Obama looks East whilst Sarkozy navel gazes


Before going to Iraq to boost his troops morale, President Obama said: “Let me say this as clearly as I can; the United States is not at war with Islam.”

He was in Turkey, that country on the border of East and West.

Turkey wants to be a part of Europe but Europe, especially France and Germany, aren’t so sure about it.

Well it is an Islamic country….help! you think…well that is what some people think.

Or do they?

It is a bit to do with poor Turkish immigrants costing host nations money and, let’s be honest, there is a touch of good old fashioned racism here too.

Shall we put behind us the question of racism and the economics of inter-European immigration?

I, for one, disagree with racism and don’t see any argument in its favour also, I don’t understand economics so I won’t even attempt to enter that debate.

Barack Hussein Obama was doing something more significant than just entering the debate about EU membership.

He said he was looking for a partnership with the Muslim world and, for all its imperfections, Turkey is the right place to start just such a relationship.

OK, President Gul’s wife wears a headscarf and both she and her husband are practising Muslims but we really do need to distinguish between followers of one of the World’s great religions and those wacky fanatics from a sect that indoctrinates kids to blow themselves up so that they can have sex with a heavenly host of virgins.

Yet again, in the early days of his presidency, Barack Obama has gone straight to the core of the issue.

We need to be friends with Muslims, we need to recognise their cultural significance and the political and historical importance of Muslim countries.

They are right there in the middle of the World, a vital link between East and West and an essential element in Obama’s, and, hopefully, all of our wishes for global unity and peace.

Islam does not mean fanaticism any more than Christianity means Inquisition or Judaism means bombing babies. We should be marginalising the fanatical sects, the followers of Osama bin Laden, those militant Zionists and the Ku Klux Klan.

President Bush had neither the intelligence nor the will to see the global picture, President Obama has.

So why does Nicolas Sarkozy, echoed by Angela Merkel, make another unhelpful swipe at America and tell Barack Obama to keep out of the European Union’s affairs?

We are one world. That I believe is President Obama’s message to us all. It is a message of hope and an ambition of gigantic proportions. Compared to this, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel sound like backwoodsmen.

Are we seeing a real divide between centre left politics and centre right?

Why do Sarkozy, Merkel and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy look like yesterday?

Blinkered, self-regarding navel-gazers, the current exponents of the centre right are missing what could be one of the great cultural shifts in World history.

As a humble Brit, I am watching my own country where an intelligent, forward-looking but hopelessly bad communicator is fighting for his political life against the British centre right. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, almost certain to be the next Prime Minister, is undoubtedly a decent and intelligent man, uninspiring maybe and also, like most political leaders these days, a pygmy when compared to the new American president. He has to be very careful about his nit-picking economics and those unimpressive critiques of World’s problems which too often are dropped on Prime Minister Brown’s doorstep.

If not, like Nicolas Sarkozy and Angel Merkel, David Cameron will lead his party and his country into an ideological graveyard at just the moment when the World needs us to stand shoulder to shoulder with the far-sighted and brave-hearted Barack Obama.

In his speech to the Turkish parliament, President Obama said: “Some people have asked me if I chose to continue my travels to Ankara and Istanbul to send a message to the world. And my answer is simple. Evet – yes.”

We should all be listening.

I guess we should always listen because, well, talking mostly about myself as usual, we often think we have found all the answers only to find that some of them aren’t at all what we expect and they arrive when we think we have done all the searching.

Here is the next poem in my mini-poetry marathon:

At The Entrance

School gates,
Forbidding, finger pinching.
The drive dares, sneers.
Rhododendrons blush and willows weep,
Crunching under foot in new black shoes.

Starched collar and bleeding neck,
Grown up now but small and new.
Sat at the start, by the Western door,
The chapel pew, Gothic, hard-hearted,
The sun shut out but bursting through.

A train and a case,
Crossing the nation through mystery towns.
It is all arrival, nothing behind.
The thrill diminished by that empty cab,
The driver defecates and reads the news.

Welcome – slurring words and an offered drink,
Polished anecdotes, their jobs explained.
Disappointments hiding in a pint of beer,
Biographies, a mix of fact and dream.
Salaried, respected, they fall from their stools.

Nowhere as strange as those first encounters.
Your turn comes, your time in the light.
You know the rules, play the game,
Better than that, you learn the tricks,
The survival, the camouflage, the protected heart.

How strange then after all this time,
Tight-rope perfected, never looking down,
Fluent of speech, defence and attack,
How strange after getting there, the top of the hill,
To find that sign: The Entrance.

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