There’s an important and interesting message in Obama’s State of the Union address on January 25th. The speech is meant to illustrate what the condition of our nation is, to set a direction – a path or course of action, give hope to the American people and challenge us – all within about an hour. It is for this reason that the words the President (or his speech writer) chooses to use are extremely important.
The speech was characteristic of President Obama. It reads like a sport enthusiast’s analysis of a competitive basketball game. Most noticeable is that little is said about cooperation with or among the other inhabitants of the earth. The assumption that America must be first, the best, and the most enlightened is rude and arrogant and demonstrates the President’s lack of experience in the world order and reading of the history of the world. The President states, “And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.”
The address shows the basic boastful and capitalistic “me first” attitude that places the U.S. in competition with the other people of the world. It is the very kind of disrespectful language people in other nations expect to hear from Americans.
After all, we Americans are the übermensch of the world and we are destined to be the übermensch in the future.
“America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. (Applause.) No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.”
“Half a century ago,” Obama says, “when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon.”
The President places us in a race with the other peoples of the world: “Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America’s success. But if we want to win the future -– if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas -– then we also have to win the race to educate our kids. Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. The future is ours to win.”
He continues, “We must be the most powerful nation in the world” and “We will go wherever we need to to preserve our interests.” And, “What America does better than anyone else — is spark the creativity and imagination of our people.” With these words, he has stepped into the weakest link in his policy: foreign affairs, torture, secret lists of enemies, his permanent wars and drone bombings. “Our success in this new and changing world will require reform, responsibility, and innovation. It will also require us to approach that world with a new level of engagement in our foreign affairs.” Is he saying that more “shock and awe’s” are to come and that he intends to impose more of American-style democracy on the rest of the world’s people?
For Obama to move forward is to call for more militarism in this country: “I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC. It is time to leave behind the divisive battles of the past. “It is time to move forward as one nation.” And “Our destiny remains our choice.”
His analysis is upside down, and alienates us from the rest of the world rather than accomplishing a rapprochement with our allies. He adds, “What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -– the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny.” Really? No other nation has ever fought a revolution or consolidated its power for the sake of an idea? Good night to thousands of people throughout the world. The arrogance is mind-boggling. It is just as legitimate to argue that our strength as Americans is to preserve and emphasize our interconnectivity and cooperation with the world.
“We will move forward together, or not at all -– for the challenges we face are bigger than part.” This does not mean “together” with the rest of the species on this planet; on the contrary, it only refers to us Americans.
“And America’s moral example must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.” We have tremendous problems here including the imprisonment of more people than almost any country in the world. We are conducting illegal wars. We are giving our juveniles life imprisonment.
If we were in a race with the rest of world, where is the finish line?