Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Barack Obama, the human being


Hal Pepinsky,, “peacemaking” at

October 1, 2014


                Notwithstanding the dismay I expressed in. yesterday’s blog post on “the emperor president,” at President Obama’s proclamation that “America leads,” I recognize the gifts that got him elected, and very much respect the integrity and dedication with he performs his duties of office.  He is in many ways extraordinary.

                Barack Obama is an extraordinary communicator.  He demonstrates skills at taking in, in law school terms, “briefing” or boiling down information to its logical essentials, to reach a reasoned conclusion, that earned him the editorship of the Harvard Law Review, and that well qualified him to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago.  He is articulate and forthright, and he processes and boils down complex information with skill.

                He is also a consummate grassroots organizer, and is obviously deeply, pragmatically and spiritually committed, to performing his duties of office.  I have no question of his sincerity.  In his heart, he wants to leave office with honor, leaving the country he loves as safe as he can.

                I vaguely remember that around the time we got married, Jill and I had a little debate over whether the president should do something.  We agreed that “it” was something that should be done.  But, I argued, in reality, no person would qualify to be president and be able to do “it.”  Every president has human weaknesses.  Barack has two that stand out to me.


Obama has no demonstrable experience in international relations or world history, or domestic penal history.


He has no demonstrable in managing bureaucracies from the top down, rather than from the grassroots.


Hence, he must depend on information briefed to him on topics with which he has no independent background.  Living in Indonesia and having a Kenyan father may make him globally empathic at heart, but it says nothing about his knowledge of military and diplomatic history, nor of how “justice” operates at home.


                I know of no president since JFK who came into office with a deep sense of his country’s history, who presided over a much smaller, simpler government.  My point with Jill was, as it remains, that blaming gets in the way of peacemaking.  In my country, our violence is only represented at the highest level.  Over the years, time and again, I have found the punitive trajectory of the US to permeate in our culture, notably in our militaristic approach to parenting and teaching our children.  And so, as with Jill some time in the early seventies, I conclude that in some generation to come, the US president will be among the latter folks in my country to begin substantially lowering that sword and shield.  When the time comes, I wish this president a blessed rest.  Love and peace, hal






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