Soft vs. Tough

I’ve been listening to commentators talk about President Obama’s speech in Cairo this morning, and it seems to me there’s a problem.
None of them seem to be able to finesse the distinction of diplomacy and the rhetorical devices of openness with the swaggering tough-guy image the U.S. has across the world.
It’s almost like your Uncle Mike, you know, the Marine, the one that swears and spits and builds his own cars, suddenly wanted to dance for the Bolshoi. Very confusing.
But maybe it’s not Uncle Mike’s fault. Maybe it’s our fault for not getting to know him better. Maybe all those things can live together in the same person. And, if I believe, as I do, that people are constant surprises, my own flexibility makes or breaks my experience of others.
There’s an old saying from somewhere in my memory, perhaps Native American that says something like: The oak is mighty and strong, but the great wind that fells it does no harm to the willow, which knows how to bend.
It’s our perception of the rest of the world that must bend, and vice versa. I believe, as a nation, our perception of what constitutes strength must evolve from guns and clubs to intelligent conversation between adults- from force into true power.
The power that comes from knowing someone better.