Looking for More from Obama

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Yesterday, Barack Obama gave one of his Important Speeches to the people of Berlin. The words were, as always, uplifting and the message chock-full of calls for unity. He used the fall of the Berlin wall as a continuing motif, a metaphor for world unity. That led to this riff:

The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.

He went on to tell the world “this is the moment” to stand up against all the problems which plague us. And while people cheered and Obama supporters swooned, I was left with one thought. As Jake bitterly says at the end of The Sun Also Rises:

“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”

I’m not naturally inclined to cynicism. In fact, I have great optimism for this world. I’ve just grown so weary of Obama’s demands for a unity that no one can reasonably expect or achieve – a call for unity that asks no sacrifices but for all the world to lay down animosities and join hands. How wonderful that would be. But it’s not going to happen under any American presidency.

Maybe we should be generous and let Obama have his last, Great Hope tour. It is only July. But if he wants a shot at my vote (and I’m still keeping both doors open in this election), he’s got to stop telling me the dream and start telling me the how. And don’t mean merely saying he will “open dialogues” with our enemies. I want to know what his carrots and sticks will be. I sense that such specificity is within him – I just haven’t seen enough.

Until then, I have to agree with David Brooks in today’s New York Times:

“[O]ptimism without reality isn’t eloquence. It’s just Disney.”