The Epideictic Obama

The President gave a speech at Fort Hood yesterday. It’s not Peracles’ funeral oration, but it’s pretty damn good – it builds up nicely and reaches a climax with a line that most speechwriters would sell their first-born child for – “We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.”

You can argue that he used the occasion to sell his war policy, although as no one knows what his war policy is at the moment, that particular argument is difficult to make.

Oddly enough, it’s not really the speech’s superb epideictic qualities that impress me. Rather, it’s how the speech contains such an incredible amount of ethos despite the fact that he does not mention himself at all. A lot of this comes from his constant invocation of Lincoln and Lincolnian concepts, and how he positions himself by proxy as an intellectual, ethical, and generational heir to Lincoln.  Count the allusions and direct references to the themes of the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural – you’ll run out of fingers. And yet Obama adds a new perspective to the old ideas of sacrifice, honor, service, and national unity – the celebration of diversity as an empowering and indomitable force. Diversity, the word itself,  is such a great example of doublespeak that it is always refreshing to see it actually demonstrated with examples rather than simply invoked.

I also like this paragraph in particular, not just for the thought, but for the rhythmical construction. Obama uses the dash, the semicolon, the parallel conjunction, and the sentence appositive to powerful effect:

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.

A Powerpoint presentation authored by the shooter, Nidal Hasan, is circulating on the web. I prefer to link to the Post discussing it rather than to the file,  as it is disturbing stuff. Obama walks a thin line here, a line that Chrisitanized Westerners walk often, as he gains little from directly linking ‘twisted logic’ to Islam in any explicit way. The word ‘faith’ as used here is a good example of strategic ambiguity; for some it will mean Islam, and for others, Chrisitianity, and for still others,  other, or all, religions with explicit ethical codes.

4 thoughts on “The Epideictic Obama”

  1. I have apparently been mistaken in believing that one must understand something before he could explain it to others.

    I concede that Barack Obama’s background may make him capable of understanding the motivation of a muslim terrorist. When he referred to “greatness before our very eyes” he completely lost me. Was he referring to Hasan? Maybe?

    What does Obama know of serving in the U.S. military? What does Obama know of being an innocent victim of a terrorist? What does Obama know of dying?

    This tragedy was a direct result of the nonsense of political correctness trumping common sense and logic. The military knew this man was potentially dangerous, but didn’t want to offend. Multiple murders are better than offending a muslim in other words. The FBI knew this man was potentially dangerous, but everydamn government agency is so eaten up with punishments not respecting cultural diversity that the FBI agents could legitimately say they may have offended Obama himself by taking action against a muslim.

    Years ago some rednecks in Texas decided to take the law into their own hands (more politically correct people would saythey committed a hate crime) and they chained a guy to the back of their pick up and proceeded to drag him around the county until the chain had worn itself to bright new shine. On another forum I offered that as Ft. Hood is home of the Hell on Wheels Tank traing school that Hasan might be given a few laps around this large base behind an Abrams tank. The problem was choosing a driver as everyone volunteered for the task.

    I am a Vietnam Veteran and its been 38 years since I returned; however, I still get mad as hell at anyone who does not share this experience and then professes to “understand” what its like. Obama cannot explain what he does not understand; all he does is placate others with BS who also do not understand and infuriate those who do.

    A proper speech in this situation would be to simply offer his regrets and condolences to the families of the victims on behalf of the entire nation, personally condemn the terrorist and his actions and as President, promise the Country he would do everything in his power to prevent something like this from ever happening again.

  2. Oh, and if I see Obama give the US flag another “crotch salute” I think I’ll puke. If you haven’t seen the group of photos where everyone else is either saluting the US Flag or has their hand over their heart in a gesture of respect for the symbol of our country while Obama has both hands over his genitals, then you are fortunate. Its depressing that the USA has a President that is this stupid.

  3. Oh, c’mon. Everyone in that infamous photo is breaking the flag code; you’re supposed to salute AND face the flag, and they all have their backs to it. Therefore they must all be unpatriotic Communist socialist scum!

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2007/11/obama_nabbed_by_the_patriotic.html

    I don’t salute the flag myself if I think the occasion is cheesy and has nothing to do with actual patriotism, such as, say, the Wisconsin steak fry referenced above. The one exception is baseball games, which are only slightly below presidential inaugurals in terms of importance.

  4. The speech doesn’t profess to ‘understand’ or ‘explain’ anything – those words aren’t even in the speech. It’s a speech of praise for the victims and their military service, and condemnation for their murders. I know you don’t like the guy, but let’s be fair to what he actually said. And you know full well he was talking about the slain soldiers when he said “greatness.”

    What I think you’re upset about more is that he didn’t speak out against Islam specifically, state that he is going to crackdown on Muslim extremists in the U.S. military, or apologize for the oversight by the FBI/Army. You are not alone in this opinion.

    The problem, though, and the reason he did not do any of these things, is that Hasan is, and was, an outlier. The Army is not filled with Muslim extremists on the verge of murdering their comrades. And all Muslims in the U.S. are not members of terrorist cells, or extremists. I suppose it would be convenient if they were, as much as cops would prefer if all perps wore signs clearly identifying them.

    The only scrap of moral superiority that the U.S. has anymore rests firmly on the foundation that individuals are responsible for their own actions in a world of free will, including religious freedom, that we have decided to enforce by the Constitution. When we start to see Hasan as standing for all Muslims or all Muslim soldiers, we commit to the same BS thinking that the Taliban & co does, and we end up prolonging and encouraging even more BS thinking by allies and enemies alike.

    That said, Hasan should have been relieved of his duties long ago. But it’s easy to say this in hindsight. If we actually knew how to prevent mass murders, none would ever happen. Obama knows he can’t prevent something similar from happening again; a promise would be empty. No one can stop complete insanity.

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