Friday, June 11, 2010

Welcoming a guest and de-radicalization

Two harrowing incidents - the police gunning down Southeast Asia's most wanted radical and the mass rallies protesting President Barack Obama's visit to Indonesia - distracted the Indonesian public's welcome to the president's pulang kampung (coming home).

The term was coined to indicate that Indonesians expect a lot from the visit. However, the visit, like anything else in the world, fails to make everybody happy. There is no magical thing in the world that can ensure universal satisfaction.

The visit, many hope, should bear fruit in the political, economical and social relationships between the archipelagic country and Uncle Sam's country, between those who wear a sarong and those who wear a cowboy hat, between Andy Warhol's country and Afandi's, between the heirs of John F. Kennedy's dream and those who want to keep Sukarno's legacy alive, between those who enjoy country and jazz music and those who enjoy keroncong and dangdut, and between the country whose seal reads EPluribus Unumand that which reads Bhinneka Tunggal Eka - both mottoes emphasize diversity and unity.

Radicals are of course, are not pleased with the visit, which will be celebrated by other Indonesians who "revere" Obama. These radicals will never give up entirely. Rather, they seized the golden opportunity to show to the public that they - including their movement and agenda - are still alive. To them, showing up as a huge crowd in protest of the visit is important. So is drawing parallels between the current war in Afghanistan, inherited by Obama, with the wars waged by his predecessor.

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