About Obama(!)

March 19, 2008 at 11:49 am | Posted in politics | 3 Comments

Again, other bloggers and pundits will write much more insightfully about yesterday’s Obama speech on race than I.  But I have to write because I believe it was the most eloquent and important political speech I have heard in my lifetime. 

Though I think I am utterly unbiased on a practical, day-to-day level, am I guilty of making a joke based on race?  Of perhaps having the same thoughts as Obama’s grandmother?  It is painful to admit, but who isn’t?  This country has never truly confronted the gestalt of even the most innocuous of slights, but we act totally shocked that a black man might go to a church with a passionate pastor who speaks truthfully and forcefully about true racial injustice:  years and years and years of slights, from innocent to the insidious. 

Some idiot talking head on Hardball (not Chris Matthews, whom I am coming to appreciate!) said that Obama is going to look bad no matter what because he should have confronted his pastor — told his pastor that such words were appalling; instead, he just “sat in the pews.”  Bullshit.  Obama rightfully is a participant in a community which no outsider has the right to judge, especially since what we are seeing on the news is taken out of context – out of the huge context that is racial relations in this country.  Instead, Obama behaved with absolute honor, explaining his relationship with the pastor, his church, the black community, the white community.

This mastery of context and subsequent display of honor was the most important part of the speech.  What would Hillary have done in that situation?  She would have distanced herself from that pastor so fast your head would spin.  I want to vote for Hillary because of all that she is:  intelligent, knowledgeable, and utterly presidential.  I want to vote for her to show that someone who is all these things – and is a woman – can and should be president. 

However, after yesterday, I’m not sure if I can.  Obama showed us that he is capable of tackling the major problems of this country with clarity, tact, passion, honor, and above all, honesty.  His speech might be one of the most honest things a politician has ever done.  Unfortunately, I fear that many people don’t want to hear the truth and instead will focus on the anger and ugliness that, however justifiably, has come from that truth.  Hatred—from insecurity, religion, greed, whatever—could be the downfall of our planet.  We can only counter that by recognizing its source, by acknowledging the injustices felt by all parties, but, most important, in the end, by speaking about it. 

The Times, of course, says this all much more persuasively, here, capturing best the enormity and importance of the moment. 


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  1. I have been gleaning snippets of the speech, but after your blog entry I read the whole thing online.

    I agree that it was a good speech. I was looking for Barak to dodge the issue or give comfortable generalizations something he has been guilty of in the past. He did not.

    I looked for two things and found them in his speech:
    1. Barack disavow’s Wrights statements that God should damn America, and
    2. Barack acknowledges that Israel is a “stalwart ally” of the U.S., and that conflicts in the Middle East stem from one thing: Islamic fundamentalism.

    He is correct. Let’s just hope he sticks to this philosphy even after winning the Democratic nomination.

  2. Your blog is on target! I remember learning a long time ago that hatred has to be taught. Of course, it is being taught all the time, but behind closed doors. We have a duty (and an opportunity) to combat it by speaking out and speaking up! Thanks for reminding me.

  3. I think Obama seems authentic – not politically programmed like most candidates. Rather than worrying about always saying the right thing, it seems like he knows that he can’t say the wrong thing because he’s just being honest and thoughtful. He doesn’t come across as perfect – but real. And what more can you ask from a person? And that’s the same thing he pointed out about his pastor – he’s not perfect, he’s the a sum of all his life experiences. So it’s not for us to judge him as bad or good (or Obama by proxy) but to listen and to try and understand. That’s the only way we’re ever going to see any real change.

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