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Justice or Reconciliation: Alternative Approaches to Healing

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Andrew Bard Schmookler     Permalink
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Does Joe Lieberman deserve to be stripped of his powers by the Democrats he betrayed? He certainly does. Would it have gratified me if they'd done so. Yes, I like seeing treachery punished.

Do the Bushites deserve to be prosecuted for their crimes? Yes, the Bushites deserve such punishment perhaps more than any office-holders in American history. Would I like seeing them held accountable like the criminals they are? Yes, every Hollywood movie about justice/revenge that I saw growing up trained me to crave just such a retribution.

But it appears that neither of these gratifying inflictions of justice is going to happen. Our president-elect has apparently chosen otherwise.

Do I think he's chosen wrongly? It is certainly possible that he has. It's possible that the course Barack Obama has taken will do the country less good than would have been done by imposing justice on wrong-doers. For people to get away with wrong-doing does undermine the integrity of righteousness. That certainly is a cost of such a course.

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But it would be a great mistake to jump firmly to the conclusion, as so many in the progressive netroots movement have done, that Obama has either decided foolishly or shown a lack of true moral concern.

Three points should be made.

First, the criterion for evaluating what Obama does should be this: in what condition will he leave America at the end of the path of his leadership of this country? Whatever leaves it in the best condition-- morally, spiritually, environmentally, economically, geopolitically, etc.-- is the best choice.

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The criterion should not be what FEELS BEST to us at the moment: although those two criteria may be the same in some instances, they are not necessarily identical. (The insistence that our feelings be gratified is particularly suspect when the feeling at the root of our insistence is ANGER: "Overcome anger by non-anger," said the Buddha, and Jesus, too, in other words.) And when the two criteria point in different directions, what matters is the long-term health and goodness of the nation (and, for that matter, the earth and humankind generally).

Second, though I feel pretty sure that, in Obama's position, I would have chosen otherwise, I find powerful reasons to give Obama a good deal of the benefit of the doubt.

Here's a guy who has achieved great things already, and he's done them HIS way, which has often been different from mine. * [See note, at the bottom of this piece, which is from something I wrote on February 29 of this year, just as Hillary was throwing the "kitchen sink" at Obama.] It is because of this difference in his ways of dealing with evil that it wasn't until mid-January that I saw Obama as having transformational possibilities: because he was not going energetically up against the Bushite evils, I had assumed that Obama could not provide what America needs to repair the damage of this dark Bushite era.

Yet, look how far he's already gone in achieving the transformation America needs. His achievements, it should be noted, are not just a matter of his "success" or his "climb to power": they are also, in my view, clearly triumphs of good over evil.

It is by doing things HIS way that Obama has already transformed the image of this country in the world. It is by doing things HIS way that Obama created the moment where so many hundreds of thousands of people, standing late at night in and near Grant Park in Chicago, showed such beautiful, joyful, loving, open expressions on their faces. How different is that face of America from the one that the Bushites imposed as our nation's face to the world! Obama, in his non-confrontational way, has managed to drive the evil forces deeper toward the margins of our national life, in considerable dissarray.

As they say in the investment world, "past performance is no guarantee of future results," but, to change the arena to sports, winners of the Cy Young Award generally know how to win ballgames.

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It is the third point, however, that perhaps most needs to be made. America's darkness has been at bottom a spiritual crisis, and the battle for America's soul must be won above all at the spiritual level.

Obama's candidacy seemed to recognize this, and the worldwide response to his victory is a manifestation of the recognition by many millions that Obama's victory was a spiritual victory. And what Obama seems to be doing now seems best interpreted not as a caving in, nor as a sign of moral indifference, but as indicating what spiritual strategy he has chosen.

He has chosen a strategy of reconciliation, of reaching out beyond the ranks of his allies to enlist even his former opponents in supporting his mission to heal America.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
 

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