Saturday, July 12, 2008

Obama: The Cardozo View

You may remember, a week or so ago, a piece I wrote on The Buddha Diaries called To My Great Nephew, in which I returned to my theme of the importance of supporting Barack Obama despite one's disagreements with him. My friend and assistant, Daniel Cardozo, wrote what I thought was an intelligent and provocative comment on that entry, and I encouraged him to expand it a bit and to include it on my Huffington Post site. He did. To date, his piece has received 135 comments, and has been re-posted at a number of other sites on the internet. It represents the views of someone two generations younger than myself, and I thought it worth reproducing here as the weekend entry on The Buddha Diaries, in case readers might have missed it at the Huffington Post. (Actually, you should do yourself a favor and go on over to read the piece on HuffPo, to get a full flavor of the range of the responses--from infantile to argumentative to outraged, as well as those that are supportive.) Anyway, here it is. I hope it inspires you to look further, to get some sense of the quality of American political dialogue!

Daniel Cardozo writes, for the Buddha Diaries:

Why the Left Doesn't "Get" Barack Obama

A remarkable lecture by neurologist and internet-sensation, Jill Bolte Taylor, recently brought popular attention to the divide between the left and right hemispheres of our brains. In simplified terms, our left brain is logic and detail oriented, while our right brain relies on feeling and big-picture thinking.

In relation to Obama, we on the political left don't seem to know which side of our brains to trust. We stand open-mouthed in front of our screens as Obama reminds us that "there is not a liberal American and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America," and our right-brains pulse with life. Brimming over with poetry and strength, Obama reminds us that the Iraq war "should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged," and our right brains get intoxicated with hope for a country we can be really proud of.

But then we open up our New York Times and read that Obama opposes a court decision banning the death penalty for child rape; that he supports another court decision striking down a gun-control law; that he supports a FISA compromise bill granting immunity to telecom companies who facilitated the Bush administration's streamrolling of civil liberties; that he supports certain limited federal funding of faith-based organizations.

And so we flip the switch on our right brains and our left brains cry foul. "What happened to our great hope for the future?" Feeling betrayed, Obama supporters organize protests on, and NYT op-ed specialist Bob Herbert accuses the candidate of "lurching right when it suits him, and... zigging with the kind of reckless abandon that's guaranteed to cause disillusion, if not whiplash."

In her lecture, Jill Bolte Taylor argues that both our left and right brains are crucially important in their different ways, and that a symbiotic unification of the left and right brain is possible.

We progressives need to get our left and right brains working together, and to do this means first recognizing the conflict, which amounts to a significant "left brain" misunderstanding about what Obama stands for.

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