Clearly this is not the way we're supposed
to behave. Clearly this is not what we, as a formerly grumpy, petulant,
first-world nation, expect from our president, from our attitude, from our typical chest-thumping, saber-rattling, kill-'em-all posture in the world.
See, what we do is, we stomp in. We huff and snort and make a
portentous entrance full of cold swagger and terse,
screw-you-if-you-disagree handshakes, ignoring the clammy mitts of
those inflammatory commie jerks we don't like because they've called us
icky names in the past but whose illegal narcotics we will gladly
purchase by the megaton and whose oil we're going to go in and forcibly
steal anyway ha ha sucker.
We say "screw you" to codes of courteous diplomacy whenever we damn well feel like it. We speak loudly and we carry the biggest stick and we don't hesitate to shove it where the sun don't shine. You got that, Hugo?
Yes, what we're supposed do is strut like an arrogant god into something like the 34-nation Summit of the Americas,
a gathering most Americans know/care little about and which our media
barely covers because it's so obviously teeming with a bunch of whiny,
ungrateful little countries we could squash between our toes if we felt
At such piffling events, we expect our president to do the
usual macho dance, puff out his chest and shove our usual demands for
compliance down everyone's throat, talk up military intervention and
enrage those selfsame angry little countries even more by reiterating
who's really in charge of this violent, overheated speck of a
planet. Hey, it worked for Dubya, right? I mean, except for the global
contempt and seething mistrust?
But then comes Obama. As usual, it appears he did not get the
memo. He is clearly that most un-American of U.S. leaders, entirely
dismissive of precedent and totally devoid of our characteristic
bullying arrogance and openly disrespectful of How It's All Supposed To
Here is an American president, participating in a conference of
'lesser' leaders, who nevertheless exhibits a Zen-like demeanor, is
humble and respectful and quiet. Here is Obama, telling all leaders of
every size and stripe that no one is above anyone else, that we must
work together to solve the world's ills. What's more, it appears he
actually means it.
WTF? Hey Mr. hippie community organizer! Don't you know these
sleazeball thugs don't care about policy and playing nice? That they
only want to rule the world and eat our babies and steal our Wi-Fi and
buy our iPods and shoot nuclear warheads into our faces and say
offensive things about us in their Twitter feeds? Or something?
Shockingly, despite not jamming America's boot into everyone's
neck, our calm, deferential president came off, as usual, as a
superstar. He deeply impressed nearly every leader present, owned the
room, was the one everyone wrote home about — not because of some sort
of outsized Clinton-esque magnetism, and not because he overwhelmed the
space with swagger and false bravado and superior firepower, while Dick
Cheney snarled like an encephalitic shark in the background and flipped
No, Obama was the leader to watch because he did that most rare
of things among major world leaders: He listened. More than that, he
heard. More than that, he did not insult, demean, degrade, patronize,
scold. He shook hands and spoke cordially with everyone in the room,
including supposed 'enemies' like Hugo Chavez, a clever pipsqueak of an
America-hating media slut who is zero threat to the U.S. but who
normally dominates the TV cameras anyway, but who was so disarmed by
Obama's effortless, high-road calm that he suddenly had no footing, no
audience, no stage from which to bluster and spit. Go figure.
As reported by the Miami Herald:
"[Obama] listened with an extraordinary patience, and he was
intellectually elegant in his responses." – Chilean Foreign Minister
"I can't recall a U.S. president who has sustained such an
open-minded dialogue with the region." – Argentinean Foreign Minister
Naturally, all this articulate, respectful diplomacy means one of two things.
One: We are blindly kowtowing to all sorts of scummy, evil
forces of the underworld and undermining America's godlike supremacy,
and soon will be overrun by drug lords and baby rapists and fat,
sweaty, cigar-chomping socialists who love to coddle baby-raping drug
lords. This is known as the "Fox News angle." Also known as the "Hysteria Special," and also, simply, "The Limbaugh."
Option two: We are about to make extraordinary progress in the
world, as we set a new tone of intelligent cooperation in our foreign
policy, restoring much of the respect and international goodwill Bush
so grossly destroyed, as we finally step back up to the adult's table, not
as the domineering father figure everyone fears for his drunken,
violent tirades, but as the kind of elegant intellect and influential
peacemaker everyone wants to emulate.
That last thing? About emulation? I think that's the most potentially transformative thing of all.
See, we all know the idea of how Obama's raising everyone's
game. It's barely 100 days in and already people speak glowingly of the
Age of Obama, how the calm, constructive vibe he exudes like a beacon
is actually changing people's everyday behaviors, redirecting our
attention from violence and rancor and overconsumption toward something
a little bit lighter, smarter, less fear obsessed, more respectful or
even just simply nicer. The bastard.
Upon which we can propose a slightly radical amendment: What if
it's not just us? What if it's not merely most of America whose
behaviors and attitudes will shift and lift accordingly?
What if, as evidenced by the Summit of the Americas, it's also
various prominent world leaders, many of whom formerly loathed or
mistrusted the U.S., who suddenly see this highly intelligent, hugely
popular, peacemaking U.S. president as worthy of stepping up and
emulating? These are massive, tremulous egos we're talking about. Most
of these guys want what Obama has achieved so effortlessly: the deep
admiration and trust of his people, near-instantaneous global respect,
the power to transform the planet.
What if Obama's genuine, Zen-like example proves an irresistible lure, as various leaders of the world see that you actually can
govern successfully, not via the Bush method of coercion, dishonesty,
misprision, antagonism and megalomania, but instead by way of respect
and intellectual engagement and minimal drama, by actually not speaking down to your enemies or your own citizens alike?
What if, simply put, many of these guys begin to raise their
games, calm the hell down and rise to the occasion of the Obama Era? Is
that nothing short of changing the world.