Thursday, June 4, 2009

Swinging For the Fences

"It felt wrong not to swing."

Merril says this in Signs, one of the more brilliant movies of the last ten years, in defense of his minor league baseball strike out record(it's also one of the scariest experiences for me personally..I've got a whole aliens-terror thing). It's important to note that Merril, in the movie, also has five batting records. Some might compare this kind of thing to Brett Favre...sure, he's got the most interceptions in football history, but at least he won the Super Bowl and blah blah blah...

President Obama, in fulfillment of a campaign promise, chose to give a big speech in Cairo, Egypt this morning. Much has been written about the speech and what it means to everyone from great aunt Aeesha in Tehran to Bob the mechanic in Columbus, Ohio. In fact, the buzz surrounding the lead-up to this speech has been nearly deafening.

The speech was good. Of course it was good. President Obama has a singular talent that we probably won't see in another president for many years to come. It's not just about wow-factor, though. In fact, his speeches haven't really raised one's heart rate in quite a while...since "Yes we can"? Nevertheless, he understands oratory better than most people. He knows a president can't be all fireworksy and preachy; a president has to be a presence in a, "I've got it all under control" sort of way. He must, even in a mere speech, take on all the burdens of the world and be able to stand up under it. Wow it's hard to be President of the United States.

Of course the praise and criticism from journalists form a landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see. Everyone has an opinion: Iran's Ayatollah, Rush Limbaugh, Liz Cheney(in fact, if those 3 got in a room together, they could have quite the bitch-fest about the president). What I'm struck by, though, is the ballsy nature of the speech. It's the Audacity of sumpthin to take on Israel-Palestine, nuclear Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, and centuries of Muslim blood-feuds all in the same 55-minute time slot.

What are we capable of as a people? I think many have been wondering this indirectly since President Obama blew into office four-ish months ago. Health care, Iraq, Iran, budget, economic crisis, GM, banks, the Supreme Court, Hugo Chavez playing face-saving games, North Korean missiles, Gitmo closing, stimulus packages, global warming.....lyrics to a Billy Joel song? No, this is our life. What are we capable of as a people? I don't know, but our new president seems to think that we can do a lot of stuff all at the same time.

I really don't know the answer, but I love the attempt. Why not? What's the alternative? In the words of Aaron Sorkin, "America is advanced citizenship. You've gotta want it bad"(The American President). Is the president being reckless or bold? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I'm really proud of my country and my president, and I think our best days are still ahead of us.

Swing away, Merril

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