When the president talked about American "arrogance" in Europe, it didn't bother me all that much. I saw comments from older Americans, folks who remember wars who were deeply offended. I didn't want to jump on the "he's an embarrassment" bandwagon because he also told Europe that they have had an insidious tendency to criticize America and overlook the good we do in the world. That is true.
When I saw his comments in Turkey, however, I got annoyed. Now, let me say, I liked the Turkish people I met in Europe. Turkey IS one Muslim country that reaches out to be an ally to other countries that don't neccessarily share their religion.
But I really think Obama should have a meeting with the Pope. He's an American. And he's obviously feeling guilty about that. So guilty that he has to announce the sins of the past into the winds of the future as though he's uttering a new truth. Or maybe he's just trying to keep old vendettas unearthed. No one in the USA is ignorant about our past. We put ourselves under the microscope through our media and our art. We try diligently to right wrongs and trudge onward to a destiny that is better than the sum of the wrongs of the past.
And we succeed.
Clearly he feels that he needs absolution for his nation's history. It must be hard to represent a country that you feel has done so much wrong that you need to pronounce things already on the historical record from the podiums of the world. Even though the nations you are apologizing to are not spit-shiny with their own histories. In fact, some have far worse in their own closets.
I'm proud of my country. I think Obama isn't. The more he pines for recognition of the manifold pivot points in American civil rights, the more he seems to somehow DENY they were pivot points. That we, internally, did the right thing to rectify them and ... I'm not sure where he's going with this.
Are America's past sins so grave that She must proceed directly to Hell? Must Americans give up liberty and prosperity because Her record isn't spotless? At some point, does a generation that was NOT AT ALL involved in the troubled history get to live without the sins of the former generation visited upon them in the form of shame and guilt?
When will we be forgiven for what we didn't perpetrate? When can our youth be released from the chains of the past and the scorn of people they never oppressed? When will the ire of those who were never personally oppressed dissipate in the interests of uniting the nation and REALLY moving Her forward?
Where is the forgiveness after all of this confession? What sort of atonement is required for people who never perpetrated the crimes? Self-loathing is a ball and chain, but prominent figures espouse national self-loathing. Bill Ayers, Ward Churchill, Reverend Wright, Louis Farrahkan...when are we allowed to say, "Shove it. You are not talking about me and you are mired in a kind of hate that I have no interest in embracing?"
I understand that I haven't even TOUCHED upon the sort of anger that people who have worked for human rights or fought in wars must be feeling right now as a result of the Apologist in Chief. If we are going to hold ourselves to an impeccable standard and require that guilt becomes a suffocating blanket thrown over our entire population, then we certainly have the right to indict other nations that don't apologize and atone.
But we won't. We are forgiving of other nations. When do we get to be forgiven and when will the finger-pointing end? When might we be allowed again to look at the stars and stripes and feel that pang of togetherness and pride? As long as we remain divided by the moral authoritarians, we are easy to conquer and that's not the America I know.