State of the Union 2012: The missing peace in Obama's speech

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For Americans and a huge chunk of non-Americans who (sometimes unwillingly) are affected by U.S. policy and rhetoric, the annual State of the Union (SOTU) address makes for must-watch TV.

Oh, except for that one time in 2010 when an episode of Lost was nearly delayed thanks to competing airtime, leading many to question whether the president was even aware of this pending catastrophe. Very kindly, the White House assured America's citizenry that President Obama would "not pre-empt the premier of the show's final season."

Now, about last night's SOTU. Beginning at 9 p.m. EST on January 24, President Obama's third such address to the nation sparked the usual weighty dialogue across all conventional and social media.

What straws did I manage to grasp from last night's speech?

For starters, President Obama can accurately pronounce "Pakistan" and "Taliban." But the same cannot be said of his pronunciation of the term "Muslim." Obviously, such trivialities didn't cause me to turn off the television set and return to my course textbooks.

No, with me, dapper Obama is granted several chances. If Twitter is to be trusted, others feel the same way. Maybe this is why "My President is Black" was (unnecessarily) trending last night.

However, there were some things that almost had me tooling down the interstate with nary a glance back. At this point, for those of you who watched the speech, an image may have conjured up of John Boehner's impossibly orange tan. But, dear reader, I assure you that my point of contention with the SOTU was not this frequent and startling evocation of MTV-themed memories of Jersey Shore.

Instead, what has me unsettled was the lack of mention of several initiatives, which since 2009 have been important and integral to the Obama administration.

First, President Obama failed to mention the existence of an institution on American jurisdiction currently housing many -- who may or may not have been wrongfully detained -- with no impending hopes of a fair trial.

This omission does not entirely surprise me. It really only disappoints me.

I guess that to expect the President of the United States (POTUS) to address the question(s) with respect to why Guantanamo Bay is still open is mere folly, an optimist's vision. But these are crucial questions: why have so many of Gitmo's detainees yet to be processed or prosecuted? Why does the place continue to operate, serving as a brilliant stain on America's national and international reputation?

It may be a bit foolish to expect answers, or to expect that this issue would even be raised. But you see, Mr. President, the problem is, I am no cheap thief. I want the world or nothing at all.

So, you leave me with no choice but to also ask: what of the DREAM Act, good sir?

What of your good promise (c/o SOTU 2009) when you painted pictures of comprehensive immigration reform? At this point someone will surely jolt me out of my dream-state and tell me that two years in a row this Act has failed to pass Congress. Yet surely, something must be done or said of the sorry condition of the current immigration policy. The one which exercises "particular care" when deciding deportation cases. Naturally, Mr. President, you are aware that "particular care" is just a philosophical musing often applied unevenly and acting as a source code for much confusion for both policy enforcers and immigrant families.

And, one final question I must ask: what, good sir, do you have to say (besides nothing) of the illegal drone attacks in Pakistan?

In the words of Fatima Bhutto, a "third front" has opened up in Pakistan. This front, the ongoing attacks in Pakistan, has demonstrably only furthered the cause of the Pakistani Taliban. Because for far too many alienated Pakistanis, American democracy has come to mean a droning of our villages and schools and the shunting of far too much of our population into refugee campus.

The ambitious undertakings you famously articulated in Cairo, Mr. President, are now a vestigial message which, instead of resuscitating and breathing life into America's relations with the Muslim World, simply appear to have gotten lost along the way.

It's not that Obama's previous SOTUs haven't had any effect. Past speeches have paved the path for health-care reform, troop drawdowns in Iraq, escalations and drawdown pledges for Afghanistan, and the repeal of the U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Last night's address, much like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, proudly put on the requisite display of America's principal values. Last night's unifying theme, the economy, saw a major push towards alternative energy technology and major green infrastructure projects.

And yes -- cue the Mission Impossible theme music -- the president even talked tough on bankers (forget that he'll soon be handing them a sweetheart deal, a settlement package with immunity to boot).

Also this year, like previous years, a proposal on income inequality was pitched to the American population (tax increases on all those comprising the wealthiest 2 per cent).

And to prove that the administration hasn't just cast her fate to the wolves and winds (40 days 'till election kick-off, people) a case was even made for America as the 2012 nominee for Best Comeback Kid: "America is back. Anyone who tells you otherwise, anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn't know what they're talking about."

Essentially, all the necessary elements of America-lets-do-the-right-thing were present (along with a necessary retelling, at the near end, of that fateful night when a SEAL raid team dropped from the Pakistani sky and fundamentally and forever altered a relationship already turning sour).

So it is that, despite SOTU's 37 standing ovations and 83 interruptions for applause, I find myself in a state of pace non trovo. In other words, I find no peace.

Maria Kari is a freelance writer originally from Vancouver, B.C. currently in law school at the University of Manitoba. For journalistic work and musings follow @mariakari1414.

For the full text of the State of the Union 2012 address click here.

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