Friday, September 25, 2009

Let's Change the World . . . and Then Have Lunch

Two days ago the President of the United States of America gave an important address to the United Nations General Assembly. Before the speech he met with the Prime Minister of Japan at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. After the address he joined the leaders of nations contributing peace-keeping troops, followed shortly thereafter by a wreath-laying ceremony for fallen United Nations staff members. By 1:15 he was at lunch with world leaders.

After lunch he headed straightaway to a sit-down with President Medvedev of Russia. And then he and the Head of the Family, Mrs. President Obama, hosted a reception for Heads of State at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

I ride a bike ten miles from our apartment to the Loop and back, and I have to rest for a day or two. This guy is fleet of foot. The Secret Service advance team must be running cable 24 hours a day.

Anyway, he started his speech to the princes of peace at the United Nations by announcing that there was a new sheriff in town, and the U. S. of A. would be taking the moral high ground henceforth.

On my first day in office, I prohibited – without exception or equivocation – the use of torture by the United States of America (Applause. Applause. Applause) I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed, and we are doing the hard work of forging a framework to combat extremism within the rule of law.

Within the rule of law . . . that phrase must have sent shivers down Mr. Cheney’s stint. Right there at the top of the speech, like it was REALLY important.

And it must have been a tough one to listen to for the hoarders who have been running the Walmarts out of .45 and .38 caliber ammunition for the past nine months in anticipation of the horrors the administration will wreak on their Second Amendment rights.

Thomas Jefferson had something to do with that Amendment, the guy with the ponytail who said, “Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.”

Jefferson probably would have nodded in agreement when the President said, “Every nation must know: America will live its values, and we will lead by example.”

Then came the “Four Pillars,” the heart of the speech, which the President defined as (1) stopping the spread of nuclear weapons; (2) the pursuit of peace; (3) the preservation of the planet; and (4) a global economy that advances opportunity for all people.

So I’m wondering where the noble opposition goes with this one. To disagree with the country’s elected leader one would have to: (1) be for the spread of nuclear weapons; (2) be against the pursuit of world peace; (3) be for the continued destruction of a livable planet; and (4) be against the concept that all men should be guaranteed the pursuit of happiness.

That last phrase – that pursuit of happiness thing – I’ve read that somewhere before.

In an increasingly hostile world another United States President appeared before Congress almost 60 years ago and listed that same principle as part of what he called the “four essential human freedoms.” Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union Speech defined those freedoms in this way . . .

The first was freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

Next was the freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world.

Thirdly, came a freedom that would secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world.

Finally, Roosevelt spoke of a freedom from fear, a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation would be in a apposition to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world.

On that distant January night Roosevelt ended his speech with these words:

This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.

It is interesting to note that for Roosevelt the nation’s greatest strength was a unity of purpose. We may well disagree on the ways in which the President Obama’s four pillars are lifted into place. That’s the beauty of living in a free country. It was what led John F. Kennedy to observe that the unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion. But we citizens of this great nation should not disagree on the overriding importance of the basic doctrine that is the unity of freedom for all people.

What we need is for the wrong-side-of-the-aislers underneath the Big Dome to cinch their neckties up a little tighter and choke the nay-saying for awhile. We get it. You lost. You’re unhappy. But the greatest test of a man’s nobility is that he puts aside his own personal unhappiness and works to make the lives of those around him better.

That’s what a representative democracy is supposed to be about.

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