Obama in Berlin

June 19th, 2013 - When Barack Obama spoke in Berlin in 2008, I was there. As one in a crowd of what I think where 200.000 people. It was a nice, sunny day, just like today, there was beer and hope. Both in large quantities. Obama's speech was awesome. Inspiring. A portrayal of a world he wanted to help become real. I was one of those Europeans who would have voted for him if only we had been allowed to. I also would have voted for him as Secretary General of the United Nations. Or captain of the Enterprise, for that matter. I just felt that he was a man who could bring about change. Actual and real change. He was the antidote to George W Bush. To cynicism. To anything evil, wicked, twisted.

Today Obama was in Berlin again. I am four years older, as is Obama, as is the world. He spoke in front of 4000 selected people, I wasn't one of them. I listened to the live stream instead. It was still a good speech by many standards. It didn't stir any of the emotions I had in 2008.

I am not naive. I have a reasonable understanding of what a US president can achieve. This is not about blame. Or even disappointment. At least not on a purely emotional level.

But the thing with today's speech is that I felt Obama was trying to sell us cheaply. I mean, honestly, as nice as it sounds to diminish the US and Russian nuclear arsenal: That just is not one of the hot issues in international politics right now. Today is about Syria much more than about that. About the repercussions of drone warfare. About civil liberties vis a vis eavesdropping. Guantanamo. Pakistan. The Middle East. TURKEY.

Obama touched on most of that - a little. But he offered no vision, he instilled no hope or optimism, he didn't chart a course, he didn't inspire anyone on any of these issues today.

Maybe that's asking for too much. Really, it may be. He is not my president, after all. He is not almighty. He can't walk on water.

But I do still feel entitled to a stake in what he says and does. He is a Nobel Peace Laureate! When he was awarded that prize I remember saying to a friend that I wished he would not accept it - and declare instead that he would gladly do so AFTER his term or his two terms in office. When he felt he had earned it.

I know I am leaving out a lot of perspectives here, for one: the US domestic one.

But since many of those who will read this will be Americans, I thought you might be interested in what it feels like to be an Obama fan in Europe - and be somewhat disappointed.

I guess I am disappointed because I didn't get a sense of how he was re-defining his grand vision and ideas now that he is on the job. I would have been very happy with him admitting that things aren't easy, that it is all about finding partners and taking small steps.

But that's not what I heard today.

What I heard was another set of grand ideas, as if nothing had changed. As if he was still a candidate.

And THAT is why I somehow didn't feel that I was being taken seriously.

I would still vote for Barack Obama if I could.

But I also wish I would have been more impressed than I was today.





No comments:

Post a comment