Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barack Obama: That's Not a Temple, That's History

Any American presidential candidate's nomination acceptance speech is pretty big deal.

Barack Obama's speech, as the first black American presidential candidate, delivered on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, is a bigger deal than most.

Democratic National Convention organizers had arranged for their candidate's acceptance speech to be at INVESCO Field in Denver, Colorado. In front of a faux Greco-Roman temple facade.

That was before Obama wowed the crowd in Berlin. I'll get back to that later

An outdoor arena - and warmup acts that include Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crowe, and Jennifer Hudson - makes the venue look a bit more like a rock concert than the Democratic party probably likes right now.

Then there's the backdrop. It looks like a Greek temple. Or the Lincoln Memorial. Or the White House.

The 'Greek temple' comparison has been used with the sort of enthusiasm that Obama's supporters had when criticizing McCain's inability to remember how many houses he owns. I'll get back to that later, too.

I'm not bothered by the backdrop, myself. Architects have been using the look of Ancient Greek - and Roman - temples for centuries when they want to evoke permanence, tradition, reliability, and stability. The Lincoln Memorial and the White House both have similar columns on them.

I'd say it's more likely that the Democratic party leaders had the Lincoln Memorial and/or the White House in mind, than a 'temple to Obama.'

Obama's Backdrop Doesn't Bother Me

In fact, for me it's a reminder of what this country is, and one of the reasons that it's endured so long.

The founding fathers studied the political systems used in countries and empires across thousands of years of history. They picked what they believed to be the best: the democracies used by some Greek city-states, and by Rome.

From that starting point, they made changes, drawing on the experiences of about 23 centuries.

Their first attempt, the Articles of Confederation, didn't work too well, but the Constitution has seen America through a major revolution, two global wars, Watergate, the Teapot Dome Scandal, and ongoing discussions of the gold standard, for 219 years.

Barack Obama's acceptance speech is a milestone in America's developing history, so I don't see a problem with a reminder of the ancient democracies of Greece and Rome.

In the news:
I said I'd get back to 'Obamaopolis,' and McCain's referral of the question 'how many houses do you own' to his staff.

McCain and the Houses Question

True enough: most people who own houses know how many they own. And McCain had been presenting himself as a 'regular guy.' If the criticism had been that McCain had too much money to understand what many people deal with, I'd have taken it a little more seriously.

But the focus has been on his not knowing exactly how many he owns.

Turns out, there seems to be some debate about that. The number that's going the rounds now is seven, but he may 'own' eight. That count includes
  • All the apartments and homes owned by McCain's wife, Cindy
  • Various family trusts for
    • Cindy and John McCain
    • Their children
    "Rezko Reality
    McCain misfires as he attacks Obama's home purchase
    (August 22, 2008)
I agree: McCain has more money than I do. So, I hope, does Mr. Obama. Having America run by people who are wealthier than I am has never bothered me. In fact, I'd just as soon have someone in the White House who does know how to make a good living.

Back to McCain referring the 'how many houses do you own' question to his staff: it looks like it's his wife who owns the real estate. McCain may have decided not to try calculating what percentage of his wife's holdings he could be said to "own" during an interview.

Barackopolis, a Celebrity Candidate, and Free Beer

That 200,000-strong crowd at Berlin's Tiergarten Park had to pay for their beer. True, the rock band Reamonn was performing, and so was reggae artist Patrice.

But the main draw seems to have been Obama, at least as much as the reggae, beer, and rock-and-roll. Reamonn's lead singer, Rea Garvey, seems to think so - and wrote in a blog that Obama was the event's focus.

So, an American presidential candidate can pack 'em in at a German rock fest. So what? I've never believed that being popular was a hindrance to being president.

America has had popular presidents before. To this day, there's a Kennedy Caddesi in Istanbul.

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Here's how I see it:
  • The Republican party has a (presumptive) presidential candidate who has more money than most average Joes
  • The Democratic party has a candidate who has lots of charisma - and is a fine orator
Neither of which has very much to do with which will make the better president.

I understand that elections involve a great deal of name-calling and irrational slogans. That's part of what makes them so colorful and exciting.

But, if you're an American, and plan to vote, do us all a favor. Before you cast your ballot, collect the facts and think.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.