Russia and Obama

I am not surprised by today’s story in The New York Times about Russians not clamoring to see President Obama as people have in other countries.  While even the U.S. still has to grapple with zenophobia, closed nations with state-controlled media are even more distrustful of “the other.”  My Bubby and Zayde (grandmother and grandfather in Yiddish) escaped the Tsarist pogroms with my then-young uncle Mersh.  More recently, we’ve seen how Chenchens, and Ossetians and Abkhazians have been treated by Russia.  We have a long way to go in our own country, but at least we have the advantages of an open society where we freely can voice dissent.  But I believe whether here or in other nations, ethnic violence is based on mistrust of  people who are different (see Hutu/Tutsi in Rwanda, see Rodney King in Los Angeles).  While technology is rapidly moving us towards being truly globalized, we lag far behind in our ability to trust each other as members of one global community.  I urge us to teach tolerance in our schools, our houses of worship, all other community forums and in our homes.  Numerous organizations I work with are doing that but we need more.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged us to build the “beloved community” of humankind: I hope our leaders and all citizens  take that challenge seriously.  Please share your thoughts on how we might do that and your recommendations of succesful programs that are attempting it.

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Jeanne Browne (MizB) July 14, 2009, 5:32 am

    Nadine, I agree with you about the Russian response to Obama and the reasons for it; I wish I felt a bit more optimistic about our [national] capacity to build that human community here at home, sooner than later — because time is running out. I’m in the midst of preparing a post for my own blog, MizB Views From the Tower (which I herewith shamelessly plug and hope that your readers will check out at http://mizbviewsfromthetower.blogspot.com – just click on my name here on the left), likely to be entitled “Stale-Dated Labels.” It’s about our urgent national need to get less stupid, simplistic and narrowminded about how we define and categorize ourselves, our political views, and our policies. We may have more freedom of speech and a more open society than Russia, but we use our privileges poorly, when we use them at all, and do ourselves and our issues a disservice when we label them “left” and “right” and this, that, or the other OLD thing. This is a new world, with new interrelationships, new and more complex problems, new and more lethal dangers, and new and more diverse players. We have to change both the language and the tone of our national (and global) conversation, and talk straighter and smarter. This whole business with Judge Sotomayor and the response to her past “wise Latina” remarks is a perfect case in point. What is this “empathy” and “identity politics” attack about? Is there anyone who doubts that the white middle- and upper-class men who have dominated the Court since its inception have been influenced in their views and decisions by their own upbringing and experience? The whole purpose of promoting diversity in all spheres, especially in power centers such as the Supreme Court, is to give voice and authority to other styles of identity and experience. Of course a justice must be guided by the law — but as human beings, all of our engines are driven by who and what we are and where we’ve come from. We can’t judge or legislate or create policy or lead or function as citizens, or chew gum and walk at the same time, in a shapeless vacuum, one devoid of the sensitivity and wisdom that come from personal experience. Which, to come full circle, is what a closed and otherwise totalitarian society tries to do and why such societies are resisted by their people, and why these same people were unresponsive to Obama. It’s not just that they don’t know who he is, they don’t understand what he is or what he stands for, because nothing in their experience has prepared them to recognize it, let alone trust it. I don’t know what “programs” exist to address this: maybe a synthesis of “Sesame Street, “Star Trek” and “Real Time with Bill Maher”? (I think I just started writing my blog post…)

    Reply
  • Jeanne Browne (MizB) July 14, 2009, 5:39 am

    Nadine, I agree with you about the Russian response to Obama and the reasons for it; I wish I felt a bit more optimistic about our [national] capacity to build that human community here at home, sooner than later — because time is running out. I’m in the midst of preparing a post for my own blog, MizB Views From the Tower (which I herewith shamelessly plug and hope that your readers will check out at http://mizbviewsfromthetower.blogspot.com – just click on my name here on the left), likely to be entitled “Stale-Dated Labels.” It’s about our urgent national need to get less stupid, simplistic and narrowminded about how we define and categorize ourselves, our political views, and our policies. We may have more freedom of speech and a more open society than in Russia, but we use our privileges poorly, when we use them at all, as well as do ourselves a great disservice when we label them “left” and “right” and this, that, or the other OLD thing. This is a new world, with new interrelationships, new and more complex problems, new and more lethal dangers, and new and more diverse players. We have to change both the language and the tone of our national (and global) conversation, and talk straighter and smarter. This whole business with Judge Sotomayor and the response to her past “wise Latina” remarks is a perfect case in point. What is this “empathy” and “identity politics” attack about? Is there anyone who doubts that the white middle- and upper-class men who have dominated the Court since its inception have been influenced in their views and decisions by their own upbringing and experience? The whole purpose of promoting diversity in all spheres, especially in power centers such as the Supreme Court, is to give voice and authority to other styles of identity and experience. Of course a justice must be guided by the law — but as human beings, all of our engines are driven by who and what we are and where we’ve come from. We can’t judge or legislate or create policy or lead or function as citizens, or chew gum and walk at the same timem in a shapeless vacuum, one devoid of the sensitivity and wisdom that come from personal experience. Which, to come full circle, is what a closed and otherwise totalitarian society tries to do and why such societies are resisted by their people, and why these same people were unresponsive to Obama. It’s not just that they don’t know who he is, they don’t understand what he is or what he stands for, because nothing in their experience has prepared them to recognize it, let alone trust it. I don’t know what “programs” exist to address this: maybe a synthesis of “Sesame Street, “Star Trek” and “Real Time with Bill Maher”? (I think I just started writing my blog post…)

    Reply
  • Jeanne Browne July 14, 2009, 5:41 am

    Nadine, I agree with you about the Russian response to Obama and the reasons for it; I wish I felt a bit more optimistic about our [national] capacity to build that human community here at home, sooner than later — because time is running out. I’m in the midst of preparing a post for my own blog, MizB Views From the Tower (which I herewith shamelessly plug and hope that your readers will check out — just click on my name here on the left), likely to be entitled “Stale-Dated Labels.” It’s about our urgent national need to get less stupid, simplistic and narrowminded about how we define and categorize ourselves, our political views, and our policies. We may have more freedom of speech and a more open society than in Russia, but we use our privileges poorly, when we use them at all, as well as do ourselves a great disservice when we label them “left” and “right” and this, that, or the other OLD thing. This is a new world, with new interrelationships, new and more complex problems, new and more lethal dangers, and new and more diverse players. We have to change both the language and the tone of our national (and global) conversation, and talk straighter and smarter. This whole business with Judge Sotomayor and the response to her past “wise Latina” remarks is a perfect case in point. What is this “empathy” and “identity politics” attack about? Is there anyone who doubts that the white middle- and upper-class men who have dominated the Court since its inception have been influenced in their views and decisions by their own upbringing and experience? The whole purpose of promoting diversity in all spheres, especially in power centers such as the Supreme Court, is to give voice and authority to other styles of identity and experience. Of course a justice must be guided by the law — but as human beings, all of our engines are driven by who and what we are and where we’ve come from. We can’t judge or legislate or create policy or lead or function as citizens, or chew gum and walk at the same timem in a shapeless vacuum, one devoid of the sensitivity and wisdom that come from personal experience. Which, to come full circle, is what a closed and otherwise totalitarian society tries to do and why such societies are resisted by their people, and why these same people were unresponsive to Obama. It’s not just that they don’t know who he is, they don’t understand what he is or what he stands for, because nothing in their experience has prepared them to recognize it, let alone trust it. I don’t know what “programs” exist to address this: maybe a synthesis of “Sesame Street, “Star Trek” and “Real Time with Bill Maher”? (I think I just started writing my blog post…)

    Reply

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