Wednesday, December 02, 2009

America's diminishing verities

WITH all its flaws, with all the harsh testaments of its historical wrongs, with all the gaudy exuberances of its mores, with all the imperfect articulations of its human structures, with all its comprehensive tarnishments that are forever confronted and rectified in ceaseless debates and animated discourses - America was the greatest illustration of the defining moment of man since the infant Rome stirred in the fullness of democratic glory and martial power.

Since it broke upon the world with its industry and scholarship, with its enterprise and dazzling creativity, with its adventurous individualism, rescuing Europe from the first ferment of the Teutonic fury, America was the agreed aspirational beacon, the far-flung distant possibility that lesser nations quest to imitate in idealised dreams.

In the vigour of its liberty, in the equity of its justice, in its instinctive accommodating truth, giving embrace to everyone without being detained by primordial bigotry, nudging excellence regardless of colour, shattering the outposts of communistic deceit, firmly colliding against the janissaries of roguish Mohammedanism without excuses, without the belittling hand-wringing of thoughtless leadership - America stood tall, rooted in that sturdiness of character and attainments that define a great Republic.

It was then the voice of those who writhed in the severe anonymity of the dungeons of tyranny. It was the resuscitative hope of the despaired dying band from the gulags of Bolshevism to the primitive theatres of despotic Africa. It was a defiant moralistic symbol that was confident of its own truth, restrained by its own value, resolute to grapple with any foe in the pursuit and the defence of liberty.

Hence the Kennedy admonition: "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and success of liberty."

That was yesterday. That was when the rallying leadership of a great Republic was truly a representative man who embodied the spirit of the age. That was when power was overborne by a mighty presence who invoked the summative vision of a people, steering the statecraft with iron will, confronting the challenges of the hour with grit and gravitas, etching in everyone the pride of the Republic.

For truly, like Emerson tells us, the greatness of a nation is most observable in the burnishing luster of a symbol, in the nuances and graces of a representative icon who espouses our collective dream, who defines the nation's possibilities. In this idealisation, the leadership is the mirror of the national will, the confronting emblem of the national content.

Today the American national content largely resides in Barack Obama. By the virtue of his position alone, he is the greatest testimony of America's redeeming possibilities. In the loftiness of his height, in the unprecedented eminence of his presidential perch, Obama best illustrates the collective will of a people to vault the ancient barriers of colour, to stamp out the divisive barricades, to embrace everyone by the reckoning of character and excellence. Sprung from the obscurity of the Illinois legislative assembly, vaulted from the freshman anonymity of the American Senate, Obama now presides from the unifying eminence of a national badge.

He is an emblem alright! But where is the gravitas? Where is the eminence? Where is the national will? Where is that defining corpus of national fixity and determination? Everywhere, there is a wobble and unsteady gaze. Certainty is gone. The stern resolve of yesterday is now replaced with moral preachments and stifling ambiguity.

Mr. Obama is a good man, an emblematic symbol of peace who resides in some utopian corpus that believes that every tyrant can be swayed through rhetorics, that insists every murderous mullah can be steered to civility through pandering gestures and aimless speechifying.

And yet Mr. Obama is a good man. Since he is convinced in some muddled rationality that his predecessor was some arrogant fiend who had scourged the world in primitive licence, Mr. Obama in his vestal majesty must now atone for the 'evil' ways of yesterday by kowtowing, genuflecting from Venezuela to the dunes of Araby. America is now warped in diminutive comicality. Obama's presidency is steeped in prostration and appeasement. The revanchist nationalists in Russia, sponsoring proxy wars and fragmentations of former Soviet states are quixotically parried by the dismantlement of the defences of allied states, thus exposing vulnerable democracies to the grasping claws of an angry, resurgent Bear.

The ill-conceived pacific gestures to Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad are violently scoffed at and derided as feeble rantings from America. And why does Mr. Obama bow in sheer perpendicular ridiculousness before ancient, effete monarchs from the dunes of Araby to the Nipponese enclave? Bowing and looking down the toes of the Saudi Arabian king and His Imperial Majesty of the Chrysanthemum throne of a non-existing Japanese empire degrades Mr. Obama, degrades the American people, affronts the American Constitution, demeans the spirit of 1776.

Asked if she would bow before any of these feudal potentates, Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska responded: "No, sir." That is the American way. It is in the spirit of the constitution which forbids any American official to accept a title or honour from any potentate. Bowing before any of these feudal lords is even worse. It is an encouragement of feudal latitude. Mr. Obama should know that extending courtesy to a feudal lord does not inhere in the nullification of one's tradition. Excessive accommodation of other people's custom to the detriment of one's own is not a sign of civility but a testimony of weakness.

Indeed, there is an untoward solicitousness about Mr. Obama. He is desperately grasping for acceptability, believing falsely that America must be remoulded in the warped image of the leftist in Europe and in the confused agenda of the Nobel clique who would give a bogus award in the perverted anticipation of presidential attainments! Surely, being president is not about being detained by ancestral chains or being halted by constant droning of one's beginning. Those are not the measures that gave Obama victory over John McCain. Being president is about standing beyond the fray of colour, eclipsing everything in an American identity, confronting the challenges of the hour in the fullness of the American ideal.

Yes, being president is about standing tall, wielding the big stick, aligning with the dispossessed, giving voice to the unheard, colliding with tyranny from Sudan to Venezuela. In a world rivened by brigands and murderous zealots, distorted by chaotic state actors and strutting charlatans, tormented by virulent psychopaths who would blow up the world as well as themselves; all protesting the righteous purity of their visions - there is a need for an arbitrating moral arbiter. There is a need for the moderating majesty of a great power who stands above the fray with firm authoritative bearing, who intervenes on behalf of everyone with the full vigour of a democratic behemon, ultimately restrained by the redeeming values of its own tradition. The behemon is America. But no more!

Last week The Spectator of London put on its cover a ghoulish empty suit leaning across the table of the Oval Office like a cringing haunting spectre with voided substantiation. It is captioned in damning assertiveness: "The worst kind of ally." Alas, this is what the thoughtful democratic league now believes of the presiding power in America.