I greatly admired Michael Jackson. I admire anyone who’s the very best at what they do, and Michael Jackson was definitely that. I remember when I first heard him. He was doing a tune called “Who’s Lovin’ You?” He was a mere child at the time, but his talent was so fully developed, and he sang with so much emotional maturity, I mistook the high pitch of his voice to be that of a very soulful adult female. Then later when he did “Billie Jean” at the Motown reunion, he seemed to literally defy gravity as he Moonwalked across the stage. So yes, this young man was, without a doubt, one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived.
But Michael’s life–that shooting star that dazzled humanity with its awesome display, only to burn out much too soon–threatens to serve as a perfect metaphor for America itself. The story of the United States parallels that of Michael Jackson. It is also the story of a precocious child star that dazzled humanity with its awesome display. The United States is undoubtedly a superstar among nations, but we must not let hubris allow us to forget that among those very same nations, we are nothing more than a precocious child.
While the United States is 233 years old, that’s relatively nothing when it comes to the history of nations. Iran, one of the oldest nations on Earth, is over 8000 years old. That means that when Jesus Christ walked the Earth, Iran was more than 6000 years older than the United States is today, even then. We need to keep that in mind as we formulate the language of our foreign policy, because believe me, it is a fact that has not been lost on the Iranian people.
It is America’s failure to recognize and respect that fact that has caused so much animosity towards the United States among Muslims in the Middle East–and much of that animosity has also extended to many of our allies in the West. And it is in recognition of that fact that President Obama took the tact that he did in his Cairo speech.
While many in the GOP are trying to play politics with this issue, President Obama’s Cairo speech reflected the ultimate in statesmanship and good common sense. He recognized that no one likes a cocky and disrespectful child, and that’s exactly what the United States has become.
Bush was seen not only by Muslim countries, but countries all over the world as a bratty child who was using the clout of militarism to talk down to nations that dwarf the United States in terms of history and cultural tradition. Thus, it was absolutely necessary in order to establish constructive engagement in the Middle East for President Obama to first repent, and then ask the world to please forgive the stupidity of his arrogant sibling. He was right to assure the people of the Middle East that the United States recognize them as a great and ancient culture, whose religion has contributed tremendously to mankind.
Just through those few common-sense words President Obama began a healing process that immediately began to mend animosities held against the United States for over sixty years. Clear evidence of that was immediately apparent. Immediately after his Cairo speech the people of Lebanon voted to appoint Saad al-Hariri, Backed by the United States, as their new prime minister, and voted down the Iranian backed Hezbollah hardliners. And immediately after that, the Iranian people took to the street in opposition to hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But just like the jihadists, GOP hardliners like Dick and Liz Cheney claim that President Obama’s position is weak, and it makes America less safe. But the facts belie their contention, since the very people who are voting for a more reasoned stance towards the United States are the very same people that jihadists depend on to recruit their terrorists.
So why is the GOP taking such a hard stand against common sense?
Just like the jihadists in the Middle East the GOP require an enemy to maintain power. The jihadists in Iran came to power as a result of mass demonstrations just like we see in Iran today. But in that case, the demonstrations were against the United States for toppling Iran’s democratically elected government and replacing it with Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, a United States puppet. So since hatred of the United States is what brought them into power, the jihadists feel that it is incumbent upon them to maintain that hatred to remain in power.
The same is true of the GOP. The Republican party’s agenda–protecting the interest of the corporatocy, like the insurance industry over the good health and well being of American families, for example–is so counterintuitive to what’s in the best interest of the people that it is incumbent upon the GOP to always maintain an enemy–any enemy–in order to circumvent the common sense of the people and appeal to their emotions.
A perfect example of that is the way the GOP has convinced a large segment of the American people that acting in their own interest constitutes socialism–and of course, socialism leads to communism. Thus, according to their reasoning, anything that gives priority to our own families over corporatism is communist inspired. They’ve successfully used that reasoning to circumvent our common sense. Clear evidence of that is if we used our common sense we’d realize that social security and medicare, two of the most popular programs in America, are both based on socialist principles–so is congress’ healthcare plan.
Everything is about dollars and cents to the GOP, including war. The only people in America who hasn’t suffered from the war in Iraq is the GOP and their corporate cronies. In fact, while America suffers, they’ve benefitted from it greatly. While the children of the poor and middle class are dying, their children are cheering us on from the lobbies of exclusive country clubs; and while average Americans are losing their jobs and homes, GOP cronies are wallowing in the profits of war.
So what does this have to do with Michael Jackson?
Just like Michael Jackson, Americans have derived enormous benefits from our status as world superstars. But that’s not always a good thing, because also like Michael Jackson, our status as superstars have caused us to overindulge ourselves. If Michael hadn’t been such a superstar the world might have placed limits on him. In that case, the plastic surgeon who disfigured him might have refused to do the excessive surgery, which I’m convinced led to his decline. And if it turns out that he died as a result of drugs administered to help boost him for his comeback, he might still be alive today if he’d been simply, Michael the postal worker.
The very same dynamic is true of America. If we hadn’t been such a superstar, the world may not have allowed us to invade Iraq. In that case, 4000 young Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children would be alive today. In addition, if we had invaded, George Bush and Dick Cheney would be in chains today, facing charges of war crimes.
So while President Obama indicates that he wants to look forward, that is the luxury of a superstar. When one considers the result of looking forward after Richard Nixon’s Watergate, and Ronald Reagan’s Iran/Contra affair, it becomes clear that the salvation of America may lie in looking back, and holding ourselves accountable, just this once.