Saturday, June 06, 2009

I like the cut of Obama’s jib

Scanning the headlines today there are a lot of stories about the D-day landings, an important anniversary for our little island and for other nations around the world. I was particularly struck by the speech that Obama gave (watch it here) a couple of things he said stood out for me and inspired me with some hope for the future.

There were two particular thoughts that encouraged me, firstly the comment he made about the concept of truth, he said that we live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true, religions, governments and cultures etc. he went on to say that the 2nd world war provided a cause that united humanity and he implied that the cause was "true" because of that. This may not seem significant, but from my perspective this is very significant. When I contrast what Obama said today with what I imagine someone like Bush would say (and has said in the past) I am hopeful that the zeitgeist of the last 10 years may finally be changing. The critical thing for me is the emphasis and positioning of the concepts here, of course, I may be reading too much into his words but what I heard Obama say was that religions and cultures compete, their beliefs are simply claims about the truth and that no one has a monopoly, what is really true is human solidarity, when we rally around humanity and put aside the claims of things like religion then we are capable of great things and of defeating great evils. Imagine what someone like Bush would have said (if he could actually string a whole sentence together of course), perhaps something like "by the grace of God the soldiers overcame stupendous odds, knowing that right was on their side" etc. Of course this is hypothetical because Bush was not there and did not speak but based on previous speeches I am applying a little artistic license to make my point. The point I am making is more a question, do we place all Gods or any Gods, all culture or any culture above humanity and live divided, or is it better to use human solidarity as the one thing that can binds us all together.

The second sentence that pleased me was toward the end when he said that the allied forces we "made up of men of all faiths and men of no faith", this is really important and the second prominent speech that I have heard him use these words. It sends an important message to religious people, particularly in the USA, the message says having no faith is OK, it is a valid position to hold, I would go so far as to say his implication is that no faith is an equally valid position to hold. The context and setting that he said these words too was significant, the "no Atheists in fox holes" brigade show up everywhere, especially in the USA showing great arrogance and ignorance, my own Granddad was there, he felt the fear and witnessed the horrors, he played his part in 1944, getting injured for his trouble, he did all that willingly for the sake of human solidarity, without the need for supernatural authority.


Elizabeth said...

Yes, Obama has finally spared a thought for the non-believers.

He was good yesterday, I agree. Brown looked totally pre-occupied. He could have at least tried to look interested.

Steve Borthwick said...

E, I didn't see Brown but I can imagine, he doesn't look interested when he's at his best, it really is time he went!

Elizabeth said...

Oh you should have seen him, sitting on the stage with the rain falling down, not involved with the proceedings. A disgrace. I loved it when they booed him.