For me, this question has a most interesting history.
This was the unequivocal message of the piece with which I launched this website, "What America Needs Now: A Prophetic Social Movement that Speaks Moral Truth to Amoral Power" at
But America -- the opposition, the press, and the people-- has in general shrunk from that task, a failure that led me to write, last fall, my "Lament of a True Patriot." (See click here And then, in the Democratic campaign for the presidency, that voice of prophetic truth-telling was also absent, which prevented my feeling invested in any of the candidates, including Obama.
And then, on the night of the South Carolina primary, I suddenly saw in Obama something that hadn't registered before: maybe there was another, less confrontational way for the Good to triumph over the Evil, and maybe Obama was showing the way. And, moreover, maybe Obama's INDIRECT way --working to build up the good without directly fighting against the evil-- was better suited to the spiritual state of today's America than my more CONFRONTATIONAL, prophetic way.
Here's how that idea came out back on February 29, on the "Schmookler is Available for Conversation" thread of that day. (See click here
Above, I said of myself that, if I’d been confronted as Obama was in the debate with video of Hillary’s mockery, I’d have done something differently from Obama’s gracious way of deflecting –even appreciating– what many people found offensive. I said:
"I would have used that as an opportunity to talk about hope vs. cynicism, and about the importance right now of a sense of possibility in America, so that no, it would not just automatically happen, but that if the American people are inspired, truly, great things are possible. And that it is the job of leadership to inspire that energy, to summon forth the best of our possibilities and, by channeling that energy to the hard work ahead, help the American people fulfill their potential to create a better, healthier, more honest, more harmonious society."
Although, in some respects, I like my response better, I came to suspect that Obama's way is more effective for this time and place.
What would have happened had he responded my way? I think that America would “trust” him less-- trust him in a particular respect, because of a particular need that America now seems to have.
Here’s the essential point: I BELIEVE THAT AMERICA IS AFRAID TO GO TO BATTLE against the Bushites, afraid to acknowledge and combat the dark forces. That’s what I think is behind the panorama of failure in the American body politic that I described last fall in “The Lament of a True Patriot." I don’t really understand the fear, but I believe that IT IS POSSIBLE that Obama recognizes that fear, or intuits it, or perhaps that he has a style that just by chance is well-matched to the moment.
Americans, at any rate, have flocking to Obama, I am venturing to suggest, because he is doing two things: a) he’s saying that the Good can win (”Yes We Can”) and that b) we do not need to enter into the arena of battle against the evil to achieve that victory.
Americans yearn for something better, and they are afraid to confront evil in order to achieve it. Hence, Obama taps into the yearning while calming the fears.
That’s why his pattern of deflecting –his akido, his agreeableness, his willingness to find humor and good performance in Hillary’s mocking of his inspirational summoning forth of hope– is so well suited to the needs of this moment. And why he appears to be heading toward the presidency.- Advertisement -
I was full of admiration, and happy to follow Obama in his way of gathering the forces of goodness while downplaying the picture of evil's ascendancy in the body politic and while steering clear of confronting those evils too directly. Happy to learn from him that there are other ways than mine of fighting and winning such a battle.
But then came a significant change. Then the dark forces came looking for him.