A President You Can’t Get Out of Your Head
In today’s Providence Journal, a young Ivy Leaguer with a hyphenated name adds too my still-short list of old-man moments (note the sentence that I’ve italicized):
But that is all that I have ever known as an adult: a reviled America under George Bush, and a Congress dominated by petty bickering instead of big ideas. The 2004 election offered an opportunity to vote for a Democrat, but few people my age were excited about Kerry. I have come of political age at a time when America is divided, disliked, and fading as the leader of the Free World. There is a thirst among young Americans for a new era of politics at home and abroad and for an America that is creative at home and respected abroad. And there is an overwhelming sense that only one person can usher in that new era: Barack Obama.
I was a bit younger than Mr. Cook-Deegan at the time, but my how that sentiment brings me back to the late-’80s/early-’90s. You want divided and disliked, whippersnapper? Take a look at the video that the British band Genesis aimed at our president in 1986. And as for our “fading leadership,” I remember high school debates about Japan’s ascendancy. (A curiosity for consideration at another time: Doesn’t it seem that those who believe that the United States ought to be chastened by the world are often illogically quick to worry about our diminishing stature?)
Further stoking my incipient fogeyism, young Master C.-D. writes:
Now, at 22, I am a voting adult who comprehends the consequences of that election. I have friends from high school serving in Iraq. Now I understand the grave danger of alienating the Muslim world. I have traveled to over 25 countries. Nearly everyone I meet tells me how his or her respect for America has plummeted during the Bush presidency.
Central among the convictions of which the last decade of life has disabused me is that a twenty-two year old in modern society is necessarily (put aside legality) “an adult.” “I was only a sophomore in high school,” Patrick writes of the 2000 election, “I did not really understand what was going on.” Myself, at 32, I’m daily more appreciative of how little I really understand what’s going on.
But I do know enough to question the “nearly everyones” whom a traveling college student is likely to engage in discussion. I’d have to make a tally before I could confidently claim to have visited over 25 cities. One needn’t travel far, however, to understand that this world contains all sorts of people, and that the best of them make decisions based on whether they are right or wrong, not on whether they will meet the approval of a foreign moral authority or bring into unadulterated harmony factions with wildly divergent beliefs and interests.
I wonder: Does our Brown history major understand the danger of not alienating the Muslim world? It’s telling that he turns to personal conversations, rather than historical studies, to determine what his country ought to do.
Ah, this g-g-g-generation — “free from any huge upheaval like the 1960s” growing up “in a time when young men and women… have [all] had the same opportunities” in a post–Cold War, Internet-besotted era marking “an opportunity in history for the world to come together in a new way.” Somehow, I suspect that many boys and girls have, in fact, not had the opportunity to be nation-hopping globalists. Some of them might even think to include 9/11 in a survey of their generation’s formative experiences.
These colts of the academic world, chomping at the bit to apply their knowledge in the service of all that they have learned to be Good, would do well to consider the thoughts of elders with whom they disagree. Peggy Noonan, for example, has some edifying things to say about Mr. Obama:
Are the Obamas, at bottom, snobs? Do they understand America? Are they of it? Did anyone at their Ivy League universities school them in why one should love America? Do they confuse patriotism with nationalism, or nativism? Are they more inspired by abstractions like “international justice” than by old visions of America as the city on a hill, which is how John Winthrop saw it, and Ronald Reagan and JFK spoke of it?
Have they been, throughout their adulthood, so pampered and praised–so raised in the liberal cocoon–that they are essentially unaware of what and how normal Americans think? And are they, in this, like those cosseted yuppies, the Clintons?
Why is all this actually not a distraction but a real issue? Because Americans have common sense and are bottom line. They think like this. If the president and his first lady are not loyal first to America and its interests, who will be? The president of France? But it’s his job to love France, and protect its interests. If America’s leaders don’t love America tenderly, who will?
And there is a context. So many Americans right now fear they are losing their country, that the old America is slipping away and being replaced by something worse, something formless and hollowed out. They can see we are giving up our sovereignty, that our leaders will not control our borders, that we don’t teach the young the old-fashioned love of America, that the government has taken to itself such power, and made things so complex, and at the end of the day when they count up sales tax, property tax, state tax, federal tax they are paying a lot of money to lose the place they loved.
And if you feel you’re losing America, you really don’t want a couple in the White House whose rope of affection to the country seems lightly held, casual, provisional. America is backing Barack at the moment, so America is good. When it becomes angry with President Barack, will that mean America is bad?
Patrick Cook-Deegan hears a “catchy new song with the sweet phrase, ‘President Barack Obama.'” It’s an infectious tune, I imagine, among those who trust (as I once did) that the world beyond the graduation podium is practically humming with the promised life. And the lyric suggests that those old-time Americans ought, if the world is good, to lose. It’s progress, my aged friends. We must step aside so that fields of plenty may sprout on land that we only managed to trample in our own time.
We non-matriculating students of history — and of current events — may wonder whether we are merely clearing a path for an assault, an invasion, against which a dahoo-dorray refrain will prove to be little protection.