Baseball player Yogi Berra once said, "You can see a lot just by looking" -- simple wisdom that President Barack Obama is not likely to heed. In order to see, you have to want to look at the truth that's actually out there.
With reality so different from how our president wishes to portray it, he has little interest in seeing things as they really are.
The president delivered a "Kumbaya" appeal this past week to the current session of the United Nations General Assembly. The pitch, about peaceful resolution of disputes, tolerance and free speech, was clearly aimed at Muslim nations.
Sure, Egypt will respect free speech, as long as it does not offend "one specific religion or culture." The message we got from candidate Obama in 2008 was that the rift between the Muslim world and the West was one of misunderstanding, of lack of empathy on our part toward them. Candidate Obama said he was the man, given his personal history, who could bridge that gap.
In 2009, the first year of the Obama presidency, the Pew Research Center reported that the favorability rating in Egypt toward the United States was 27 percent. Now in 2012 it is 19 percent, down eight points.
More misunderstanding? I don't think so. Egyptians are quite clear about who they are and quite clear about their distaste for the moral relativism Barack Obama peddles as freedom. Conflicting attitudes and worldviews emerge from different beliefs, not misunderstanding.
In the same Pew survey of last June, 11 percent of Egyptians agreed with the statement: "It is good that American ideas and customs are spreading here." Has Obama just not had enough time, as with producing an economic recovery at home, to get Muslims to learn the words to "Kumbaya"? The real problem, as I see it, is how do you peddle to others what you don't understand, or won't be honest about, yourself.
While our president refuses to honestly look at Muslim societies, they do look at us. They see American double standards and mixed messages very clearly.
In his United Nations speech, Obama quoted South African leader Nelson Mandela, saying, "To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." This from an American president who is now forcing American employers to buy condoms and abortion pills for their employees, even if it is against that employer's religious convictions.
Or from a nation where poor children are forced to attend public schools where teaching traditional, religious values that they desperately need are prohibited.
Or where the people of the state of California voted to define marriage as between a man and a woman, only to have this referendum overturned by a federal court.
Can Obama stand with credibility before any Muslim nation and claim that he represents religious freedom? How about economic freedom? Economic freedom -- which measures a nation's respect for private property and limits arbitrary government power to interfere with economic transactions -- is critical because it correlates perfectly with prosperity.
Nations with more economic freedom are uniformly more prosperous.
The latest Economic Freedom of the World report, published annually by over 70 think tanks from around the world, shows that in 2010 the United States dropped to No. 18 in world ranking. This after years of the U.S. being one of the most economically free nations in the world.
So why should Muslim nations take seriously an increasingly weak America that does not practice what it preaches? They don't and won't.
If we want Muslims to respect us and respect freedom's cores values -- protection of life and property -- America should once again represent those values.
Scripps Howard columnist Star Parker is an author and president of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education. Read more at www.urbancure.org.