A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

starting from scratch: a new beginning

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 21, 2009

My aunt has posted the full text of President Obama’s inaugural address yesterday – you can read it here.

The elements that I found most inspiring were his call to service, his reference to the United States as a country of multiple faiths, his invitation to the Muslim world to seek a “new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect”, and – thanks to my friend A, with whom I had a long conversation yesterday evening – his call for what I would term a kind of moral realism: “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” This is an approach more nuanced than the Bush Administration’s “you’re either with us or against us” regime-changing steamroller, and less cynical than the “don’t ask, don’t tell” acceptance of dictators that characterizes flat realism.

And anyone willing to fight against corruption and deceit – putting transparency in the place of wasta, putting honesty in the place of lies – is fighting the good fight, as far as I am concerned.

And for our part, here in the United States we have our homework cut out for us – particularly when it comes to partnering with the Muslim world.

This was the “Joke of the week” in last week’s Time Out New York. Read it – its hysterical:


Or it would be, if most Ethiopians were in fact Muslim. The CIA World Factbook, my go-to online reference source, states that Ethiopians are:

Christian 60.8% (Orthodox 50.6%, Protestant 10.2%), Muslim 32.8%, traditional 4.6%, other 1.8%

Not that I think we shouldn’t exclude Ethiopia from this new climate of “mutual interest and mutual respect” – but perhaps we could demonstrate our respect by first getting our assumptions right :).

3 Responses to “starting from scratch: a new beginning”

  1. jtothemo said

    I have always wondered about that song and its target audience (I don’t think I knew it was about Ethiopia specifically.) Nice joke!

  2. Diamond in the Rough said

    I really have enjoyed your hope and enthusiasm for the leadership role President Obama has taken on for himself and our country. It is hope and realism we all need to share if we wish to make the future better than the past.

  3. Jthothemo, welcome! I was a little young to really understand the song’s original purpose/audience, too. As for the joke, I wish it had been accurate: this would be a great reminder to well-intentioned Americans that self-education should precede donations. But instead its a double-reminder 😀

    Diamond in the Rough, I recognize your email address 🙂 🙂 :)! I am hopeful, and realistic – and I agree that we need both in order to move ahead: the hope to inspire us to begin, and the realism to inspire us to continue with fortitude and patience after our first burst of enthusiasm fades.

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