Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Way We Were

Courtesy of Getty Images via The Wall Street Journal

Dorothy Rabinowitz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and member of the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. Her 6/9/2010 WSJ article, The Alien in the White House, is worth reading.

Ms. Rabinowitz describes a gulf that exists between the ideology of our current president and the sensibilities of the American people. She argues that, “A great part of America now understands that this president’s sense of identification lies elsewhere, and is in profound ways unlike theirs.”

While the analysis is excellent, I was distracted by the vantage point of Ms. Rabinowitz. She speaks as though she is an authority on the American psyche. She cites the qualities that make a president the leader of Americans, “… a man of them, for them, the nation’s voice and champion…” and she recounts the feelings that are held “… deep in American hearts, unvoiced mostly, but unmistakably there and not only on the Fourth of July.”

She notes reactions to Mr. Obama’s apologies for American guilt: “Americans were shocked by this behavior in their newly elected president.”

While Ms. Rabinowitz uses the present tense in her analysis, she is relating to a romanticized America that is in our past.

America has never been monolithic, other than in the context of political characterizations. It is a diverse republic, and is particularly so with the representations brought about by our anti-Republican culture. When a politician speaks of “America”, it is a decidedly different entity depending upon the political party of the speaker.

Mr. Obama might be characterized as an “Alien in the White House”, but he is also the recipient of a Nobel Prize. He might have a sense of identification that is unfamiliar to Americans, but he was taught that identity in our school system. He makes political appointments that might seem out of touch to the Americans described by Ms. Rabinowitz, but those appointments fit quite nicely with the sensibilities of our Departments of State, Justice, and Treasury.

It is hard for me to feel comforted by Ms. Rabinowitz’s column when I know that majorities within our branches of government, federal agencies, entertainment industry, and school system do not support her viewpoint.

In fact, there is cultural acclamation for just the opposite point of view. The thesis for Ms. Rabinowitz’s column is based on a perception of an American spirit that is held by very few Americans!

And that’s unfortunate.

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