Until 9/11, few in the United States cared that they had a large Muslim population. In fact, some of the firefighters and police that attended Ground Zero were Muslims themselves.
In this Sydney Ideas address delivered at the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre, Jack Miles argues that demagogues have taken hold of Obama's assets -- particularly his colorful, well-documented personal story -- and "turned them into liabilities."
Yet, as Jack Miles observes, many now distrust or can't accept their President's declaration of his Christian beliefs. During the Presidential election campaign, the Democrats worked tirelessly to downplay their candidate's distinctive background and instead publicized Obama as a man with good old fashioned American values. But as Miles points out, that's harder than it seems when you're a non-white on the political left with a Muslim parent, and facing a country dealing with simmering racial tensions.
Jack Miles is senior fellow for religious affairs of the Pacific Council on International Policy and Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies at the University of California, Irvine.
A former MacArthur fellow, Miles won the Pulitzer Prize for God: A Biography, which has been translated into sixteen languages. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. Miles was a Jesuit seminarian, studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem before earning a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages from Harvard.
He is fluent in several modern languages. He serves on the final selection committee of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. A former literary editor and member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board, he is currently general editor of the forthcoming Norton Anthology of World Religions.
Professor Jack Miles deconstructs the Tea Party's focus on American values as a shallow distraction to rally malleable voters, with the GOP's ultimate intent being to pursue a privatization-friendly, conservative agenda post-election.