Friday, March 04, 2011

Presidential Power of Middle East Politics: Roger Cohen's March 3, 2011 editorial "Go to Jerusalem, Mr. President"(link below) advocates for President Obama to make a trip to Jerusalem to calm Israeli fears amid the present upheaval in the Middle East so that Israelis will be assured that the US will remain Israel's most important ally.

I do not envy those in positions of Israeli power nor do I envy our president's decisions that he will have to make about the latest intractable Middle East morph. It is unsettling, to say the least, when nothing IS settled. Surely there must be some wise men in Israel and at our president's side to act as counsel. In the final analysis, it is his decision to make and it is he who will be held accountable as the buck stops at his desk and goes no farther.

Obama has played most things close to the vest. I believe he balances political prudence for the 2012 elections and his legacy with some idealism left over in some crevice of his senatorial and campaign 2008 DNA. I have found myself throwing up my hands when the president goes against what he said to those of us who elected him in 2008 but then retreating from my criticism when he does something I deem wonderful which he has many times. I have come to the conclusion after arduous reflection about my deflation of 2008 ebullience that this president is president of ALL the people not just his Democratic coveted base of which I am a member in good standing. In short, as president, he must be more careful, infinitely more discerning as to what he says, where he goes and for which policy he advocates. I live in Massachusetts BUT Massachusetts is NOT Indiana nor is it Tripoli or Tel Aviv. I cannot expect it to be.

The Middle East, that cauldron of bombastic never-ending upheaval and death, is VERY hard to predict. I suspect some Israeli and US policy makers are having late night Pepto Bismol moments while they have the darnedest time trying to craft effective Middle East policy while alienating few and at the same time saving the lives they were entrusted to protect. Would a visit to Israel allay some Jewish fears? Perhaps it would. Would it prompt other Arab militancy to retrieve their anti-Israel/US signs which have been, so far thankfully, absent? It's possible. Some say life is about risk. That is true when one is starting a corporation or going to the race track but when one is crafting Middle East policy it means the risk is life and death. Decisions in this neck of the woods must be made carefully, analytically and intelligently after much deliberation and at the same time with all deliberate speed. I think our president's proclivity for cool means that slow and steady is his rule and, I think or at least I hope, in the final analysis, where the Middle East is concerned it will win the race!
The Power of Art: Recently a relative of mine wrote a wonderful piece on the beauty of art and said we should support it. I strongly agreed and it prompted some thoughts. I wrote the following:

I LOVE the arts. It is amazing how many different forums there are to soak up both historical and contemporary creativity. Even if one is not able financially or physically to support or attend artistic events, one can seek out in many different ways artistic talent.

I agree with my relative it is the culture of art, music, literature, theater and today film which will live on. When the Taliban blew up the ancient statues of the Buddha those of us who adore antiquities let out a collective wail. It reinforced how toxic extremist belief is to man and how important it is to contribute to saving those irreplaceable and priceless pieces of man’s artistic creation. The civilization that produced the Buddha statue in Afghanistan is long gone but that remnant of man’s creativity lived until religious dogma blew it up. I read a piece recently which reported they are trying to recreate the statues. I pay tribute to that but also know modern efforts at reconstruction while laudable often do not take the place of the original. That’s okay. I’ll take what I can get. When I went to Dusseldorf, Germany some years ago we were taken to a museum which was built around the destructive obliteration of a building during World War II. Inadvertently that bombing uncovered a gorgeous mosaic of Roman art. I took that as a metaphor that even through the destruction of war the art survived!

Many (I included) complain and loathe some of the pitiful violent garbage on television made to appeal to minds of a dull 10 year old (I guess they have their rights too.) My cable provider, however, if one wants to search through a myriad of channels, offers endless artistic viewing from PBS to Wealth TV which is non stop classical, baroque, and other music and art of the great masters. It takes one on a film journey through their historic world. It is better than any drug, alcohol or other mind altering substance because it provides a wonderful escape into the auditory and visual magnificence of another world and it does not dull the senses but enhances them.

Art is everywhere but so many in our society carry a poisonous asp in their pocket wanting to kill much that breathes beauty and life into our world. I have written about the sinew of anti-intellectualism that runs through some of our country’s sclerotic veins. It is sad because this country has, indeed, produced some wonderful works of art in a variety of venues. They deserve our undying support in any way we can.

There is so much to learn and so little time to learn it but if you have children and even if you do not I believe you owe it to the generations that come after us to imbue them with an appreciation of art, hone their abilities to create it, and support endeavors the best one can to finance it. Devoting our collective dollars to the waging of war, the propping up of tyrannies, and the proliferation of destructiveness will end up on the ash bin of history but art, hopefully will live on long after we do, unless, of course we destroy it in the process.