far, he’s been about healing. So far he’s been about reaching out. So far he’s been about uniting tribes.
No, this impulse doesn’t show in every appointment, and we must watch such players with vigilance. Still, as teachers from Jesus to Machiavelli have noted, there’s wisdom in hugging your opponents close by.
A dinner for his biggest opponent, John McCain, on the eve of the inauguration? Unprecdented.
A place in the new administration for chief rivals Hillary, Biden and others? Outside the political norm.
Gathering both a fundamentalist minister and a gay bishop into inauguration festivities? Unheard of.
His campaign should’ve prepared us for this. Accused of hatemongering by association with the Rev. Wright, he elevated the conversation in a speech that addressed race honestly and eloquently.
Accused of radicalism by association with William Ayers, he turned the other cheek, refusing to make much of McCain’s own radical associations.
When it comes to Obama’s fitness to lead, the signs have mostly been good. That’s why some, myself included, have gushed at times, ‘Please, embrace this sane, rational and decent man.’
Looking back across the landscape of his sojourn, Obama’s made a history of embracing enemies, pouring oil on troubled waters, turning the other cheek. All along, he’s inveighed against embracing the darkness inside our own hearts, and urged us to.
Oppose unnecessary wars.
Oppose the deliberate cruelty of torture.
Oppose unbridled greed.
Oppose destruction of communities.
Oppose prejudice against women, gays and immigrants.
Oppose the urge so prevalent within the human heart to scapegoat and demonize.
Oppose nuclear proliferation and other forces that endanger the whole earth.
Maybe it’s because he is of the Whole Earth generation that he’s so attuned to this existential moment. Obama is of a generation that grew up with the Whole Earth as ubiquitous icon. His generation grew up electronically connected and therefore exposed to the cruelties, pieties and generosities of others. He spent times not only at elite universities but also on the streets, driving broken down cars. He took a magical mystery tour as he sought to understand his own mythic family, his own identity. In coming to such understanding, he forged a new politics.
His message of peace, love, hope and community springs from this journey, this seeking, this essence that is Barack Hussein Obama. At last he can proclaim his full name. It’s part of a message that recognizes the dignity of others, the dignity of blood, sweat and tears and a world community we all must work to save, lest it fall into the abyss that yawns inside each human heart.
Obama as savior? On some level he’d better be.
Else we are lost.
Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, short story writer and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, ‘ORACLE OF THE ORCHID LOUNGE,’ set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. Along with Greg Palast, Marjorie Cohn, Norman Solomon, Will Durst, James Secor and others, he is a contributing editor to Media With Conscience (www.mwcnews.net) and his commentary frequently leads the page at www.opednews.com. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit the NMW website at www.NewMillenniumWritings.com.