Memo For File LXXVIII
I’d like to share a few things I’ve been noticing, and ruminate over a few questions I’ve been having, about humility.
1. The state or quality of being humble; freedom from pride and arrogance; lowliness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; a sense of one’s own unworthiness through imperfection and sinfulness; self-abasement; humbleness.
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind. –Acts xx. 19.
2. An act of submission or courtesy.
With these humilities they satisfied the young king. –Sir J. Davies.
Syn: Lowliness; humbleness; meekness; modesty; diffidence.
Could someone please explain what the above has in common, if anything at all, with the foreign policy of the United States, specifically where it is expected to go from here over the next four years?
I ask because of the following exchange that took place this weekend between David Gregory and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: It really depends upon how the — how our nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation but strong, they’ll welcome us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GREGORY: Eight years later, seven years later after that, do you think that the world views the United States as a humble nation?
RICE: I certainly think the United States views the — that the world views the United States as a place to be respected. All over the world, David, our values are respected; who we are, a place that you can come and come from modest circumstances to great things, that’s respected. What we’ve done hasn’t always been liked or popular.
But if you look at some of the most populous places in the world –China, India — the United States is not only respected but, in fact, popular.
So, yes, there are some places that have had real quarrels with our policies, but I think the United States is very well-respected worldwide.
GREGORY: A lot changed, obviously, after that debate, 9/11, principally.
But, even on the course of that, do you think that the president pursued a humble foreign policy as he, as he said he would, as he said it was important for the United States to?
One might argue this single fine disctinction Dr. Rice seeks to make, between being humble and being respected, is woefully inadequate in a number of ways. You could say this is a case of evading the question; to that, I would agree. On this thing about the United States being liked and/or respected, you could say she has a good point or that she’s horribly mistaken.
I think it depends on who you ask.
But it looks to me like we all would have drawn an enormous benefit from continuing this discussion of “humility.” From where I sit it’s no different than the chicken in every pot, or the term limits in Congress, or suspensions of pay raises for same. Politicians keep promising it. The years tick on by, it’s never delivered — no fuss is made about it — and whoever observes ongoing events with some honesty and real curiosity, eventually is forced to question whether anybody wanted it delivered in the first place.
On March 18, Barack Obama delivered a speech, hailed by many of his supporters as a home run, in which He said He wanted to start a national dialogue on race. No such dialogue ever ensued; no evidence survives to indicate that The Chosen One ever had anything in mind more meaningful than a monologue. The speech itself, in fact, existed only as an exercise to command the masses to forget everything they ever heard about Rev. Jeremiah Wright — and they complied instantly, of course. See, this is something our everyday folk and our leaders have in common: We’re not that good about starting national dialogues on things. Dialoguing about starting dialogues, yeah, we’re good at that. Following up, nope. Well, here’s a national dialogue certainly worth having.
What the heck is humility?
I’m likin’ this idea of mine. In the list of things about which we could & should have some kind of a “national dialogue,” humility skyrockets to the top. The kind we want, has something to do with “leadership”; leadership, in turn, has something to do with offering a vision in such a way that people are naturally aroused to want to participate in bringing it about, even, to sacrifice things precious to them so they can participate in it.
And nobody seems to want to follow the “aw shucks” guy. We just saw that in the 2008 elections when the Republicans got clobbered. After ten solid months of “aw shucks.”
So there’s some paradox at work here, and the paradox is a tricky one because it comes from within us. Pardon me for being politically incorrect here, but I think every straight man with some dating experience can see where I’m going with this: We are very much like women in this way. Ask a young, available lady what she does like in a man and what she does not like in a man, and at the very top of the “don’t like” list you’ll always find one single word: COCKY. And at the top of the “like” list somewhere you’ll see the word CONFIDENT. You can be one without being the other. Supposedly, everyone understands this. But if everyone understood it then someone, somewhere, would’ve taken the time to explain it right?
Submitted for your approval: You cannot explain this distinction, coherently, in such a way that President-Elect Obama ends up in the “like” column. He’s cocky; they don’t come any cockier. And He hasn’t got a shred of humility in His whole glorious Annointed Body.
We have an “Office of the President Elect” now. With an emblem and everything. Good God.
It’s not the kind of cocky that has much to do with strong leadership. Strong leadership has something to do with command of a process that generates good ideas, even in situations wherein it’s difficult or impossible to have a good idea. Now granted, Obama’s predilection for pulling ideas out of his butt, in solitude, conferring with no one, and then plunging headlong into the task of getting those ideas sold to the slobbering masses, is far short of an indictment. Leaders can make good decisions by their very lonesomes. We say so, here, quite a lot.
But in Obama’s case this is a special cause for concern. He is not Union General Ulysses Grant wandering into his tent at midnight with a fistful of cigars, emerging hours later with the scrawlings and scribblings that will lead to victory against the Confederacy. He is not Abraham Lincoln, scrawling away (apocryphally) at the Gettysburg Address during a ride on a train. Obama, for one thing, doesn’t have that kind of track record. When He decides things in solitude, His Holiness’ track record, if anything, is to screw up a lot more often than to succeed. How did that Rev. Wright controversy get started, anyway? Answer: Barack Obama went to that church. Again and again. For twenty years, He made it His family’s church. When He was called on His screw-up, His Holy Defense was that He knew not what He was doing…that darn Rev. Wright was spouting off with all these hateful ideas when His Holiness Barack Obama was not around.
It’s a failure of judgment, plain and simple. Whether or not you want to grant The Man-Messiah-God the benefit of the doubt, ends up being a rather irrelevant question. He biffed it.
Another cause for concern is that if Obama is making these decisions about what’s to be done next all by His Lonesomeness, in complete solitude, and even His innermost circle of advisors is failing to interject anything that might factor in to what ultimately emerges as the strategy of what to do next — well, then, that strategy was formed by who, exactly? In history’s list of victorious presidential candidates, Barack Obama stands alone as a real mystery man. We learned very little about Him during the election of 2008, and most of what we did learn had to do with what a fine skill He has for giving speeches. Speeches that are so good, they make you want to buy things you shouldn’t. That’s about all we know about Him, really. The other end of the spectrum would be His priorities; if there’s one area in which we are glaringly deficient of knowledge about The Annointed One, it would be His priorities in where our country’s foriegn policy is supposed to take us, in what shape it is supposed to leave us when He is done with His work. And that, in itself, is a mighty odd thing. Because when the campaigns started, I think most people would expect that to be the first question answered. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to be asking candidates if you ever are fortunate enough to toss questions at them.
Go on, name me some examples of Barack Obama’s humility. When did He ever come to anyone with a question about how to do something, with His Holy Mind honestly open to all alternatives? Someone other than that bigoted, hateful pastor of His? Consider what He said to Joe The Plumber right as He blew both His feet off at the neck —
It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you that they’ve got a chance to success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.
Barack Obama thinks that. He figured it out. Case closed.
Well, history doesn’t think that. And history has a weighty opinion to offer here, because wealth-spreading has been tried over and over and over again. As failures go, wealth-spreading has been quite impressive in its consistency throughout the decades and areas in the world in which it has failed.
But nevermind all that, Barack Obama has formed an idea in His Holy Cranium.
People should be concerned about this even if they like bigoted reverends and wealth-spreading. Because our President-Elect doesn’t seem to really have any advisors who, you know, advise him on things. That only makes a difference if you listen to them, and you’re only going to listen to them if you have the humility to do so.
And from what I’ve seen over the last two years, it doesn’t look to me like Obama has any at all. He just…you know…decides things. Obama thinks this. Obama thinks that. Nobody challenges Him in any way.
Kind of like that little boy in the Twilight Zone episode.
Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.