I’ve not said much about the US election to date. I’ll be voting in it, as an American abroad (even though I’m not really ‘abroad’). Still, being a citizen, it’s my right to do so, at least up until I give up American citizenship, which for practical reasons I doubt I’ll ever do, no matter how expensive the US government makes it to keep it (but who knows what the future will bring).
It should come as no surprise that I’m supporting the candidacy of Barack Obama. I was never a fan of Hilary Clinton. She was always too strident and never owned up to the mistake of voting for the Iraq war. A simple apology would have been fine for me (like the one Richard Clarke gave to the 9/11 widows). Lately she’s struck me as so unpleasant and shrill in so many ways (including more than a whiff of some of the worst intrusive and meddlesome self-righteousness that Modern Liberalism in the US can be; It Takes a Village indeed…) that I can even imagine her losing to John McCain on pure backlash, and a McCain in the Oval Office would be far worse then Hilary. I also hated the idea of the Presidency being a trophy tossed back and forth between two families that each felt themselves uniquely entitled to it. After Hilary’s stint, it would be Jeb Bush for two terms, and then it would be Chelsea’s turn, followed by… the twins? Sure; By that time the US would have been reduced to Third World Nation status, and it wouldn’t matter any more which Dynasty got their four or eight-year Time-share slot in the Presidential Palace.
But I digress…
Obama struck me as far more inspiring and interesting, (although admittedly not as much as Howard Dean did), but I couldn’t put my finger on why until the speech he gave today. He made the speech because he had to deal with the toxic statements made by the Pastor of his Church, and why he hadn’t distanced himself from the man who made it (in addition to leaving the Church itself).
That was the reason for the speech. What I heard instead, was a clear and eloquent meditation on why the US is still so divided, how it got to where it is today, and maybe, how it can begin to move forward.
Bush and the Republicans had been using Race as a way of splitting up the electorate, mainly to keep the South in their pocket. It has always been in their best interest to keep the dialog on racial inequality a taboo in public life, or to simply ignore it. With this speech, I think Obama began to open up the dialog about this topic, touching upon one exposed nerve after another: Slavery and the Constitution, Welfare, Affirmative Action, Immigration… He mentioned them all. In essence, both sides of the debate on race have merit, but we have to all move on now, if we have the courage to. It was the kind of speech that a patient, educated, and dare I say it — a wise Statesman (rather than merely a politician) would give. Whether or not Obama wins the election, I have a hunch this speech will be talked about and studied in history texts for a long time.
But don’t take my word for it. If you have the time, watch the speech on YouTube. I’ve embedded it here, despite the mediocre quality of the video and audio. If I find a better source, I’ll link to it. (I’ve done this, thanks to Al ‘Bokashi-man’ Pasternak’s pointer.)