Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Michelle Obama's Gaffe?

The two biggest problems I have with the reactions to Michelle Obama’s heartfelt comment about her finally having something to be really proud of this country about is this. We eviscerate candidates and campaigns for their scripted syncopated messages saying we want honesty and real emotions. Then we crucify those who would give it to us. America once again proves that “You can’t handle the truth.” I would expect the Republicans, pundits, talking heads, and the America; love it or leave it crowd to resort to knee-jerk reactions, but I find it very telling that Democrats and so-called Progressives are joining their ranks in condemning her remarks. The second problem is that it shows how we have allowed the Republican “fear factor” to color our perspective about who we are and what we have become. The same fraudulent media that can swift-boat a decorated war hero into a lying coward while at the same time turning a lying draft-dodging Reservist into a hero strikes fear in the hearts of many.

Any American over the age of 40 whether they be black or white should if they are honest be able to attest to the truthfulness of Michelle Obama’s statement. Forty years ago there were images being played out on television screens across America of peaceful black demonstrators being attacked by police dogs, high pressure water hoses and brutal police just for wanting to exercise their basic rights. Who in their right mind back then would have envisioned that today one of the major Parties is on the verge of nominating a black man for President? How many among us today thought that a black man could draw the cross-section of support that Barack Obama has been able to put together prior to this election? I mean come on people, the guy won Idaho. Forty years ago America’s urban centers and rural counties were ablaze with rage following the slaying of one of America’s greatest heroes, who by the way was long on rhetoric but yet was able to move a nation to confront it’s racist past.

Forty years ago college campuses were exploding with the calls for change to end a divisive war that was killing and maiming a generation; once again for the cause of spreading democracy at the end of a gun. Forty years ago a young man promising change and a new vision of America was gunned down and a fractious Democratic Party was left to sort out the pieces in Chicago amid chaos and smoke filled rooms. To those too young to remember these things or may not have lived through them they may seem ancient, but to those who were there for us to deny the validity of Michelle Obama’s statement is to deny ourselves. We look back over the last 40 years and I would ask anyone to tell me a prouder moment in America than the one we stand at today, with all of its historic significance. Not only have we been presented with the choice for the first time ever of a viable black candidate, but also of a woman.

We as a nation can not allow the right-wing nuts to minimize this moment or to marginalize it. The time has come to put an end to the false patriotism of either you are with us or against us, as if this were some western movie and the choices were as simple as the guys in white hats or black ones. I can love someone or love a nation and still be able to point out their flaws. The real act of love is not to ignore their flaws or to pretend they don’t have any, but to love them all the more in spite of them. It is precisely this myth of infallibility that keeps us repeating the same mistakes over and over again as well as keeps us tied to the ones we have already made. This fear of acknowledging our failings must be overcome if we are to become a greater nation. For one to acknowledge their mistakes is not a sign of weakness, but in fact is a sign of strength and a first step of growth and change.

I suspect we haven’t seen the last of this episode if Barack Obama goes on to win the nomination. The wife of Senator McCain has already weighed in saying, “that she has and always will be proud of her country.” Well given the fact that she was raised an only child to affluent parents and enjoyed the best that this country had to offer I can understand why she is so proud of America, but for those of us not quite as fortunate as Cindy McCain we have seen our share of moments when America was not looking or acting so worthy of pride. To those of us who grew up poor, black, or brown we can understand Michelle Obama’s feelings of pride and elation. Because while Cindy McCain was getting diversion for her addiction and drug stealing, many of us have had fathers, brothers, and sisters who were and are serving felony prison sentences for a lot less. I guess pride is like everything else in this world, it just depends on your perspective.

As a middle-aged black man, I can say that I have never been more proud of this country than I am now. The fact is that the number of whites who are willing to vote for Barack Obama is far more than I would have guessed in my wildest dreams fills me with pride and if this is wrong to say then who really is being dishonest? Michelle Obama and me or those living in a drug induced state of, “
I can’t say I have made any mistakes.”

1 comment:

James R MacLean said...

Amen, Brother!

Besides: often it takes a real patriot to be ashamed when our country acts unjustly or squalidly.

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