It's strange how some people seem to turn out to be more than expected, while others turn out to be considerably less. Take, for example, the Pope and the President. Pope Francis (I was so happy that he chose my middle name), Time Magazine's Man of the Year, has blown fresh winds of change through the musty corridors of the Catholic Church. Even more than that, though, his humility, compassion, decency, and warmth, have provided a model even for non-Catholics. One can hope that his term as Pope accomplishes much, as he strives for "peace on earth, good will towards men."
Then, there is U.S. President Barack Obama, whose "audacity of hope" provided great hope, not only to Americans but to people all over the world, when he began to serve his first term of office in 2009. Now, coming up on five years later, those hopes have turned into dismay (and even disgust) on the part of so many of his former supporters. Indeed, it is hard to find an issue on which the President did not betray our trust in him. Some of his failures, such as his inability to produce meaningful gun control even after Sandy Hook and so many other massacres, are regrettable but at least understandable. The forces opposed to gun control continue to rule us.
However, other presidential actions are bizarre and contemptible, at least to us compassionate progressives. How can our nation continue to use drones to kill, maim, and injure so many innocent people? Who authorized this nation to be judge, jury, and executioner at will, in the name of fighting terrorism or whatever other slogan we choose to use? Such misconduct is not only despicable, but most likely ineffective as well -- all it does is make America hated in many nations. Barack Obama should have returned his premature and undeserved Nobel Peace Prize some years ago.
Then, there is the President's despicable enlargement of the unconscionable spying on Americans and world leaders which began under his predecessor. While not making us more secure,the National Security Agency (and undoubtedly other spook tanks) has engaged in totally-unwarranted (and most likely fruitless) monitoring of our phone calls, emails, and other communications. Upon the exposure of these unconstitutional abuses of our fundamental freedoms, the President's main focus has been trying to beat up on the messengers (such as Snowden and Manning) rather than dealing with the substance of their vital message. Surely, paranoia is not the best response to those real threats which confront us. If we have to engage in such misconduct as that of the NSA, the terrorists have already won.
Of course, the challenges facing the Pope and the President are quite different in nature. Nevertheless, they are both world leaders, and they both have taken vows of office. Both of them claim to be dedicated to the cause of peace with justice, both claim to be concerned about the poor and needy among us, and both claim to want to make the world a better place for all of its inhabitants. It is in the implementation of those avowed goals that they differ so much. And there is one other major difference between their situations: one can hope that the next President will be a distinguished woman, which is considerably less likely to be the case with the next Pope.
Eugene Elander has been a progressive social and political activist for decades. As an author, he won the Young Poets Award at 16 from the Dayton Poets Guild for his poem, The Vision. He was chosen Poet Laureate of (more...)
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