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One of Barack Obama's finest moments was a few days ago at a press conference where he responded to a Fox News-That-Isn't question asking about...
"the wisdom of building a mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero."
In his answer, President Obama said this....
"....from a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It's a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts -- and have killed Muslims more than anybody else.
"The other reason it's important for us to remember that is because we've got millions of Muslim-Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They're going to school with our kids. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our coworkers. And, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?
"I've got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan, in the uniform of the United States armed services. They're out there putting their lives on the line for us, and we've got to make sure that we are crystal clear for our sakes and their sakes: They are Americans. And we honor their service. And part of honoring their service is making sure that they understand that we don't differentiate between 'them' and 'us.' It's just 'us.'"
"It's just us." Three words. Three profound words of wisdom. Three words of wisdom which many Americans recently have been challenging by their distasteful, rejectionistic attitudes and actions.
As a progressive blogger, I have often ridiculed, lambasted and mocked those non-inclusive actions and attitudes. And I won't be stopping anytime soon.
Da King and I (wasn't that a play or something?) go back and forth with gusto, each trying to trump the other's viewpoints, pointing out inconsistencies, mistakes, and contradictions.....in what some consider a daily "us versus them" enterprise.
I can't speak for Da King, however, I never considered King to be a "them." He is a loyal American who loves his country passionately. Though we disagree on policy virtually every day.....I do not regard him as my enemy or an enemy of America. People simply disagree about stuff.
At the press conference, Obama was reminding us that even though we might disagree about stuff.....much as when family members disagree....we are still one big family, not an us and a them.
Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly, says of Obama's "it's just us" comment that....
It's a shame the country has to be reminded of these basic truths from time to time.....
Yes, it is.
At the same time, it is also helpful to remember that our nation has had an ongoing 200+ year battle with itself over this same "us versus them" issue. Our history in America is replete with examples......native American Indians, blacks, Irish, Italians, Catholics, Jews, women, gays, Hispanic immigrants,.....Muslims. Each episode has been a struggle of "Us"......those who belong in the "real America", and "Them"....those who are portrayed as not belonging in the "real America."
In each case in our history, a majority had rejected the not-like-us "other." Yet, with an eye steadfast on our organizing document of inclusiveness and liberty for all, we have made significant progress over two centuries assimilating those once considered not to be a part of the "real America."
That's the uniqueness of America.....the true exceptionalism we should all celebrate.
Make no mistake. This ongoing historical struggle inside the U.S. has not been painless, bloodless, or easy.
On occasion, as now, we are tempted as a people to rise up and reject some new "other" we might feel threatened by. I believe that's what we've been experiencing over the last two years or so. Barack Obama doesn't look like any of our other white male presidents. His name rings with "otherness." His campaign was plagued by critics who often said...."he's not like us." His presidency crippled from the start by those who placed him on the outside of "real America."
Recently we have been tempted to paint all American Muslims with the same radical extremist brush that only applies to, as Obama said, "a handful, a tiny minority".
So, political differences not withstanding....that is, people disagreeing about stuff....the only way forward, as difficult as it may seem at times...is to rally in unity under the one slogan which should always apply....."It's just us."
Has a good ring to it.