The President of the U.S. provides leadership in an important area that probably doesn’t get enough attention: being the country’s meaning-maker in chief. President Obama, noted for his rhetoric and ability to frame complex issues in balanced and multi-faceted ways — often with an Integral tilt — has risen time and again to the challenge of explaining to Americans the big picture.
Today, he addresses Americans regarding the positive events in Libya where rebels gained ground in Tripoli, creating the sense that victory for anti-Qaddafi forces is at hand. Obama said:
…The situation in Libya has reached a tipping point. As the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom. For over four decades the Libyan people had lived under a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator. [Transcript by JP, emphasis mine]
Notice Obama’s rhetoric emphasized. He is not making a liberationist theological argument per se, but the underlying premise of his speech is clear: good triumphs over evil in history, and human liberation is ultimately victorious over the forces of oppression.
Without invoking specifically Christian theology, he nevertheless gives expression to a civil religiosity which understands history to be governed by a force of reconciliation and liberation. Whether that force is understood as God, the telos of evolution, or the collective action of autonomous individuals is not important. The fact of evolutionary advance is.
From an ABC News blog:
As a side note, in the U.S., the news about the success of the Libyan rebels saw strange political posturing from certain quarters, as political partisans seemed almost comical in their refusal to acknowledge the American role in the story, fearing that any good news for President Obama is bad news for their political party. They don’t notice that the rest of us aren’t fooled.
There is still much work to do to reach a day in which partisanship can be replaced by truly trans-partisan efforts (and trans-national efforts), and more Integral solutions can be found for the world’s big problems. A more Integral picture, I hope, that provides leadership that creates alliances where they can be found in service of goods greater than any nation’s interests alone, protecting and advancing the health of peoples and nations at all stages of development.
Amid the debate over tactics, strategy, and political consequences over Libya, there must be room for holding a big picture view … and Integral voices in the conversation.
In a religiously diverse nation, political leaders ought not invoke their religious convictions as an argument for their political views. But we are fortunate to have a leader in Obama who is capable of drawing from shared American values — our optimism, our hopefulness, and our determination — in a manner that is consistent with the perennial insights of our religious traditions.
Obama does this so subtly most people won’t even notice. But in small yet poignant ways he is helping to cultivate a more worldcentric awareness of the power of human liberation in history — which some of us call Spirit or God — and he has power. Obama is the one calling the shots, not the ethnocentric sourpusses heckling from the sidelines.