Thursday, March 5, 2009

America is Cool Again

Not since the early sixties has America so epitomized the notion of cool in the world as we do today. What began as a fist bump on the primary trail has reached a national shout-out before both chambers of Congress. The Obamas in the White House has once again provided the world with the desire to be a part of America and part of the cool that they perceive America to be. Whether it’s the pop star reception of Hillary Clinton in Asia or the talk around European capitals the buzz is unmistakable. The thing about the Kennedy administration that many have forgotten was that they had style and exuded cool to not only Americans but to the world. They made other people in the world want to be American and if they couldn’t be American to immolate American style and coolness.

After decades of waiting America and the world can now usher in a new era of vitality and panache. We must not underestimate the value of chic and coolness in the global marketplace of ideas. America represented more than just democracy and capitalism to the world. America represented the freedom to express your coolness in ways that the old world could not. America represented new ideas and new ways of expression, innovation and a spirit of compassion for those who did not share our abundance. It is hard to recruit people to kill you if they see in you their hopes and their desires being realized. The reason we are despised in the world today is because we took those hopes and those desires of the worlds unwanted and we profited from them. Our concern wasn’t to liberate them or enrich them instead it was to exploit them. We offered them hope and instead gave them whiskey and a “Big Mac.” Instead of embracing and acknowledging the value of their cultures we judged and condemn them.

We no longer reached out to the world with a hand of friendship and mutual understanding; instead we hid behind barbed-wire and guns. Before the world got to know us through our people who were willing to suffer the indignities of those they came to help instead of through our military. Those brave young Americans did more for our standing in the world than all of our bombs and rockets. These volunteers allowed the world to see the American people as people just like they were not as conquerors or liberators. The world got to see that we were cool. We may have been too arrogant and overconfident, but we were still cool and were willing to try to help those we could. There were many casualties to our volunteer efforts but the mission continued and for generations we enjoyed the goodwill of most of the world despite our continued efforts to profit from their misery.

So here we are today with a new opportunity to once again reach out to the world with hope and a shared sense of purpose. While there are many who want to continue the gun-boat diplomacy bred by fear and hatred we must overcome those forces and realize that we once again have the chance to influence generations of the world’s people not through might of arms but through right of purpose. We Americans need to believe in the good in the world and the rest of the world is no different. They want to believe that we represent what we claim to represent freedom, compassion, and understanding. Let us begin today to not fall for the politics of greed and the philosophy of fear that has paralyzed us from taking our rightful place in the world as the purveyors of cool and the beacon of freedom.

President Obama and First Lady Michelle have a style and a flair that we have so desperately needed. They both exude a confidence that is not based in arrogant power but based in a quiet acceptance of their roles in this world and humility for the enormity of the tasks that await them. Let’s face it being cool won’t stop al Qaeda from wanting to destroy America but it will make recruiting a little bit harder because cool is a lot harder to rally support against than boisterous and bellicose. We had a similar example in the campaign and it is hard to be against hope. We must understand and accept that what is missing in these men’s and women’s lives is not consumerism or democracy, it is hope. It is hope in the future that it will be better than their yesterday and their today. If we can’t provide the world with hope then it won’t matter how many bombs and tanks we have it won’t be enough to protect us.

Yet, when the President and First Lady walk into a room there is a hope, a sense that our best days are ahead of us. As I watched them arrive at the address of the joint chambers of Congress I couldn’t help but think these folks are cool. It’s funny how sometimes in life you don’t know you have missed something until it arrives and then it is like the break of a new day and you realize this is what was missing. Somehow it gives you comfort that wasn’t there before. I don’t think for one minute that President Obama will solve all of our nation’s problems or that his policies are the only solutions to them, but I get a real sense of the measure of the man that gives me confidence. Tom Delay stated that the American public elects Presidents to be caretakers and not to change the country. While this may have been true for the past 30 years there have been times in our nation’s history when the people elected someone to shape this nation to lead us into a new world. I would ask Mr. Delay if the country elected Lincoln or the Roosevelt’s to be caretakers. I think not. The country does not have the luxury of a caretaker at this moment in history and that is why we rejected the Republicans and John McCain.

The country chose cool and the world will be better for it.


Dictionary said...

Um, dude, when Bush was president, the world wanted to immolate America and American style. Now that Obama is president, I would hope the world would want to imitate American style, not set it on fire.

Forgiven said...

Forgive me the term I wanted to use was emulate...

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