|Wednesday, June 6, 2012 12:41PM|
|Poetics of Paradigm Dancing... |
|Posted By: * Aberjhani|
|Tags: Barack Obama, Paradigm Dancing, Poetics of Paradigm Dancing in the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign, Aberjhani, Relationships, Mitt Romney, Julia Gillard, Harlem Renaissance, Claude McKay, PEN International, John Galsworthy, Nelson Mandela|
Poetics of Paradigm Dancing in
the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign
The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II reportedly quoted the great Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay’s poem “If We Must Die” when he addressed the joint houses of the U.S. Congress on the eve of America’s entry into the war. South African President Nelson Mandela recited “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley, to fellow inmates while imprisoned on Robben Island and “The Child” by Ingrid Jonker when South Africa’s first democratic parliament opened in 1994.
American presidents, governors, and mayors have often presented samples of some of the most luminous talents in modern literary history to provide moral and intellectual frameworks for their stated, even if not their actual, political intentions. Inauguration poets James Dickey, Maya Angelou, and Elizabeth Alexander are a few examples. However, the oversized gap between poetic passion and political expediency is one filled with a swamp of broken bureaucracies, betrayed trust, and collective disillusionment.
We cannot really say that it needs to be repaired—much like the United States’ crumbling infrastructure of rotting bridges and rusting rails–– because it has existed more as romantic notion than as concrete endeavor. Imagine if the reverse were true: that the simplistic prescription of “international friendliness” toward one another, in accordance with PEN International’s founding mandate, was applied literally by the governmental leaders of the world.
To paraphrase Langston Hughes’ poem “A Dream Deferred”–– what happens to promises that are made in the name of poetry but then crushed by the robotic jaws of political pragmatism? The thought is less abstract than it might appear to be and one well worth considering in this 2012 presidential campaign season (in the United States without question, but also wherever one happens to be attempting to cast a vote). That promises are flooding airwaves and choking the Internet is as certain as the likelihood that half of them will be discarded immediately after the elections, regardless of who wins and loses.
Rather than allowing ourselves to become sidetracked by rhetorical promises, it might prove more useful to consider who is more likely to accomplish something of value within the national and world community despite their overextended enthusiasm. Which brings us to one President Barack Obama.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia
Gillard celebrate alliance between their countries.
(photo by Gary Ramage. Source: News Unlimited)
Like every U.S. president to run for office before him, Barack Obama discovered that cultivating a vision of change and transforming that vision into a tangible reality required a kind of paradigm dance that many of his fellow political leaders refused to join on the national level. Still: the international dance floor (for the most part) turned out to be a very different deal altogether–– an extremely fortunate development in light of the increasing realization that in this modern world nations, very much like individuals, are becoming more and more interdependent than independent. The fate that condemns or saves one sooner or later often condemns or saves another.
The android-like ease with which President Barack Obama’s critics claim he has accomplished nothing during his presidency is saturated with just enough oiled self-righteousness to make many deny the evidence of their own observations and to swallow, without tasting, what they are told is true or false.
It is not really necessary to reemphasize here such milestones as: increasing to three the number of women sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court, ending “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” ending the Iraq War, initiating health care reform, going to battle on behalf of victims of the BP oil spill, and strengthening the historic U.S. and Australia Alliance. Those facts shall remain evident throughout history no matter who sits in the White House for the next four years. What does bear revisiting is the manner in which Barack Obama employs the concept of relationship as a leader and how that particular operational dynamic has impacted the U.S.’s overall standing in the world community these past few years.
The Power of Language
“Relationship” is one of the most powerful words in any given vocabulary. Our beloved tech geeks use it to describe integrative programming variables with mutually supportive properties. Less excited earth-dwellers use it to describe the fluctuating degrees of connectivity and separation between individuals and, yes, between nations. Shaping and packaging and then re-shaping and re-packaging how we relate to one another have turned social networkers into millionaires and billionaires.
Where the paradigm rhythm of this article is concerned, a strong positive relationship with the rest of the world was something the United States used to have prior to the turn of the twenty-first century, then saw eclipsed for nearly a decade by charges of imperialism and bloodlust thinly disguised as revenge or justice for victims of 9/11. The reconstruction of that relationship through initiatives employed by President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a number of invaluable “foot soldiers” have helped make it possible for international heads of state to engage serious dialogues addressing real dangers like the world economic crisis, a string of destabilizing revolutions in the Middle East, and environmental sustainability.
Construction of a Context
It represented much more than individual prestige when Mr. Obama traveled in 2009 to Oslo, Norway, to accept the Nobel Peace Prize just as it indicated much more when participants in the Arab Spring of 2011 called repeatedly for him to officially state his support of their efforts. Dig back a few years and voices inviting the United States’ participation in anything of consequence were all but mute.
It also means something––not particularly encouraging–– when a contender for the White House ignores the very costly hard-won victories over al-Qaeda and tells Americans they are no safer now than in 2001. Must the bones of half the world’s non-western populations wash up on America’s shores before we allow ourselves to believe in anything other than fear or war?
But this is not about touting the triumphs of one political entity over the shortcomings of another. It is about giving oneself permission to discard manufactured conclusions during this election year––or any election year for that matter––and taking the time to consider more deeply the broader implications of the choices at hand.
Why? Because when we vote we participate in the construction of a context. That context will likely either enhance our chances of saving our own skins while also contributing to the greater good of humanity, or diminish the chances of doing the same. We vote for a way of relating or not relating in a healthy manner to something––as in the global community–– other than ourselves.
author of The Wisdom of W.E.B. Du Bois
and co-author of Elemental, The Power of Illuminated Love
The Poetry of Life
"Whether we writers merely dream when we think of increasing the pool of literary knowledge, and of decreasing the barriers of misunderstanding between nations, I know not. But… dreaming is the poetry of Life, and we must be forgiven if we indulge in it a little."--John Galsworthy, Five Speeches to P.E.N. Clubs and a Letter
Out from Under
“Maybe, like other arts, political art might as well start from there––not from the impulse to teach or inform, but from the desire to discover and grope our way out from under what a 14th-century English monk called the cloud of unknowing.” ––Francine Prose, Out from Under the Cloud of Unknowing