This headline from the front page of this morning’s Report on Business was written in response to new, more restrictive, banking regulations that are being proposed by the Obama administration. The new laws are intended to curb banking greed and speculation, and protect main street’s money. After reading the article, I sat down to read my bible (don’t read anything into my reading priorities!), and came across these words from Jesus, “Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven, far from bank robbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.” Luke 12, MSG
Jesus’ big picture view made me smile. Here Obama is fighting the banking establishment so that our money will be better protected, and Jesus is saying its really not about money at all; don’t let it define you, don’t invest too heavily in it and don’t make it your god. The underlying problem in our society is that we overly define ourselves by our bottom lines. Everything is about the mad scramble to invest our time, effort and regulatory systems to better them. What Jesus is saying is, “You need to change your whole system of self definition.”
So, you have to wonder if tweaking the rules so that our money better protected will in any way help us do that.
Last night, a CBC news report showed a week-old youtube clip of a Focus on the Family dude talking about how great it would be were God to send a storm to rain out last week’s Democratic National Convention. (Obama’s speech was held in an open air stadium.) How ironic that the Republicans are now in their current dilemma; having to totally reign in their convention because of hurricane Gustav. An act of God?…
Sure, I guess. It’s hard to attribute the weather to anyone else (even though we should know better than to build cities below sea level). Hurricanes do have the power to remind us of things that are bigger than us. But perhaps this “act of God” has something more to say.
This morning’s Globe and Mail noted that, because of this impending natural disaster, both political parties have decided to pull all partisan political ads off the air for the next few days. You don’t want to be playing politics when the greater concerns of the American people are pressing in on you.
This move is, of course, good politics.
But it also begs the question. Shouldn’t both political parties always be acting this way? Avoiding partrisan BS for the greater good of the people? Why should it take a storm to cause everyone to behave?
It seems to me that, long before Gustav made the scene, there were already a lot of dark clouds in American skies. The sub-prime mess, social problems, recessionary (or worse) pressures, etc… The threat of these surging issues should have been more than enough to evoke non-partisan politeness.
But that didn’t seem to be the case. It took an ‘act of God’ to get everyone to play nice, to be fair, to work for the greater good of all Americans.
Perhaps this storm is an answer to someone’s prayers; for a more selfless and strong country.
(And I pray that everyone in the Gulf States stays safe today)
So what is it about Barack Obama? Why the huge attraction to this political phenom? Some say it’s his charismatic oratory. No doubt that’s true. The man can talk! But the bigger draw may lie in the content of his message; his hope for reconciliation.
In a world shattered by schism – war, racial divide, ideological conflict, religious fundamentalism, socio-economic disparity, and partisan bickering – Obama preaches reconciliation. He dares to dream of the possibility of something greater, something more. He’s young, idealistic and foolish enough to hang on to the power of hope…
Our jaded and cynical world needs this kind of naiveté.
We yearn for this kind of saving message. Deep inside, we want to believe that reconciliation is possible; that things can be made right.
Obama embodies this reconciliation.
Physiologically he does. In a nation plagued by a history of racial tension, Obama’s mixed heritage brilliantly unifies. A black Kenyan dad and a white Kansan mom; can you see the power in this image? African blood that, this time, crossed the Atlantic of its own free will, on a jet, to go to university, as opposed to unwillingly traveling in the belly of a slave ship; Hollywood couldn’t script this any better!
Obama’s ideology is also reconciliatory. His thoughtful, articulate, post partisan, post modern, post black and white lyric is wholly refreshing to, and representative of, the post baby boomer generation. Many have grown weary of the, “you’re either with us or against us” mantra. They won’t live inside of that kind of camp mentality any more. The simplistic extremes of fundamentalism, left and right (both of which Obama takes issue with!), are just not relevant or attractive today; the complexities of life are much more grey than that.
And Obama’s followers know that he knows that. When he’s willing to see the good in a Republican idea, willing to meet face to face with an international “enemy,” when he’s both honest and self effacing about his own foibles and fallibilities; that makes him both real and believable.
In his best selling book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama uses very uncharacteristic language for a politician; words like listening, empathy and humility. In his prologue he honestly expresses his personal concern with avoiding, “the pitfalls of fame, the hunger to please, [and] the fear of loss,” that come with serving in public office.
What kind of American politician talks this way? By being this kind of leader, Obama bridges another huge gap; the one between the politician and the populace. To many a citizen this guy seems refreshingly authentic and genuine. His honesty reveals character; a character we’d like to possess more of and follow. We’re yearning for leaders who can wisely stand above the fray in this way.
Obama also embodies socio-economic reconciliation. Raised by a single mom for most of his life, he knows what it is to want. He grew up playing with poor kids in Indonesia. His wife Michelle grew up on the poor, South Side of Chicago. Both of them understand where they came from and both of them are now living the American dream. Within their own lives they’ve bridged a big societal gap, economic disparity; their life experiences now allowing them to speak authoritatively to both sides.
Is it any wonder people are attracted to this political candidate?
It’s almost as though his reconciliatory message, his reconciliatory self, his reconciliatory hope, is perfectly suited for such a time as this. And the people know it!
In his chapter on the American Constitution, Obama speaks of Abraham Lincoln’s profound wisdom in engaging the deliberative function of a democracy in a very divisive time,
“I like to think that for Lincoln, it was never a matter of abandoning conviction for the sake of expediency. Rather is was a matter of maintaining within himself the balance between two contradictory ideas – that we must talk and reach for common understandings, precisely because all of us are imperfect and can never act with certainty that God is on our side; and yet at times we must act nonetheless, as if we are certain, protected from error only by providence.”