Out of Many

Here is the full video of Obama’s speech at Cairo University this morning.

We will be writing about responses amongst America’s young and restless to the speech in the next couple days, so stay in touch and leave your comments and reactions here for us to consider.  As a special treat, we will also have a debrief from our Senior Middle Eastern Correspondant Peter Ryan reporting from Syria.

Salaam Alaikum.

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~ by Vy on June 4, 2009.

6 Responses to “Out of Many”

  1. Wow, so many thoughts wandering aimlessly through my head at this moment. I am fascinated with the dynamics of the relationship between the Western World and the Middle East, how we got to this point, what decisions were made, and what changes are to come in the future. I fall within the group of those who are skeptical to the possibilities of change, there are complexities of this part of the world that cannot be taken for granted. The Middle East is such a primitive part of the planet due to socioeconomics, obsession of power, and generations of totalitarian leadership. There is such a tremendous hatred built up between the East and West among our current generations, it is my opinion the only possible change will come from our younger generations as addressed at the end of the speech. It is my fear this timeline will stretch out too far for me to see any dramatic changes with my own eyes. It is hard to look beyond the facts of our past relationship with this part of the world; understandable mistrust on both sides, the fear of change, the selfishness of economics of commodities on both ends, and mainly just the fact there has been mistake after mistake. I have never been to the Middle East and can only go off the information I have read and the experiences I have heard of, but it is hard to push past the emotion that is part of the world is just a step behind and playing with a primitive mindset. Let us not forget the family dynamics and moral value system is dramatically different in this part of the world. There are no ties to country and state like we have in America, these ties are more closely associated with religion and clan. This set of values creates an environment of radical fundamentalism, the fear to speak out and try to make a change where disrespect of the family name is the ultimate sin, oppression of integral parts of a growing community, and the list can go on and on… With that said I do choose to support any positive momentum as the “keepers of peace” are the true children of God. As I have always said; if you want to have world peace we, get rid of organized religion.

    • If we’re going to bash the totalitarian leadership and obsession of power of ANY nation, first we should bash ourselves.

      Over and over the US has stood in the way of allowing nations who democratically elect someone with socialist ideals. Henry Kissinger helped oust Allende in Argentina. Even Iran’s “obsession with power” reeks of US-intervention.

      From wiki:

      In 1951 Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected prime minister. As prime minister, Mossadegh became enormously popular in Iran after he nationalized Iran’s oil reserves. In response, Britain embargoed Iranian oil and, amidst Cold War fears, invited the United States to join in a plot to depose Mossadegh, and in 1953 President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized Operation Ajax. The operation was successful, and Mossadegh was arrested on 19 August 1953. After Operation Ajax, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s rule became increasingly autocratic. With American support, the Shah was able to rapidly modernize Iranian infrastructure, but he simultaneously crushed all forms of political opposition with his intelligence agency, SAVAK.

      Also, the idea that the moral value system in Iran is so different is in my opinion, a bit naive. In 1997, the moderate reformist Mohammad Khatami was elected as supreme leader. “During his two terms as president, Khatami advocated freedom of expression, tolerance and civil society, constructive diplomatic relations with other states including EU and Asian governments, and an economic policy that supported free market and foreign investment. (also wiki)”

      So it would seem that this obsession with power and totalitarian leadership began only with the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. I think if one were to base their ideas of government and rule in the US off of, say, the election of 2000 and again in 2004, I think they could judge the US to be obsessed with totalitarian rule and power as well.

      On top of this, Iran is one country in the Middle East. Granted it’s large, but it doesn’t represent the entire region. If you’re referring solely to one country in a region, it’s best to call it by name rather than stereotyping the region.

      Also, the idea of how women are treated/viewed in Muslim cultures is an interesting one coming from a nation that can not pay men and women equally for the same job and definitely treat men and women unequally in other respects as well which can be seen in nearly every aspect of pop culture, from tv shows, movies and music.

      So, to repeat Obama and Mon, I think it is worthwhile to look at our common principles and what unites as people of this world, rather than every difference between us.

  2. I think it is a bit naive and irresponsible to think of the Middle East as primitive. What I found most refreshing about Obama’s speech is that it emphasized how to move forward on common principles in lieu of getting caught up in our differences. The differences are undeniable; dwelling on them, however, will never lead us to a solution. Taking responsibility for educating ourselves and addressing our ignorance, individually and collectively, about the countries and cultures of the Middle East–a rich and diverse region of the world–is one of the first ways we can begin to effect change in our relationship with the Middle East. I am afraid, as you say, of this “time-line for change” taking too long, leaving us constantly wondering when “the change” will come. The reality is that it will be a gradual evolution, hopefully for the better, of our understandings and relationships with those countries, religions, and cultures. Obama has big issues on his plate, but so do we. We are a part of that change, be it us as individuals or us as the younger generation. We must acknowledge our faults and shortcomings, as we have already pointed out theirs, and then move on. Let’s figure out what we have to build on in the future. I think it is the only way.

    • I understand your point, however I think it is irresponsible to talk about building a relationship and trust with the Middle East without first diagnosing why this relationship has reached this point. It is not ignorant to call the Middle East a “primitive” culture in comparison to the majority of the world. Let’s break down the definition of primitive; “a subjective label used to imply that one thing is less “sophisticated” or less “advanced” than some other thing. Being a comparative word it is also relative in nature.” I feel this part of the world is less sophisticated in a few key areas, specifically how women are viewed through the eyes of their community as well as their inability to overcome their religious differences which have brought upon them years of tension and hatred. I feel this part of the world is less advanced in a number of areas, specifically their structure of government and overall oppression of the voice of their people. The socioeconomics of this culture have not worked in the past and will continue to fail throughout the future without any significant change. I was sitting on the edge of my seat Friday afternoon when the results of the latest election in Iran became known. When I heard the challenger Mousavi had defeated Ahmadinejad I felt like many of the changes Obama recently promoted might have an opportunity to be realized. Mousavi has a much different perspective than many leaders in the Middle East and was campaigning as the voice of change and opening up this part of the world in order to share many of its rich virtues. However, the rest of the weekend played out a different story… As the final results of the election were displayed, Ahmadinejad was the winner and denounced any skepticism of the election being rigged or fixed. To be honest, the following storyline was almost predictable. The people of Iran spoke out and demonstrated their displeasure only to be met with brutal force from Ahmadinejad. So here we have a chance for change and the promise of a possible difference, however these changes will not be made anytime soon because this is a primitive culture where the power lies within a small collection of voices. Now, let’s take a step back and make sure we are on the same page. I am not saying the people in the Middle East are primitive, I believe they have many talents and passions to share with the rest of the world. However, the way their community has been set up and governed for the majority of time leaves them a number of obstacles they must first overcome before any significant positive changes can even be given a fighting chance. After all that has taken place in the Middle East recently, specifically Iran, please explain how this society is more sophisticated and advanced than the majority of the countries throughout the globe? I think it is naïve to believe you can make any significant change when there is a dramatic difference between the foundation of values and morals between two sides. If you cannot overcome your greatest obstacles, is it realistic to expect any significant change?

      • The use of the word “primitive” is, I think, at the heart of your argument. Your definition is certainly correct, and it is good that you cited the dictionary usage. But there is an entire ideology behind that word that can be traced back to the Enlightenment and is emblematic of the problems the West has with the Middle East and other cultures. What sort of beliefs must be in place in one culture for it to label another culture as “primitive”? Among those beliefs has to be that the non-primitive culture is more advanced than the primitive one, and you make this point in relation to women’s rights and governmental structures and functions. I think I agree with you on those points, but what about others? Take religion, for example. Most Muslims in the region are Sunni (about 85%, I think, though there are many subgroups), and theirs is a faith that makes American Christianity look facile at best and “primitive” at worst. Sunni dedication to the teachings of the Qu’ran and its calls to social justice and peace represent an integrity that could be set in stark contrast to American Christians’ greed, cynical uses of the Bible for political ends, and wavering commitment to the teaching of the Gospels. My point is not to say that American Christians are primitive; rather, it is to say that evaluating one culture by the values of another is problematic at best. But we have to have values, and we have to make judgements. Where shall these come from? We can hold tightly to the values we have already received, or we can put those values into dialogue with others, and see what happens. One thing that is certain to happen in that process, if we do it with any kind of integrity, is that we will be reticent to make judgements and eager to learn something new.

  3. I just want to say, I am surprised by the changes I am seeing as a 25 yr old. My dad moved to the United Arab Emirates when I was a sophomore in high school and the first time I saw him back in the states, we got into a discussion over how one-sided the media reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (for the Israeli side). I am surprised that in my 20s I’ve heard a US president step away from the always pro-Israeli side, to say that the treaties need to be followed and the settlements need to go down.
    “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”
    It was such a big deal that Israel came out immediately to say that there were verbal agreements made with HW that the settlements were ok.

    And I disagree with the comment of there being no ties to country and state. I think that’s why Palestinians have been working so hard for so long to create their own country.

    I also think Obama’s comments about looking at our similarities is important rather than our differences. I think if you want to focus on differences, then how are we able to live so peacefully with China and Japan and SE Asia? I mean, they eat dogs, follow different religions (with MORE THAN ONE god), sheesh, they even have their own hoodoo form of “medicine” (all of this is said with full sarcasm in case you couldn’t catch it) and China calls itself communist. And yet, we’re doing ok with them, even with that lil bomb or two we dropped on a small island. We could go into Africa and Latin America with the same “differences first” concept, but I think the point has been made. Differences don’t mean disagreement or inability to have a working relationship.

    That being said, the one part I’m not entirely thrilled about, the one thing about Obama that keeps me a little less then hyper-enthused, is Afghanistan. What do you guys think of the amping up of troops there?

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