We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Friday, September 13, 2013

Weighing In On Syria

There really are times when the collective voices of our news media do our nation less service than we deserve—or, perhaps, speak too much for us rather than to us.  Over the last few weeks, we have watched President Obama wrestle with the painfully difficult issues surrounding the civil war in Syria and the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime.  He is faced with a chess board on which the pieces are in constant motion, the rules uncertain, and some pieces hidden from view.  The media (and many politicians always on the lookout for political advantage) want bold decisive decisions today and immediate solutions immediately implemented.  They blame the uncertainty and chaos on the president.  They see him as weak and vacillating.

In response, the president has refused to make a decision that is not ready to be made.  He has involved the whole nation in the decision-making process.  He has eschewed cowboy diplomacy and action for the sake of action.  He has been wise enough to wait on events even while there has been a clamor for hasty, white horse & shining armor action.  His "performance" has perhaps not always been as spot-on as it could be, but in the midst of all of the angst  some wiser voices are pointing out that the president is accomplishing important things.  He has dialed back, at least slightly, the presidential tendency to make these hard decisions for us rather than with us.  He has created space for the unexpected, which actually may lead to a resolution of the chemical weapons issue without American military action.  He has been listening to public opinion with respect even though he disagrees with it.

We may may not see things the way President Obama does, and the course of events may not work out as he (or we) want; but he deserves our respect.  He is a man of peace who feels constrained to act against his instincts for peace but is unwilling to stray far from those instincts.  Those who demand that he give back his Nobel Peace Prize are simply not paying balanced attention.  He deserves it now more than ever.