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375 pages, Hardcover
First published January 1, 2006
I am obligated to try to see the world through George Bush's eyes, no matter how much I may disagree with him. That's what empathy does - it calls us to task, the conservative and the liberal, the powerful and the powerless, the oppressed and the oppressors. We are all shaken out of our complacency. We are all forced beyond our limited vision.This is the tone Obama tries to keep throughout the book, and he succeeds on the whole (except in one area – but more about that later). We get the picture of a sincere politician (a career politician, true, but no less sincere for that) out to clear up the mess that two years of the Bush Presidency has pushed America into.
The answer I settle on – which is by no means original to me – requires a shift in metaphors, one that sees our democracy not as a house to be built, but as a conversation to be had. According to this conception, the genius of Madison’s design is not that it provides us a fixed blueprint for action, the way a draftsman plots a building’s construction. It provides us with a framework and with rules, but fidelity to these rules will not guarantee a just society or assure agreement on what’s right.Of course, politicians need to be mature enough for this conversation. When that will happen is anybody’s guess.
When we abandon the field of religious discourse – when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practised, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum. And those who do are likely to be those with the most insular views of faith, or who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.Golden words: not applicable only to America but the world in general. The fight against fundamentalism is to be won not through confrontation but engagement.
...having the audacity to believe despite all the evidence to the contrary that we could restore a sense of continuity to a nation torn by conflict; the gall to believe that despite personal setbacks, the loss of a job or an illness in the family or a childhood mired in poverty, we had some control – and therefore responsibility – over our own fate.Barack Obama had that audacity – and the audacity to pursue the hope, for country decimated by eight years of Dubya’s disastrous reign. But will America get anyone with the same mettle to take the country back to normal after the reign of the catastrophe called Donald Trump? That, to me, is the million-dollar question.
"...I was reminded that is is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights."