Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Beyond Prejudice and Stupidity

Race is boiling up again in the collective conscience of public media and viewership. Michael 'Kramer' Richards' comedy rampage got things going in grand style. Joe Biden kind of goofed his way into heating up our national confusion with his improvisational riff on Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American [candidate] who is articulate and bright and clean". But Biden is by no means alone in coming across as a twit (I sat and chatted with Biden and his mother once at a bus stop in Wilmington, Delaware, and I know the man is not a twit and that he certainly deserves to be considered a strong contender for President of this country). As you will see in the links contained in the short essay below, the foot-in-mouth syndrome is growing with a fervor. Sadly, it's not just liberalish people of European descent who are letting loose.

Beyond Prejudice and Stupidity

I am not yet convinced that I will be voting for Barack Obama in the primaries next year. It is too early to tell anything about this man's hardcore ability to make tough decisions or to perform the demanding work of a statesman. I'm tired of liberal pandering and compromise. I'm tired of politically correct candidates mouthing the platitudes of the past 45-50 years. Substance, fearlessness, and truth about our future and how we're going to get there is all that matters now. Does Obama have the goods? We'll see...

All that said, it is very likely that we are about to begin a new chapter in the country's long history of presidential elections that will be as fascinating and breathless and full of wonder as any in our 231 year story. Barack Obama glistens and vibrates right now with positive force and charisma, the likes of which we have not seen since John Kennedy. Historically, the parallels between these two men should be carefully examined. Eloquent, thoughtful, truly inspiring leaders are few and far between for this nation -- for this world. Will Obama rise to the level of our one and only Irish Catholic President with that intoxicating Camelot glint in his eye? Only time (and the media and dirty politics) will tell. The best hint of success right now is how clearly so many people want to see him succeed.

With regard to the manner in which race will shape this man's candidacy and this country's view of itself, as a people we have a dilemma. Race is such a false and twisted social poetics. Words are ionically charged to maintain a state of confusion all the way around. The majority of us have, indeed, moved above and beyond prejudice and stupidity, but it is still virtually impossible to speak about racialism without being offensive to someone or sounding dim, insensitive, or silly. This endless national discourse should be beneath us by now and yet black and white, brown, yellow, red, blue, green, chartreuse, virtually anyone who seeks to speak about this issue manages to perpetuate a spiralling vortex of half-truth, finger pointing, and Othering. It is suffocating and stifling to continue to go to this place...and very dangerous. And yet it continues, and so, many are trying to pull Obama into the fray.

How this very young Presidential candidate responds to the nation's intense desire to pull him into the discussion about race may well tell us what kind of man he is. Barack Obama, like most of mixed descent, knows how pointless this talk of skin color and origin is. He has spent his adult life trying to lead people (just people) and shape the world into a better place. If he is to become the next President of the United States, he will be carrying all of us on his back. He will be leading us despite ourselves. It will be one of the more Herculean socio-political feats this country has witnessed in many, many years.

And then the hard part will begin for all of us, because for one man to move us so far above and beyond the twisted social poetics of today, means that he will then have to move us into our future where we actually begin to solve real problems and seek to grapple again with the promise of this country's ideals and principles set forth so many years ago: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

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