Thursday, December 03, 2009

Obama the Dog & Obama's Doghouse

This adorable dog is named Obama, and the happy girl is my daughter. She's spending the whole school year in the Canary Islands, becoming even more fluent in Spanish, and having beaucoups interesting experiences! The host family named the dog Obama because he was the darkest one in the litter.. this is Spain, not South America. Everyone is very blanco; skin color still determines nobility.  But I know it was an honor, and my daughter says he lives up to the noble name.

Kind of funny that she told me that yesterday, when our Obama was getting into the proverbial doghouse with his decision on Afghanistan. He has disappointed and angered many liberals and lovers of peace. Yes, it's true... Obama is another politician. He dissembles, compromises, and plays spin games with words. In our system, only that sort could ever make it to the top. I think we all knew that, but we wanted to believe something else.

Still, I feel for Barack Obama the man. I would not go so far as to say that he isn't entirely the man we wanted to think he was, a person of integrity and character. I still think that he is thoughtful, intelligent, and humane. Even wise, in some respects. But we, the citizenry who elected him, have allowed, through our passivity and indifference, such a political system to thrive and evolve for centuries now. We won't even stage a decent protest against these wars, and I'm as much to blame as anyone. Blaming him alone for the escalation in Afghanistan is projection. We are all responsible.

Now, here's the reason I feel for him. Although my job as leader of my little UU congregation is a speck of sand on the huge beaches of time, and he is leader of the free world, there are parallels. What minister is not the lightning rod for the projections of those who can not look within? What religious leader does not try to please, to find middle ground, to serve the needs of her people, to reach the spectrum of people with his words ( a particularly convoluted and seemingly endless spectrum in a UU church!)? What clergy person doesn't strive to make decisions that will benefit the organization, even if they seem unpopular at the time, only to be greeted with criticism and mean-spirited gossip? Find me one, and I vouchsafe that they are fibbing. And what leader of any organization doesn't feel glum sometimes when the one hundred good decisions she made are glossed over and the one unpopular one is trumpeted?

What I observe in some clergy is that they become vapid in order to avoid the barbed critiques that greet anything other than the most middle of the road expression. They choose white bread people pleasing over
a more fiber-rich but harder to digest diet of truth-telling and decisive leadership. They placate, and they hide their true beings. It's political. They want to keep their jobs, and they want to avoid being talked about, or fired, and my fear is that Obama the individual who had the potential to be a true leader will become as lost in the game as they have. So, yes, even in my little corner of the world, I relate to him.

That's why I still want to believe that what Cheney called "dithering" on Afghanistan was a process of deep and wide discernment. I still want to believe that this man does not lightly or without troubled conscience send troops to their deaths. Because I know that leadership is lonely, frustrating, challenging and sometimes painful. In my case, it is also deeply rewarding, fulfilling, and uplifting. That's on those days that I am not in the doghouse!