My Lord, give me the capability to tolerate an opposing point of view. Help me so that I may be aware of the differences between humanity, thoughts, and relationships, and so that I may be capable of distinguishing each of them. Inspire me with the piety of rebellion so that I may not stumble in the grandeur of my responsibilities. And save me from the piety of avoidance so that I may not be wasted in the corner of solitude.
My Lord, grant me success in struggling during failure, in having patience in disappointment, in going alone, in struggle without weapons, in working without expecting anything in return, in making sacrifices in silence, in having moral belief in the world .... in having faith without pretensions, in non-conformity without immaturity, and loneliness in the crowd. Don't grant me knowledge that will not be useful to humanity ....
The above, the Philosophy of Supplication, was originally written by Dr. Ali Shariati (1933-1977), the great Sorbonne-educated Iranian sociologist and scholar of Islamic studies, who presented enlightening and progressive interpretations of the Islamic teachings. The great French philosopher and political activist Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) once said, "I have no religion, but if I were to choose one, it would be Shariati's."
As I was reading Shariati's supplication, it occurred to me that it is a perfect pray for President-Elect Barack Obama and the situation that he will find himself in 2009 and beyond. All we have to do is replacing "me" by Barack Obama.
So, as the turbulent 2008 is coming to an end, and a vastly uncertain 2009 is about to begin, let us read again what Shariati said to see how it describes Obama's world:
The capability to tolerate an opposing point of view
Remember how anyone who opposed the Iraq war, anyone who opposed secret and illegal surveillance of the citizens, anyone who cautioned against rushing to war, and anyone who said we should ponder about why we were attacked on September 11, 2001, was labeled unpatriotic by Bush and Cheney?
Awareness of the differences between humanity, thoughts, and relationships
Remember how the neocons and Bush decided to "democratize" the Middle East by force, making it a bastion of Western democracy, without any regards for the differences between the peoples, cultures, and religions?
Piety of rebellion to avoid stumble in the grandeur of responsibilities
Remember how Bush wanted to be a "compassionate conservative" president and how he wanted to have a "humble foreign policy," but forgot all that as soon as he took office, and its grandeur took him over? Recall how Bush loved to be commander-in-chief and a "war president?"
Be saved from piety of avoidance, not to be was wasted in solitude
Remember how Bush avoided many of his responsibilities, and became irrelevant and was "wasted" in solitude, to the point that he was not even brought to the Republican national convention?
Success in struggling during failure
Obama will be struggling with the huge mess that Bush and Cheney will leave behind: A shattered economy, an illegal war in Iraq, an almost forgotten war in Afghanistan, tattered U.S. reputation around the world, a huge gap between the rich and the poor .... He may fail to properly address some of these problems (such as the Afghanistan war), at least initially.
Patience in disappointment
Obama will need infinite amount of patience, because he will surely have disappointments, not just because the solutions to some of the problems might not work, but also because of all the hurdles that will be thrown his way by the blue dog Democrats, the right-wing Republicans, the special interests groups .....
Obama may have to walk alone along certain paths, in order to solve many of the immense problems that this nation and the world are facing, because others may desert him.
Will the Democrats and others support him if he wants to raise taxes on the very rich? Will they support him if he tries to make deep changes in the health care system, in order to make it affordable for all? What will be the reaction from the right and even from within his own party, if Obama tries to reverse the decades-long trends against the working people?
Will the pro-Israel Democrats and the Israel lobby support Obama if he tries to help solve the Israel/Palestinians conflict in a just way that would lead to lasting peace between the two people, but would also entail Israel giving up all the occupied territories? Will they and the War Party allow him to negotiate with Iran and resolve the issues between the two nations peacefully? Will the military support Obama, if he decides to bring home all the U.S. soldiers, or if he tries to make deep cuts in the bloated military budget? Obama may have to go it alone if he really wants to solve these problems.
Struggle without weapons
The Bush-Cheney team could see only a military solution to war on extremists around the globe. But, the fact is 99% of the solution to the problem is nonmilitary. It involves addressing poverty and backwardness, elimination of exploitation and discrimination, education and, most important of all, noninterference in the internal affairs of other nations.
Working without expecting anything in return,
except the satisfaction of seeing this nation, which is struggling with so many problems, on the right path again.
Making sacrifices in silence
When one works for the sake of his people without expecting anything in return, one makes sacrifices in silence. Obama has already made some of such sacrifices. Instead of taking up a job with a prestigious law firm, or in the Wall Street, he chose to be a community organizer, and a state senator. As the President, he will be repeatedly attacked by his distracters, but he will need to focus on the problems at hand and sacrifice his own political capital, if necessary, in order to move the nation forward.
Having moral belief in the world
Not of the "moral clarity" type that the neocons uttered in order to sell us their wars, but true moral belief in the fact that the vast majority of the citizens of our planet believe in the same values: peace and equality, opposition to exploitations, colonialism - political and/or economic - and noninterference in other nations' internal affairs.
Having faith without pretensions
which means having words and deed that match when it come to anything important It also means not wishing to impose one's beliefs on others.
Non-conformity without immaturity
Obama's campaign for president was highly non-conformist, and he exhibited all the qualities of a seasoned, intelligent, and politically-mature candidate. It removed barrier after barrier, set aside dogma after dogma, and broke new grounds. But, now, Obama must govern. Can he continue his non-conformist approach? Early signs are not encouraging, as he has selected a largely conformist cabinet.
Loneliness in the crowd
If Obama actually tries to implement his agenda of change that he presented to us as a candidate, but does not rely on the energy and enthusiasm of tens of millions of people who supported and voted for him, and instead rely on the usual Washington crowd, he might become very lonely in the same crowd, because he will be pulled and pushed in all sorts of directions by the same vested interests crowd that have brought the nation to its current sorry state of affairs.
Knowledge that will not be useful to humanity.
Remember all the lies that were sold to the public as facts on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and its link with al-Qaeda? Remember Dick Cheney's lie that, "we now know that Sadaam has reconstituted his nuclear program"? Humanity suffered greatly as a result of such "knowledge," as it caused the death of up to 1 million innocent Iraqis, destruction of much of its infrastructure, and tarnishing of the U.S. reputation around the
But, none of this will happen or be needed if Obama does not demonstrate the courage and the backbone that are necessary for addressing the immense problems in hand.
So, let us also pray that he will have the courage and the backbone to do what is right for this nation.