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Gazette Premium Content 'The Great Divider' doesn't help our reputation abroad

The Gazette editorial Published: July 2, 2013

President Barack Obama would make foreigners appreciate us, if he did nothing else. Americans would finally be liked. Obama, we kept hearing, would appear sensitive to other cultures in which populations had grown tired of unworldly presidents with the old American superiority complex.

When Obama traversed the globe in 2009, then-Newsweek editor Evan Thomas told us how fortunate we were. Obama's ability to respect other-than-American views, said this ranking member of the mainstream national press, made him bigger than Ronald Reagan.

"Reagan was all about America, and you talked about it," Thomas told Chris Matthews on MSNBC. "Obama is 'we are above that now.' We're not just parochial, we're not just chauvinistic, we're not just provincial."

In case Matthews and Thomas hadn't said enough about Obama's sophistication and global sensitivity, Thomas reminded listeners that Obama isn't burdened by the constraints that make mere mortals parochial, chauvinistic and provincial in the eyes of the world.

"I mean in a way Obama's standing above the country, above - above the world, he's sort of God," Thomas said.

As Time magazine explained last week, The Great Divider's promise to restore America's image as "that shining beacon on a hill" has failed.

"Worldwide supporters of the fugitive former NSA employee Edward Snowden have depicted him as a heroic crusader against a nefarious surveillance state reminiscent of the East German Stasi," the Time article stated. "The European parliament recently adopted a resolution critical of the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay... Recent polling shows America more unpopular than ever in Muslim countries, enraged by Obama's heavy reliance on drone strikes against suspected terrorists. Though occasionally cooperative, Russia and China are content to speak about America with borderline hostility. Even a bite-sized nation like Ecuador is thumbing its nose at the U.S. over Snowden's fate."

Time reassured us things might get better as Obama visits Africa, where "he is basking in the love of one of the most pro-American regions on earth."

Wishful thinking. Obama spoke last week in Senegal, where he implored Africans to learn from a decision by the Supreme Court of the United States that eases restrictions on same-sex marriages.

"I don't believe in discrimination of any sort," Obama said.

Good. Then he must suddenly favor a flat tax.

Obama's assertion that people of Africa should embrace same-sex marriage could not have been more provincial. Senegal isn't a melting pot that espouses multiculturalism as a high cause. A whopping 94 percent of Senegal is Muslim. Another 5 percent is Catholic, leaving room for 1 percent of the population to embrace same-sex marriage without violating sacred religious traditions.

Because Senegal is dominantly Muslim - and not a constitutional republic like the United States - the country's law strictly forbid homosexual activity. The law also forbids abortions. Acceptance of abortion, homosexuality and women's equality are major reasons rogue Muslim extremists desire to kill American "infidels."

Though some believe Obama stands above our country and the world as "sort of God," Africans don't see it. Senegalese President Macky Sall told Obama his country is "not ready to decriminalize homosexuality." The public and Senegal's media loved Sall's retort.

"Macky says no to Obama," said one major newspaper's banner headline.

"President Sall has closed the debate on homosexuality," said another front-page headline.

On the streets of Senegal, the New York Times found widespread support for Sall standing up to Obama.

"Look, this is a Muslim country. Over our dead bodies," said retired army major Bouramon Ndour, one of multiple Senegal citizens quoted in the Times for rallying behind Sall.

Other notable Africans also objected.

"This country, the nation of Kenya, is a God-fearing nation," said Kenya's deputy president, William Ruto. "Those who believe in other things, that is their business. We believe in God."

Not the god Evan Thomas defended. The biblical God worshipped by members of the Baha'i religion, which teaches that sexual expression is acceptable only within the marriage of one man and one woman. Kenyans who don't obey the Baha'i faith respect teachings of the Catholic church, the Bible, the Quran or Hinduism - none of which embrace homosexual activity.

After Senegal's backlash against Obama's proselytizing, the BBC said his South African visit "was met with indifference."

During his first presidential campaign, Obama opposed same-sex marriage because of his Christian convictions. He was stricken with a sudden change of heart in early 2012, just in time to energize his base for a re-election campaign.

It's fine that President Obama promotes same-sex marriage. That's his prerogative. We only hope he shows more respect for foreign cultures when traveling abroad. In some parts of the world, religious values are more than political talking points that can change with the whims of campaign surveys.

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