The shooting rampage at the American Civic Association in Binghamton New York where 13 people were killed by a former Vietnamese citizen was not only national news but worldwide news.
President Obama mentioned the killings during a prearranged speech on April 3. But in typical Obama fashion, in a time and place where the tragedy of those killings could have had special significance in the eyes of the world and actually accomplished some good, Obama completely missed the opportunity and had nothing to say but the usual empty overused cliches, calling it "an act of senseless violence".
We don't know how much thought went into Obama's statement or whether or not he thought maybe people wouldn't know it was an act of senseless violence unless he told us it was. Obama's pattern is always to tell us the obvious, things everyone already knows, as if it is the result of some special insight he has. He also said he was "shocked and saddened" by the killings and if those cliches weren't enough he added that he was "monitoring the situation."
What he missed was a golden opportunity to make a statement about America, a positive statement, to the rest of the world in the wake of that tragedy because what he didn't say was that the people who were killed were immigrants who had come to America from 8 different countries because of their belief that America would make their lives better. And America welcomed them. They were killed at the American Civic Association, in a small town in upstate New York, a place that offered them classes to help them pass the citizenship test and to learn to speak better English so they could get better jobs. And the irony was they were killed, not by an American but by a former Vietnamese who the Civic Association had helped.
This was an opportunity to point out what America really does stand for to ordinary people around the world. A place where people from all over the world want to come for a better life. And that America not only welcomed them but was helping them achieve their goals.
Given that he was in Europe, doing what many said was an attempt at repairing America's image abroad, an image beaten into the ground by George Bush and his band of incompetents, Obama, if he had anything near the eloquence he and many others like to pretend he has, or the gravitas people like to pretend he has, could have made what happened to those immigrants, as tragic as it was, at least count for something that could be shown as positive about America in the eyes of the rest of the world.
He could have pointed out that among the victims of the Vietnamese killer,was a 57 year old Iraqi woman who was at the Civic Association taking classes to learn better English so she could become a librarian in Binghamton where she lived with her son and husband.
He could have pointed out a lot of things from a podium in Europe that would have made an impression and a point to the rest of the world of what America really stands for.
That these immigrants should be killed in the act of taking classes at the Civic Association to become citizens or to learn better English made it in many ways an even deeper tragedy but it also showed the rest of the world how these people saw America and what America was to them.
All that was lost by Obama. Most probably because it was also lost on him. This tragedy was an opportunity to make a powerful statement of what America stands for and what America is to many people all over the world and to make it in a European country while he was trying to mend America's image an an arrogant country that looks down on the rest of the world.
Had Obama been able to understand the moment and seize the opportunity it offered, it would have done more to make a positive statement about America than all of his pre-scripted, fake, town hall meetings put together.
Instead all Obama had to say came from page 194 of The Politicians Guide to Cliche Public Responses by saying it was "an act of senseless violence". Which on Obama's part, was an act of senseless rhetoric.
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