Monday, March 28, 2011

The President's North Star: Pragmatic Idealism

Or, "what can be done, ought to be done." I guess that is sort of like "passionate moderation."

I was struck by a particular phrase in the President's speech on Libya tonight:
our strength abroad is anchored in our strength here at home.  That must always be our North Star -- the ability of our people to reach their potential, to make wise choices with our resources, to enlarge the prosperity that serves as a wellspring for our power, and to live the values that we hold so dear.

The use of the "North Star" as a reference point made me think of the Underground Railroad and those slaves like Harriet Tubman who "followed the drinking gourd" or the Big Dipper pointing to the North Star in their flight to freedom. I let the thought pass until I was reading commentary on the speech summarized by Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic and was surprised that Thomas E. Ricks at Foreign Policy had noticed the use of the subtle reference to the North Star as well. He linked it to the name of Frederick Douglass's Newspaper. And in that link, Frederick Douglass refers to the mission of Abolitionism as:
We believe that what ought to be done, can be done. [emphasis in the original].
It's hard to dispute that sentiment. Yet, it seems to me that the President's case for the intervention in Libya is that because we could do something to prevent crimes against humanity with real allies, UN authority, limited involvement, yet ability to act, etc., then, we ought to do it. He seems to be a Pragmatic Idealist.

Now, I know, I know that many out there in cyber-land even among our voting public, think he's the worst president ever for his supposed socialist philosophy and communist ties, or maybe Muslim sympathies, or that he is simply not a "real" American like Palin and the tea-partiers so obviously are. And I am very aware that this could all go really wrong in Libya and every where else at home and abroad where our President has authority to act. Yet I can't give up on the Hope.

I note for the record that Lincoln was not very popular during his presidency. Well, obviously, nearly half the country tried to leave after his election. But even in the North, few contemporaries understood or appreciated the message of what he stood for, or even the Gettysburg Address at the time of its delivery which is now graven on stone in the People's Temple to Lincoln. What I am hoping for, unlike with any other President since I was aware of my first President, John F. Kennedy, is to be ahead of the curve. To appreciate Obama as very few appreciated Lincoln in his day. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt all the anti-Obama-ites are right. And I'm going to stick to some pragmatic idealism and hope and pray for the best.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Feel free to disagree as many do. You can even be passionate (in moderation). Comments that contain offensive language, too many caps, conspiracy theories, gratuitous Mormon bashing, personal attacks on others who comment, or commercial solicitations- I send to spam. This is a troll-free zone. Charity always!