Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I dunno

After hearing the Obama speech yesterday, I was thunderstruck. I am not sure I have heard a more lucid, rational and dispassionate discussion of a loaded question in my lifetime. It is extraordinary how well Obama understands the problem of race and how it plays out among whites as well as blacks. I told one of my history classes that they owed it to themselves to read or watch the speech on Youtube...probably one day, it will be considered as one of the great speeches in American history.

I have to confess, though, that I got water thrown all over my enthusiasm when I engaged some students after class. They were about to take issue with me over the Obama speech...they did not see it as great or eloquent, but a crafty apologia for anti-Americanism and racism. A summary of their reaction reads as follows:

...Obama refused to denounce and sever ties with his pastor, who after all "preaches hate."

...Obama did not condemn anti-American remarks by his pastor(I guess they weren't listening very carefully)

...Obama's WIFE said she was only "proud to be an American now," when her husband is running. What kind of patriotism is that(and how did his wife come into the equation anyway)?

...Obama and his wife and pastor "hate America."

Maybe these students were never going to give the speech a hearing anyway, but I am afraid these viewpoints aren't too far from the American mainstream. People can't seem to understand that African-Americans view American history differently, for good reason, from white Americans. They equate any criticism of America with near-treason. And anyone who "does nuance," tries to understand someone else's point of view, is automatically as suspect as the America-haters.

So I don't know now whether Obama helped himself or not. What I do know is that Americans need to get out somewhere, of their town, their state, their country or merely their comfort zone, and engage some different opinions and viewpoints, so that they can understand that their nation is not viewed as a shining, benevolent city on a hill by everyone, inside or outside America. Maybe then they will be able to listen and internalize criticism as a means to help along the process of personal or national improvement.

I guess I am kind of appalled.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if we're hearing from people who just would not vote for an African American under any circumstances - finally finding what they consider a more "acceptable public" reason for not voting for him?

3:31 PM  

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