Obama's victory speech included a defence of politics against cynicism.
I'm agreeing that politics often has laudable motives and important consequences, but this doesn't mean that it isn't also deceitful and pragmatically cruel: witness Obama's drone strikes in Pakistan. A sample:
[Obama] wants Americans to hear intimate tales of class mobility and patriotism: it emboldens ideas of justice and freedom in his voters' minds. He mentions America's military: ''The strongest … on earth and the best troops … this world has ever known.'' But it's vital no one hears the stories of Pakistanis eviscerated, or too scared to attend weddings and funerals.
Forget egos. This deceit is one primary cause of cynicism. Not just the brutality of political leaders but the facade that follows it; the unwillingness of communities to look at the cruelties done in their name.
Politics is concerned fundamentally with communities, and every community is an act of exclusion. Obama's United States includes more security, diversity and mobility than Romney's. But both are concerned chiefly with America, and the betterment of its citizens - or some of them - rather than the poorest or weakest abroad. Often, the interests of each are in direct conflict: as when one country's low wages and lax environmental and safety laws make another country wealthy. The words ''national interest'' make this clear: nations are communities founded on a quantum of selfishness.
My point is not that communities are inherently evil, or that we ought to retreat from political engagement. Quite the contrary. The point is simply one of clarity: just where we draw the lines around ''we'', and how willing we are to perceive these. It is not cynical to prefer lucidity to myopia.(Photo: Pete Souza/The White House)