by: Timothy Villareal on May 27th, 2016 | No Comments »
President Obama’s speech today in Hiroshima did not contain the word “atonement.” Nevertheless, the spirit of atonement was carried throughout. It was not only the most remarkable speech of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is arguably the most remarkable speech given by any U.S. president, ever.
In concluding his speech, President Obama said:
Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.
The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.
There are so many areas in which to critique President Obama’s tenure in office, and yet there are times, like today, that I am grateful to have a sitting president whose core intention is to seek the greater good of all humankind. Yes, it is disappointing that he has presided over a wholly corrupt military system and has done nothing to change it: namely, a military system that lures young men and women with financial and emotional enticements to fight the nation’s wars, all while the rest of the nation, whatever their politics, goes about the charade of “supporting the troops,” as if morally tolerating the corrupt military machine that has and is devouring their lives can remotely approximate the notion of loving fraternity. We have a long way to go as a nation, from President Obama to the men and women of Mainstreet, to atone for our toleration of this ongoing assault on the sanctity of human life.
Yet I give President Obama credit for at least endeavoring throughout his presidency, and the last two years in particular, to create the emotional space for the American people to atone for our sins as a nation. Politicians do not succeed at their primary craft – winning elections – by creating that emotional space, and that largely holds true for Barack Obama as well. Yet that space, that space for genuine national atonement, has been carved by this president. It may be a small space for now, but it is something that we can, I believe must, expand upon.