From: Betty Reid Soskin
Subject: Wheels ever turning ...
Date: Nov 21, 2012 1:17 PM
Been thinking since your recent message -- about just how I'm feeling about this second term. I've learned a lot, not the least of which is that -- while I'm generally quite satisfied with his first term, there are some profound disappointments as well. And they're not race-based, surely not as much as one might expect. I've been getting some practice in trying to field questions posed by the audiences during my twice-weekly presentations in the little theater of the Visitors Center. Your recent message inviting me to wonder about the comparisons between then and now (the Inaugurations), really started the wheels turning. Whether or not such thoughts are of any value to your (potential) assignment, I've learned a lot from these me-to-me "discussions."
I'm finding that -- where there is a general feeling of satisfaction with Obama's first term, and a good deal of hope for the second, there are some major disappointments as well. Obviously, he's had to toe the line in a delicate balance in an effort to be president of "all the people" in the face of dashed hopes of African Americans who've been waiting in line for justice and equality since the Emancipation Proclamation, at least. I'd hate to have been faced with that impossible choice. With Prof. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley leading the charge, it must have been extremely difficult at times.
But in the end, it was not the racial issues that were the most disturbing. The most crushing disappointment for me personally, was trying to come to terms with a side of his personality that was unseen prior to his ascendance to become undisputed Leader of the Free World. It was his abandonment of the Rule of Law -- the bedrock of our whole system of governance. I remember weeping as I watched him stand at the lectern to announce that we'd brutally killed Osama Bin Laden. The stark presence of an air of vengeance in that moment was almost too much to bear. Why had we not captured and tried Bin Laden in our courts for the whole world to see?
When had we entered into wars against individuals? At my age, I had experienced WWII, and painfully come terms with the essential wars of defense against governments.
It was distressing when we drifted into wars against 'terrorists' under the Bush administration, but I'd believed that was an aberration, and -- when they left office, sanity would return. Instead we've drifted into an endless war against unknown individuals who might have been dealt with by Interpol at an earlier time. Instead, I've grown less and less comfortable with the continuance of Guantanamo and the disturbing image of military technicians sitting in bunkers somewhere in Colorado -- lobbing Drones into faraway lands to slay those who've been judged as "terrorists."
It's been a slow decline from WWII when 54.8 millions lives were sacrificed, worldwide, and when we were still counting civilian death -- to now, when any casualties but our own are summarily dismissed as "collateral damage."
Why do I lay this at the feet of our president (for whom I had such high hopes)? It's because his education and background -- even before his experience at community organizing -- was in constitutional law. How on earth did he end up the only Nobel Peace prize recipient with a kill list? Has he really abandoned the Rule of Law, and if so, what hope do we have for not becoming the scourge of the world?
That night as he announced the killing of Bin Laden, there was more than a hint of having avenged a wrong. "An eye for an eye" is a step back into the dark world of the past, and somehow I hoped that we were better than that, and that he would lead us to our better selves.
Disturbing thoughts on the eve of his second inauguration, right? Maybe my hopes were just too high. Perhaps we should be satisfied with his domestic successes - which are considerable. But in a fast-changing world that is shrinking so fast through technological advances and unprecedented mobility, we're impacted by forces that are shaping our future in ways that we can hardly comprehend. It was impossible not to feel the urgency of the "Arab Spring," and to not share the hopes and dreams of other peoples in other places over our breakfast coffee and the first search of the Internet each morning. We can't afford "vengeance," at a time when the world is crying for "democracy" of the kind that both our president and our people (of whatever color) have been yearning for over the millenium. We need to keep being the hope of the world, and if Obama has a mandate, it's international, and achievable -- I believe -- and if his abandonment of the Rule of Law is any indication of his mindset -- I'm not sure I want to know it.