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Daddy Knows Best

“Class of 2016, let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue.”

– Barack Obama, Address to Rutgers University Graduating Class

According to this article, Obama’s advice to the graduates was admonitory. Though he never mentioned Donald Trump, his message was: Do not elect Trump. His seriousness was palpable, with the addition of “as I can be” to his customary “let me be [as] clear.”

I’m staring at that separation of politics and life, Obama’s saying “In politics and in life.” But politics IS life, or it at least is where decisions about people’s lives are legislated.

“Ignorance is not a virtue.” No, it’s not. Yet Obama, this nation’s daddy, decides when we’re better off unaware. As a candidate for president, he promised transparency, but his tenure has been the least transparent in American history.

Take the contents of those 28 pages of the redacted congressional report on 9/11: Obama says he “has a sense of what’s in there.” Just a sense? Of something this significant? Doesn’t having “just a sense” of something hugely important, an act that killed nearly 3000 people and later many more who suffered agonizing deaths from exposure to toxins at the scene, constitute ignorance and injustice?

Furthermore, an event that resulted in an endless war of terror in which perhaps as many as two million people in the Middle East have died deserves thorough examination, not “just a sense of what’s in there.” In fact the perpetration of 9/11 deserved criminal investigation and does still. Instead it was used by the U.S. government to create chaos, hijack resources, and maintain military supremacy.

Lawyers representing the families of 9/11 victims are fighting for declassification of the 28 pages as part of a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. Yes, Saudi Arabia, bedfellow to the U.S. and believed to be the primary source of funding for the Sept. 11 attacks.

Insert: The U.S. Senate just passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, allowing survivors and relatives of those killed in the Sept. 11 attacks to file lawsuits against the government of Saudi Arabia. JASTA must pass the House and then requires Obama’s signature. The Obama Administration released a statement that it continues to oppose the legislation. September Eleventh Advocates Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Monica Gabrielle, Mindy Kleinberg, and Lorie Van Auken are calling on Obama to “make the right choice, one that bends towards justice for the 3,000 innocent souls murdered on 9/11.” Shame on Obama for this contempt for accountability. Shame on Obama for this misplaced loyalty.

I’m reminded of another excerpt from his address:

When our leaders express a disdain for facts, when they’re not held accountable for repeating falsehoods and just making stuff up, while actual experts are dismissed as elitists, then we’ve got a problem.

Indeed, we do.

Here’s one more example, a jab at Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again”: Obama told the graduates “the ‘good old days’ weren’t that great.” And, “There were moments when, immediately after World War II … the world bent more easily to our will.”

Reread those words, “the world bent more easily to our will.” This is the distillate of U.S. hubris, the infliction of power. Meanwhile Russia and China are rising to challenge U.S. hegemony.

For a moment, enter my reverie: I’ve taken the mike to voice alarm about the world the graduates face: “Class of 2016, pardon the platitudes. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Reach for the stars. Follow your dreams, but accelerate. You may have little time.”

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Missy Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in BaltimoreEmail: missybeat@gmail.com

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