Eight Days

Did you hear or read about the President’s address on Syria in the Rose Garden yesterday? The President (emphasis added):

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.

…while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.

…if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing… We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us… I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate.

His own advisors were surprised, apparently, that the President chose to go to Congress. The political advisors worry that Congress won’t help, as they haven’t helped with anything, ever, and would cripple the rest of the Administration’s legislative agenda. The military advisors are pessimistic about international support improving given the (any?) outcome of a Congressional vote.

So if I’m reading this correctly, the President is demonstrating an overriding faith in:

  • himself (in being able to make the case to use and concretely define “limited, narrow” military action in Syria)
  • Congress (in being able to think about any world beyond their own re-election)
  • voters (in being able to pay attention, think, and make their opinions known to Congress)
  • the international community (in being able to forgive the United States for its past colossal f-ups).

He believes we can all come together under his leadership, and we can show the Syrian regime that they won’t get away with what they’ve done (and neither would, say, Iran, were it to try something similar, or worse).

I wrote earlier about why I supported then Senator Obama back when he was running for President. (Prudence. Caution.)

In requesting Congressional authority for military action in Syria, which is an attempt to demonstrate to the world (and to the United States) what the United States of America is, what it is supposed to be, is he rising to the majestic heights of “meeting physical force with soul force?”

Congress is back in session on September 9. Eight days.

related by equality

There’s a petition on The White House’s site asking that the President stop using the phrase “wives, mothers and daughters,” because it is counterproductive to the fight for women’s equality. Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for Salon, quotes McKenna Miller on the issue as it would be applied to gay rights: “The reason to fight homophobia isn’t because ‘you’ve got a gay friend,’ it’s because it’s simply the right thing to do. The reason why a woman is valuable isn’t because she’s someone’s sister, or daughter, or wife, it’s because of the person she is unto herself.”

True. The reason to expect, let alone fight for, equality among sexes (male, female, or transgendered), or among those with different sexual orientations, or among those with different abilities, or among those with different religions, is because it’s the right thing to do.

But why do we do the right thing? We do the right thing because we know we wouldn’t want the wrong thing done to us.

Each one of “us” in this country comprise a community: A big, messy community in which you may never meet even one 10,000th of one percent of all of its members. It’s a community that can make you feel lonely, isolated, or safe and in good company.

When you hear a phrase like “wives, mothers, and daughters,” and in the case of gay rights, perhaps not the phrase “gay friend,” but the more accurate, if not all encompassing, phrase “sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters,” the people named are no longer “them.” They become one of “us.”

There should be no reluctance in using the fact that one is a part of something–a marriage, a family, a community–in arguing for equality. Nobody diminishes me for naming what I am in relation to others. I am proud of my relationship to others: as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, an employee, a volunteer, a citizen. I am not isolated, I am not alone. I am safe and in good company.

Sure, the President used shorthand, likely because he is trying to appeal to a pretty stubborn segment of old-school old boys’ club members. Whatever. There are bigger fights to fight.