by Dr. Robert D. Crane, Guest Blogger
We have now had two presidents in the past generation who had difficulty with what our 41st president called "this vision thing," which, in my opinion, was totally beyond his capacity to comprehend. We have had three presidents, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, who had some holistic direction other than pragmatic compromise or might makes right.
What is No 44's vision? Is it the same as that of America's founders as envisioned in the Preamble to the American Constitution? Our founding document reads: "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense, promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
The founding men and woman of America conceived justice to be the source of order, prosperity, and freedom, and listed "freedom" last as the product of the first four of America's founding purposes.
President Obama did not use the term "justice" in his speech. His eloquent and determined speech was reminiscent of Churchill's speech promising "blood, sweat, and tears," but nowhere did it portray any paradigm of policy other than freedom. There was no mention of justice as the source of security, prosperity, and freedom, as enshrined in the Preamble to the American Constitution, which can serve as the American code of human responsibilities and rights, similar to the maqasid al shari'ah in classical Islamic thought and to similar scriptural interpretations in every world religion.
Even a self-serving concept of justice, however, is better than former President Bush's use of "justice" only as a synonym for retribution, as in "Saddam Hussein will experience American justice."
Does our new president's inaugural address mean only "more of the same" but with greater determination? Its real meaning will emerge in action. He does not talk the walk of justice, but perhaps he will walk without talking. This may be what Secretary Hillary Clinton in her initial confirmation hearings baptized as "smart power," because neither "soft power" nor "hard power" are politically correct action-words any more. As optimistic voters for Barack Obama, perhaps we need merely pray that the new Administration, now only a few hours old, needs to pioneer both good policy and more transparency.
Perhaps one-time presidential candidate Mike Gravel (accent on the second syllable), former U.S. Senator from Alaska before the Republicans took over the state, is right when he says we need a revolution from below, which is what those who voted for Barack Obama were trying to launch, not from above. Senator Gravel's "Philadelphia Two Initiative," also known as the "National Initiative for Democracy," called for Direct Democracy. He pursued this through his Democracy Foundation, which advocated direct action through a constitutional amendment providing for voter-initiated federal legislation similar to state ballot initiatives in order to facilitate political reform from the bottom up. He regarded this as key to a fundamental reform of the entire system of money and credit designed to expand access to universal individual ownership of capital or real, productive wealth, which, in turn, is the key to real political self-determination and freedom both at home and abroad.
This, of course, assumes what many might call a spiritual transformation along the lines of Rabbi Michael Lerner's call for a "new bottom line," which might take much longer than similar reform from the top down by lobbying within the existing system of concentrated economic and political power.
Senator Gravel and his economic mentor, Norman Kurland, president of the Center for Economic and Social Justice, have differed on whether political democracy or economic democracy comes first, a question some might regard as another form of the chicken-or-egg conundrum. Norman Kurland, co-founder of the American Revolutionary Party, believes that political democracy follows economic democracy, while Senator Gravel reverses the order. Perhaps they are "prophets without honor in their own country," and are both right.
The Obama Administration may offer the best and only chance to fulfill the American dream of peace, prosperity, and freedom through compassionate justice. If President Obama starts both talking and walking, America may indeed succeed, God willing, in renewing its global leadership as "the last, best hope for mankind."