A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Thursday, September 02, 2010

It Is Time to Turn the Page

On Tuesday night, President Obama addressed the nation from the Oval Office, officially announcing the end of combat operations in Iraq. Yesterday and today there is the usual analysis and critique of his speech from both the left and the right. I am not interested in that critique.

The president, of course, was right to address the nation. Whether or not one agreed with the war, the American people and many others have felt its consequences. Families are continuing on without their loved ones. I always remind myself when I hear that another soldier has died in Iraq or Afghanistan that each individual who dies is loved and cherished in a home somewhere; and that soldier had a favorite food that her or his Mom will no longer make, or that he or she had a hobby that was enjoyed with Dad, and now Dad has to go on trying to enjoy a pleasure without his son or daughter.... or that now dead soldier had a spouse and children who will now have to make their way in this world without him or her. For me personally, that puts more of a human face on the cost. We have also paid a huge price in the way of money. The United States has an unsustainable deficit that is quite worrying, which is why I find it incredible that certain economists are saying that we need to spend even more money. (Talk about voodoo economics! That is another post for another time.) The domestic spending in the last two years has added exponentially to the problem, but we would be remiss to forget that financing two wars overseas has contributed greatly as well (though the CBO clearly indicates that domestic spending of the last two years dwarfs the spending in Iraq). Much has been sacrificed indeed.

On the other hand, if a free and democratic Iraq is the result, at least that is a good thing. One does not need to agree that going to war was justified to acknowledge that a free country is to be preferred to a ruthless dictatorship. We must never forget that the Iraqi people have paid quite a price as well.

So the President was right last night to speak of turning the page; and in so doing, he did something last night that I thought was gracious and magnanimous on his part-- he offered some words of praise for former president George W. Bush:

...I'm mindful that the Iraq war has been a contentious issue at home. Here, too, its time to turn the page. This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush's support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I've said, there were patriots who supported this war, and patriots who opposed it. And all of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and women, and our hopes for Iraqis' future.

Pundits can analyze the speech infinitum ad nauseum, which they will; but for me the most significant thing about what the President said last night is that it is indeed time to turn the page. The debate over whether the United States should have invaded Iraq has long passed its expiration date. We should only remember the details for history's sake and as it instructs us for the future. But we have had more than enough of partisan bickering on the subject. Many partisans on the left and on the right, of course, are not content to turn the page. Yesterday I intentionally scanned the morning talk shows as well as the radio to listen to the response of those on the partisan left and right to President Obama's comments about the former President. As I expected, with few exceptions I heard the conservatives dismissing out of hand what President Obama said and listened to irritated liberals, one in particular, who was quite angry that the current President would even speak so kindly of the former President. (I have yet to read any editorials, but I am sure they are coming.)

Sometimes Presidents cannot win for losing. President Obama cannot please his base because he has not governed enough to the extreme left to satisfy them. He cannot please the independents because on too many things they perceive that he has gone too far left on many issues (full disclosure-- I'm one of those independents). So Tuesday night, Mr. Obama demonstrated politics at its best when he offered kind words about his predecessor, something that should please independent voters, and partisans on the left are disgusted, and partisans on the right dismiss his comments, I suppose because he failed to acknowledge that President Bush was right to go into Iraq in the first place.

One of the reasons that I refuse to embrace partisan politics on the left or the right is not only because as a Christian I cannot square such politics with the Kingdom politics of Jesus, but also because both extremes are simply out of touch with reality. I am not a progressive. I am not a conservative. And I am proud that I am neither one.

Once again, we have seen the lack of reality on both sides, when the President of the United States transcended partisan politics to make an important point; and then the next day, the extremes want to continue an old debate that now attracts nothing more than partisan moths.

There comes a time to move on. Reliving the past can prevent one from moving into the future. When politicians continue to fight old battles that no longer assist us in dealing with present problems as well as issues that are coming quickly toward us from the future, they are more interested in political one upsmanship then in the kind of political service that will make America a better place to be and a helpful partner alongside the nations of the world. And I say, if they keep fighting these irrelevant battles, then the voters are well justified in voting them into the irrelevance of private life, whether Democrats or Republicans.

It seems to me, as I recall my American history, that there was another President of the United States almost a century and a half ago, who told the American people, many of whom were angry and wanted revenge, that it was time to turn the page. Abraham Lincoln, on the heels of the end of the Civil War said the following:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

President Obama is right. It is time to turn the page.


Robert Cornwall said...



bthomas said...

As expected the administration announced it was time to cut and run. From the beginning the policy was to leave. The administration has never had any other intention. Given its inept leadership, cutting and running may be for the best. The administration will continue it’s out of control deficit spending like someone buying thoughtlessly running up a bill on someone else’s credit cards. The cost of advancing an ongoing bread and circuses political agenda will be paid for by the children and grandchildren of tomorrow.

Few gave attention to the address. Few paid attention to changes made to the d├ęcor of the Oval Office. The attention of partisan supporters, independents and Conservatives was focused on an administration exposed, not unlike an emperor whose fashion statement was so embarrassingly critiqued by a little boy. The current administration entered office in a Trojan horse that promised hope and change. Once in office it opened up and launched on an agenda of militant socialization and extreme unconstitutional federalism. It is understandable that no one now believes when the administration moves from talk of hope and change to talk of transcending partisan politics.

It is time to move on. It is time for change. There’s a change in the air. November is coming. In November, America will vote for change.

Allan R. Bevere said...

BThomas, Thanks for your comments, which actually demonstrate my point about partisan moths. While the policy moving forward in Iraq, etc. is important and certainly an important subject for debate, my ONLY point was to affirm President Obama's suggestion that it is time to turn the page on the debate over whether the US should have invaded Iraq in the first place. In other words, as we continue the debate on both sides of the aisle, let's finally drop that matter by the side of the road.

You did exactly what I said partisans do. Instead of taking one moment to agree with those on the other side of the aisle, (as Bob Cornwall did in his comment), you took this as another opportunity to get in a partisan shot.

It's amazing to me that it seems impossible for some on one side of the political to ever offer a word of praise to those on the other side. President Obama did that for President Bush in his address, and Bush did the same thing for Obama as the exchange of power was being prepared.

I think we can learn a lesson here from both presidents.

Sharp said...

I have grown weary of reading two things since the dawn of the internet age: Comments on political articles and comments on sports articles. Just plug in the name of a sports team or a head coach into a political comment and they read exactly the same. They typically add nothing to the discussion, are filled with ad hominem attacks and blind loyalty, and have few arguments apart from rhetoric learned verbatim from radio show hosts and TV commentators.

They are just noise. I pretty much gave up trying to post rational, moderate responses that saw both sides about six months ago. Life is less frustrating now.

Allan R. Bevere said...

Sharp, I think it would be interesting to do psychological profiles on individuals who make such comments. The results would be most revealing.