Here's an exchange that took place yesterday between myself and a man whose integrity I totally respect, but who is at the opposite end of the political scale from myself. His name is not Joe, but I reprint it without his permission because I thought it might be of interest to readers of The Buddha Diaries. First, my friend's email request (it was sent it to me and to another mutual friend):
I trust and respect both of you men even though we hold radically different political opinions. Because I do respect your opinions and because they are completely opposite from mine I have a request of you so that I can find some piece with what is taking place in this country. What I'm looking for are answers to the following questions:• What is your measure for a successful Presidency?
• What is the goal for Obama's policies? What will America look like, how will it function?
Two simple questions. I hope you can reply with measurable data, not just rhetoric and campaign slogans.
I truly want to understand your point of view.
I wrote this response:
I'm not the person to provide "measurable data," Joe. My measure of a successful presidency would be the extent to which the incumbent keeps the country safe and functioning efficiently, and keeps the wheels of government turning smoothly in service of all its people--especially, in my view, those most in need of the kind of support they are unable to provide themselves: that would be, primarily but not exclusively, the sick and the poor.
I believe the goal of Obama's policies is to achieve the above.
He has proved himself strong on national defense and on the international diplomacy needed to maintain our position and strength among the other nations of the world. This will be a special challenge for him in his second term, given the continuing turmoil in the Middle East. I believe that his economic policies are geared to re-establishing the stability of the American economy, increasing the opportunity for all Americans to succeed financially, and assuring that those locked in poverty are assured the food, shelter and health care that are their right as human beings.
My hope is that the country will learn to function better, after these years of discord and dysfuntion. That is not exclusively the President's responsibility, it belongs to all of us. As I see it, the government is a reflection of who we are, as a people. We can't escape our own responsibility for its proper functioning.
I'm afraid this might sound to you like rhetoric and campaign slogans, but it's the best that I can do. I wish you well, Joe, and hope that those of us on the left and those on the right can learn to respect each other's points of view--and make the necessary concessions in order to be able to work together.
And Joe's response to mine:
Thanks for the reply and yes it comes across as a "bumper sticker." I'm not surprised but I am saddened that you can't define the measure of success. This isn't a left or right, liberal or conservative, or democrat or republican comment - it's about the values I hold and expect from someone I've hired. How will you know at the end of his second term if Obama has achieved a "safe and efficiently functioning" country? What would that look like? Fewer people unemployed; greater incomes; lower federal deficits; fewer people in poverty; adherence to the rule of law; etc.? Paint the picture for me of the America you and Obama want to achieve.
I'm hard put to know how to respond in a way that will satisfy my friend. Any thoughts? (I'm off to Santa Barbara today, for a "One Hour/One Painting" session at the museum, and will have not time for further thought...)