Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.

First off, I woke up yesterday with this in my head:

...which, in retrospect, isn't the worst way to wake up. However, waking up at 8:30 when you have to be at work at 9:00? Not great.

I watched the State of the Union last night (hurray for Emily's projector). I've been not-so-great at following politics lately, and I'll blame the increasingly vicious rhetoric for that (okay, that's just an excuse). As with any political speech, I thought some things were good and some things weren't.

Things I liked:
-Education. Innovation in education. Getting rid of No Child Left Behind. I live in a city that has a low graduation rate, and a lot of the students who come to me from the Phila. school district have a lot of trouble with writing and critical thinking skills. So, yeah, I think revamping our education system is necessary.
-Clean energy. 85% of our energy coming from clean energy? I like it, if Obama meant renewable energy. Also, getting rid of subsidies for oil companies (funny line: "I don't know if you've noticed, but they're doing just fine on their own.")
-Ending tax cuts for the wealthy. Well, they better. That's all I'm saying. Frankly? I don't even need a tax cut (but maybe that's 'cause my living expenses are so low right now).
-Making sure the cuts to spending are not made "on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens." Right there? Really important. Really, really important.

My main quibble with the speech, and this is philosophical, I realize, was the constant references to American exceptionalism. Let me be clear (to borrow one of Obama's phrases): I don't believe in American exceptionalism. What I do believe is this: we are a country that has done extraordinary things. We are also a country that has done extraordinarily bad things. In short, we are both good and bad, and so is every country on earth. And if that makes me unpatriotic or something, well, fine. But I don't think it does: I think I love where I live (although sometimes, I want to go back to England for a little while), but I don't want to whitewash our faults.
There's this great little hymn about this that I love. It's to the tune of "Finlandia:"

This is my song, Oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, oh God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
may peace abound where strife has raged so long;
that each may seek to love and build together,
a world united, righting every wrong;
a world united in its love for freedom,
proclaiming peace together in one song.

And here's Joan Baez singing it (I can't embed the video, for some reason)

...Because, when it comes down to it, we are interdependent. Or, as Mother Teresa used to say, "If there is no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other."


  1. I missed the speech - meant to catch it, got completely sidetracked - but I like those highlights. Railroads and clean energy in particular strike me as things that I'd be shocked to see properly developed, but very excited. (I'm always about the infrastructure.)

    Glad to see education reform as a big deal too, but I don't know a lot about the American split of powers (in Canada, provinces have essentially total control of education), so I don't know what sorts of tools the federal government can bring to bear on that. More and better and better-supported teachers?

  2. More and better-supported teachers, yes. Much of the funding for public education in the US comes from property taxes (which is one reason that there's so much disparity in our system, I think). It's all very complicated, as usual.

    One thing I didn't write about was Obama's request (injunction?) to colleges to open their doors to military recruitment. The first thing I thought was, "Oh, the Mennonites and Quakers ain't gonna like this one."