Obama for president
Obama’s “speech on race” has made up my mind: Obama for president!
I don’t even have a vote on this, I’m not an American. On a side-note: the president of the most powerful nation on earth, the person that can change the lives of everyone on this planet with one simple stroke of a pen should and must be elected by all inhabitants of that same planet, not just by people living on one side of the red line in an atlas that some lunatic drew hundreds of years ago. But I digress.
Since I can’t vote, I’ll blog about it: Obama’s speech. It’s not as short as Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, it’s not as magnificently structured as Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream‘ even though it’s compared to both in the media. I doubt if it will still be regarded as ‘historical’ in say, one year’s time. It certainly won’t when he doesn’t get elected. I’ve always thought the first black or female president of the United States would be a republican. That’s difficult to explain without the Vulcan proverb: ‘Only Nixon could go to China’. But I digress.
There’s very little I know of Obama’s political convictions and ideas, my choice for him has nothing to do with his programme, just with one little detail: the reverend Jeremiah Wright. It’s the guy who married Obama and his wife and baptised his daughters. It’s the pastor of the church Obama used to frequent. Now the reverend has said quite controversial things in a speech that’s dubbed the ‘God damn America‘-speech. I haven’t been able to find a transcript, but apparently the Rev. Wright has claimed America is a racist and a terrorist nation that has only itself to blame for 9/11. Obama has a problem.
So he held his speech ad here’s what he has to say about the reverend:
(…) the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America (…)
As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.
More than enough distance put between them for my comfort. But then he goes on:
Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask?
Good point, and his answer is what swayed me:
(…) the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.
That’s enough backbone for me: disagree, nay condemn the man’s words, but be truthful to the personal ties that have existed between them. Take on the sin, not the sinner. That’s a biblical value if you ask me.
In dictionaries it’s translated with ‘love’, ‘kindness’, ‘lovingkindness’, ‘goodness’, ‘grace’, ‘benevolence’. But its main connotation is ‘faithfulness’, even ‘faith’ in the Latin sense: fides. This pastor may have been horribly wrong about a few things, there’s at least one thing he taught Obama right. He’s got my vote (if I had one!).