Barack Obama in Greeneland

This tale of a whiskey-priest running from fascists in 1930s Mexico is among mine and Obamas favorite novels.
This tale of a whiskey-priest running from fascists in 1930's Mexico is among my and Obama's favorite novels.


So Mr. Obama was sworn in as our 44th President earlier today.

At first, I wasn’t blown away by his speech, but that was until I came home and found an email from my mother stating she read somewhere that among Obama’s favorite books was The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.  This is what makes the speech so brilliant.  It wasn’t designed for instant applause but for deep thought and as an invitation to learn more.  It wasn’t just a stump-speech, but a grand design for the policies which will follow and a call to arms for Americans to be that change they want to see in the world.

It seems Barack lives in Greeneland, which should make pragmatists rejoice.  Listening back to the endless loops and sound-bites from the speech, I was astounded by how Greene-esque his worldview might be.  Just the fact that he acknowledges or is aware of such a worldview is a refreshing change of pace from the crypto-fascism of the previous White House regime.  What a wonderful thing it is to have a President who has such a great command of language and who knows how to invoke literature and history and create themes and motifs.  Obama is like the frickin’ Graham Greene of politicians.  And how awesome is it that he has read and loves Greene, especially since Greene was so political in his writing.  This points to Obama being even more practical and pragmatic than we thought, which will be great since Bush was stupidly obsessed with fairytales and jihads which crippled our nation and prevented us from succeeding in the real world. 

Graham Greene was always writing about the real world.  His books always spoke to the times and always had characters who crashed and burned when they got too wrapped up in their own heads and internal moral battles and fantasies.  The real world always kept moving in Greeneland and always survived while those foolish characters more often than not perished.  We need a President now more than ever firmly planted in the real world.   Obama’s over-riding theme of, and I am grotesquely paraphrasing here, “the world sucks right now, but slowly and surely we’re gonna overcome it as long as we keep our heads about us and everyone steps up their A-game” really was Greene-esque.  Bush would’ve left it all to God’s hands and prayed about it–he would’ve died in Greeneland by the end of the novel.  Let’s hope Obama inspires us to continue marching on.  Mankind’s innate will to survive can overcome anything and accomplish everything. 

And it seemed like he was speaking not only to those out in the real world wishing to do us harm, those terrorists, those fascists, but also to those who have had their heads stuck in the sand, those Bushes, those mortgage companies, those regulators, those uninvolved…when he said so simply and so firmly…


Let’s not forget, Graham Greene was fiercely religious, but he often found it difficult to reconcile that with the real world.  This manifested itself in his protagonists who often were blinded by a crisis of faith and rendered impotent against the rising tides of war and change in the real world.  Many felt the British and worldly Greene was staunchly anti-American in his views, so it’s difficult to know how he would’ve thought about our current state of affairs.  Always the skeptic, Greene might’ve been wary of Obama…but as one of Greene’s Catholic nuns might’ve said in some third-world hell on earth in one of his stories, “God answers the prayers of those who move their feet.”

With Obama stepping into the White House, it’s time to move our feet, America.


Click here to visit Greeneland .


Throngs of people today visited Greeneland with Barack Obama lighting the way.
Throngs of people today visited Greeneland with Barack Obama lighting the way.

Written by David H. Schleicher


  1. I would like to applaud President Obama for signing an Executive Order to close Guantanamo during his first days in office. If we expect to champion human rights throughout the rest of the world, then we must clean up our act — By closing Guantanamo and any remaining CIA secret prisons overseas, and banning harsh interrogation practices bordering on torture, Obama has sent a signal to the rest of the world that the U.S. will confront global terrorism without sacrificing our values and our ideals.
    Obama also signed an order requiring all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual (to be renamed The Manual for Government Interrogations), while interrogating detainees. I feel our new administration’s policies will only help to make us stronger, securing our safety here at Home, and insuring the safety of our military personnel serving overseas.

  2. In light of the HHS Mandate, it’s impossible for me to not imagine Obama was cheering on the lieutenant while reading P&G. You’re looking at the first steps in creating the totalitarian secularist state.

    • Vince – thanks for visiting a 4+ year old post!

      Secularist – I hope so…totalitarian – far from it. Honestly, how is the Affordable Care Act personal mandate any different than requiring all drivers to carry auto insurance? I don’t 100% agree with it in theory, but it’s not that outrageous or unreasonable.

      • A.) States regulate car insurance. Not all 50 make it compulsory.
        B.) HHS mandate is federal.

        A.) Only car owners have to purchase insurance (in those states with this law). Car owners create a liability to other drivers which may not be covered by personal finances alone.
        B.) HHS Mandate places a financial burden on those who do not have a need/want for or liability regarding birth control and abortion (practicing Catholics, couples trying to conceive, and homosexual, elderly, or other sterile couple, etc).

        A.) To my knowledge, no religious tenets or moral codes are opposed to compulsory auto insurance coverage.
        B.) The HHS Mandate causes business owners to violate their religious beliefs and conscience. The Constitution, particularly the First Amendment in regards to religion, serves to prevent exactly this.

        If the government wants to create compulsory abortion and birth control coverage, it should be placed as an explicit tax, facing the voters. Forcing business-owners to pay for it in violation of their freedom of religion via a federal takeover of medicine is immoral and unjust.

        • Overall, this is an action that further divides and destroys the fragile balance and compromises we have in place regarding social issues in this country.

          There are clearly those who disagree with being forced to pay for something they’re religiously/morally opposed to. This is no negligible percentage of the population. A totalitarian leader would dictate that these people be subservient to such a mandate they had no say in and oppose.

          The lieutenant believed he truly was doing what was best for the people, at the expense of their religious freedom. How is President Obama any different? He just uses fines to destroy financial well-being instead of bullets to destroy physical well-being in order to enforce oppression.

          • P.S. I like how you are trying to link it back to the Greene novel – I just don’t agree with the character comparisons. If anything, Obama might be the Whiskey Priest! (LMAO) Funny how this old post got roped into current events!

          • I’m curious to hear you elaborate on the thesis that President Obama is more like the whisky priest than the lieutenant.

          • Not a thesis – just a crazy thought I was tossing out there “in the moment” while reading your posts. You could take any character from any book and make arguments that they are similar or dissimilar from real people. I was thinking along the lines of Obama as a man “losing his religion” kinda like the Whiskey Priest – and by religion, for Obama, I mean his liberal ideals. He’s done nothing but compromise them while in office (he didn’t even offer up a single-payer option for health care). While I would say he’s not been liberal enough, I’m sure you might think the opposite…so not sure my comparing him to the Whiskey Priest would ring true for you. Again…it was just a crazy thought…by no means a thesis.

        • Vince – you make a good point about the difference between compulsory auto insurance and the Affordable Care Act personal mandate.

          Your second point about religious freedom, I just don’t agree with, however. Nobody is forcing those people to pay for those things in particular and use them for themselves. It’s just part of the coverage offered for those who need/want it (and yes, I get that it’s paid for by the common funds gathered by those mandated to pay for insurance) but to say that it’s infringing on anyone’s religious liberties is really a HUGE stretch. Has anyone done the math on what percentage of an individual paying for the max insurance plan goes to funding those things you mention vs. all of the other standard healthcare items being covered? I would imagine it’s pretty damn small – and in my mind providing those services is towards the greater good (just like Medicare and Medicaid – I’m not a senior citizen or disabled person…but my tax dollars go to pay for that and I have no choice in the matter – but I’m okay with that because those people need those services).

          But it’s clear we are on different sides of this so I don’t think either one of us will convince the other to think anything different from what we think now. Thanks for stopping by though, always nice to hear the other side and have a little debate!

          • Medicare is a tax being imposed directly on each person by the government. With the HHS Mandate, there is a freedom stripped away by making the business owner to be a middleman – employers are forced to offer this coverage – it is not a buy-in offered or compulsory tax to each person directly. The employer must comply to offer this coverage which may violate their religious belief. The premiums spent on this program could have been redistributed in other benefits or higher salary to the employees, which the employees an employer may value/need/use more. This option has been robbed of them. Company benefits are designed to be a form of compensation. If your business does not offer competitive benefits, it will fail. Want birth control coverage, take your expertise to another company. (I understand finding a different job isn’t easy, but what gives anyone the right to force an employer to pay for something they are morally opposed to? It is their business after all.)

            As I said before, if the government wants to make these services cumpolsury, make it a pay roll tax like Medicaid.

          • Can you explain how it’s not infringing upon religious liberties? An employer runs their business. Part of their businesses’ overtly stated beliefs, derived from their religious affiliations’ reasoning, is that abortion, sterilization, and/or birth control is morally wrong. Therefore, they will not purchase a medical plan providing these things. The employees freely agree to these terms. Now, government comes in and says, “Regardless of your religious beliefs, you are now forced to pay for this, or face a fine that will destroy your business”. Please explain the “huge stretch”.

            There was no demand for such a mandate. Employers of Christian organizations have not demanded this coverage of their employers or petitioned for government intervention. They have not attempted bargains or gone on strike over such.

            Whether the secular community likes to admit it or not, Christian churches run a very very large percentage of the country’s universities, other schools, hospitals, and social services. (In Chicago, where I live, if you call up the city telling them you can’t afford to pay for your utilities, they forward you to Catholic Charities, not a government-run program.) Many people freely and happily choose to work for these employers. Why does the government get to decide and enforce with a heavy hand what they believe is best for these employees and employers? Do they not think all these people can make the decision for themselves? Also, birth control is already legal and widely available without forcing religious institutions to purchase insurance policies covering them. What purpose does this mandate really serve?

            To your point about the greater good and need: We would have to view fertility and an unborn child as diseases, on par with the illnesses ailing those on Medicare/caid, in order for the same logic to be applicable.

  3. Imagine this: We have a president in office (say she’s a secular conservative) who is a large advocate of handgun ownership. She makes the argument that if every household had ownership of a firearm, it would make the country a better place, lowering the occurrence of theft crime. Rather than proposing a government funded program that provides free handguns to citizens, she issues a mandate forcing employers to provide a firearm to their employees. Nobody is forcing the employer to use a handgun themselves. Nobody is saying the employees have to collect on the gun offer. But, the employer has to pay for this coverage regardless or face heavy fines from the federal government. The employer isn’t handing out guns personally, but they have to pay the premium of the actuarial present value of employees collecting on this gun offer.

    The employer is an outspoken pacifist, religiously opposed to violence of any sort, viewing weapon usage as intrinsically evil. Some of the employees still use guns and welcome this policy, however they have agreed to work for a company which does not support firearm ownership. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), the employer has to now directly fund something their religion states is evil and against their faith. Surely, in the eyes of their church, they are not as morally culpable as a person pulling the trigger of this weapon, but they are funding and enabling such an action to occur. Part of their religion’s tenets is to not support such violence.

    Is this employer being allowed free exercise of their religion?

    • The scenario of my hypothetical might sound great to some (a gun advocate). It might sound unbelievable and ridiculous to others (someone who detests guns). Then again, in a pre-Obama America, so would a scenario forcing the Catholic Church to pay for abortions and condoms. But here we are.

      The lieutenant believed forcing the people to go against their faith would create a society with more wealth, food, medicine, and education, and that this totalitarian government action would make them better off. Do you believe those people would have been better off? Would you speculate President Obama believed that while reading?

      The lieutenant and the Red-Shirts also took pleasure in watching Padre Jose being forced to marry and live a life against his faith. Is this the same delight felt by an anti-Semite if they forced an orthodox Jew to eat/sell a ham sandwich? Or a Muslim woman to remove her burqa? Do Obama and secularists find delight in forcing the Catholic Church to pay for something a tenet of its faith (which he/they happen to disagree with) forbids? Is this about fairly treating and doing what’s best for the governed, or is it about making a big, bad powerful religion bow to the authority of another?

      Graham Greene must have pondered these things. What would he think of the HHS Mandate and the Obama Administration if he were alive today?
      Had the secular totalitarianism of The Power and the Glory become a dominating government across the world, would we have the society from his short story The Last Word? Do you, Obama, and others cheer for such a society? It was hard for me not to recognize the modern secularist and “new” atheist movements (and Obama) in the lieutenant. He’s not a bad man, in the practical sense and judging by his intentions, but he is one that doesn’t respect or understand religion, and, by extension, doesn’t respect or understand a large percentage of the people he governs. Most importantly, he is one willing to assert his will on the masses at the cost of their religious freedom.

  4. Hey, Vince – you’re responses have been pretty epic, and you admittedly make some very interesting points.

    But honestly, this is not a political blog (this is a blog about books and film and writing and art – which sometimes touches on the subject of politics). This is a post from over 4 years ago where I was excited about Barack Obama’s swearing in and had just discovered he was a Graham Greene fan. Graham Greene is my all-time favorite writer, and this post was written in that context…not in a strictly politic context…nor did I ever think it would be read years later and used to spurn commentary on the Affordable Care Act (which didn’t even exist when this was written).

    I really don’t see any point in furthering a debate about health care here. Again, I appreciate what you have shared and that you found my little corner of the blogosphere, but this is not the place for heated political discourse.

    Now if you want to look around at other posts and debate films or books…that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax I might be apt to toss around 🙂

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