I know this post is about a week too late but I still wanted to talk about that speech. I spent a lot of last week thinking about it and listening to commentary on it. To this point I would not have called myself an Obama supporter, and I am still not quite there, but after that speech, I am definitely a lot closer.
The most refreshing part of that speech was that for once, it was clear, that here is a politician who actually has something to say. For sure, there were tid-bits of bullshit mixed in, but for the most part, it was genuine. It’s come to the point in American politics where you take every speech with a grain of salt. You know most of what they are saying is too vague to possibly mean any sort of commitment to policy or action, and the rest is spineless assessments towards the state of the country, trying not to offend anyone, therefore ignoring everyone.
Obama addressed race in this country in a completely different manner. Instead of referring to the best stereotypes of each race, and simply pointing out their achievements in society, he pointed his finger directly at what they are doing wrong. He used history and personal experience to expose where we stand today. In the end, he argued whites need to appreciate and accept the injustices towards the black race that have occurred throughout history, and blacks need stop using them as a crutch. He took a huge risk in doing this, as most of the country unfortunately won’t understand much of what he said, and several others will spin it as reverse racism or anti-patriotism. This is exactly what was so wonderful about the speech. He disregarded the repercussions that speaking his mind might have, and chose to just be honest.
You rarely get to see great speeches these days. Political junkies are limited to reading those given by politicians 50 to 200 hundred years ago. It is inevitable that pieces of this speech will be taken out of context and turned against him. Hopefully the public will be smart enough to see through these unfortunate attacks. Still, the greatest tragedy that could occur is if this speech is ignored, or forgotten. In the past week it has received a lot of coverage, but how long will that last? Most people probably didn’t hear it in its entirety or take the time to read it online. I strongly suggest that if you have not done so already, find the speech online and read it beginning to end. The media will find something new this week and coverage of the speech will die, but the people themselves can continue to read it, dissect it, and discuss it. The content of the speech was important, but the affect is has on people and policy will be the true test.
The only problem I had with the speech, and the reason Obama gave the speech to begin with, is Obama’s denouncing his Pastor’s comments. It showed a lot of character to not completely distance himself from him. He pointed out that a few radical comments don’t make a man, and he wasn’t going to end his long relationship with this person because of his views on American history and foreign policy. Still, why were these comments even denounced? As far as I know the pastor said that America was founded on racism (true), continues to be racist today (true), and that our horrible foreign policy caused the terrorist attacks of 9/11 (true). Why are comments like these still considered radical? I thought we were past the point where terrorist attacks were blamed solely on crazy Muslims who “hate our freedom.” In the tapes released after 9/11 didn’t Bin Laden say that the reason for the attacks were the United States support of Israel, ties with Saudi Arabia and its overall presence in the Middle East? These are the same type of statements that Ron Paul was making. While he clearly wasn’t going to get elected on that platform, he wasn’t considered crazy and necessary to denounce.
I was hoping that people had come around enough to the point where they were no longer eating up the bullshit served by the current administration telling them that our policy is just, and terrorists only hate us because of the freedoms we so justly enjoy. But if comments like Pastor Wrights are still going to be viewed as radical, and a candidate for President must denounce them, we haven’t come as far as I thought.
Hopefully part of the reason for the objection to these comments was that they were made in an emotional sermon, in angry condemnation, and in “god’s” house. We know Americans are still afraid of anybody who shows any emotion, as we learned with Dean in 04’. I don’t think it’s possible for Obama to be stirred, so maybe one day he will address these issues in his calm manner, and people won’t be so freaked out. But if we go through another election where the candidates don’t address even the possibility that our foreign policy is the reason for the hatred towards us in the Middle East, we are in big trouble.