By Patricia Wilson-Smith
Wow. The blogosphere is ablaze. Everyone is giving their two cents on what I’m convinced will go down in history as the “I Have A Dream” speech of our generation.
Unless your television or computer was carried off by a twister (Atlanta caught it in the neck from a record number of tornados last week), you know that today, Senator Obama delivered an historic speech on race relations in this country, and the controversy that made the speech necessary – the remarks made by his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
I am utterly amazed at how eloquent some have been in their analysis of Senator Obama and the historic speech he made today in Phildelphia, and yet how utterly wrong at the same time. The thing that stands out the most to me is the many bloggers and their assertions that Senator Obama was somehow deeply conflicted, or panicked as he delivered his speech today. I find that odd, because I didn’t see conflict or panic in him at all. I saw resolution, and a bravery that is seldom seen in modern politics. Those who are busy accusing Senator Obama of tap-dancing to get out of a sticky situation missed the point of his speech entirely.
America – listen to me. The easy, political thing for Senator Obama to have done would have been to stand up, and bang the podium, and say that he forever disowns, denounces, rejects, and otherwise dismisses his relationship with Rev. Wright. That would have been the easy AND politically expedient thing to do, and I’m not sure many people would have blamed him for it. But instead, what he did, was deliver a message to the American people that was long over due, for black and white Americans alike – the message that the things that have divided us for so long will never go away unless we find the courage to confront them.
And in confronting this issue with his Pastor, he showed us by example that confronting the issue of race relations in this country can and should be done, whatever the consequences.
Check it – I am the quintessential Obama Supporter, and yet I must confess that had I been one of his advisors, I may have been tempted to ask him to take a different road than the one he took today. There had to be a burning debate amongst his strategy team, if not inside the man himself – was it more important for Senator Obama to say what was politically acceptable, say whatever would get him back in the good graces of the majority of Americans, or was it more important for him to show himself to be the truthful, profound leader that he has portrayed himself to be all along, by telling the American people the trueth, even in the face of such an ugly controversy?
This question is not as easily answerable as you might think. Certainly, there are those who desperately want to see Senator Obama as the next President of the United States who might be tempted to say that he should have said whatever would make this thing go away the fastest. These are the people who believe that the political end justifies the political means, even if the means forces someone of honor to do the dishonorable.
And they are wrong. Dead wrong.
What Senator Obama had the courage to stand up and say today, well, right now we’re all just marinating in it. The pundits are batting it around, the hard-core Clinton supporters are ringing the death knoll on Senator Obama’s continued chances, and the Republicans are just sitting back giggling at the spectacle. But I would contend that what we as a country do today in response to Senator Obama’s message hardly even matters, because so historic was his speech, so important was the message, so sweeping in its delivery of the facts of the state of race relations in this country were his ideas, that it was actually worth running the risk that it could throw us all of kilter for a bit at best, and seriously jeopardize his candidacy, at worst for the American people to hear it. Sorry for the run-on sentence.
See, the people who really love this country and want it to turn a corner, are willing to sacrifice even our selfish wishes for our country’s future in the name of truth. And what Senator Obama said today was the truth, whether we wanted to hear it, whether we liked it or not. And the most amazing thing, is that there was enough truth in his remarks to go around to everyone, blacks and whites. I felt a distinct sting when he began to talk about how blacks play the victim over racism in this country at times, because he was right. And I felt a definite discomfort at his assertions that some whites don’t seem to understand that the residual effects of slavery are still being felt by blacks in this country today, because I know he’s right about that too, but I also know that so many people are just not ready to hear it.
Some have suggested that he didn’t want to deal with the pastor’s comments until he had to. To that I say, “Duh!” The people who believe that are absolutely right – of course he didn’t deal with it until he had to, and the reason is that he knew that it would be something just like this that would force him to have the discussion with the American people about the state of race relations in this country. And he knew that the message he would have to deliver would be hard to say and hard to hear. But I applaud him, a million times I applaud him, because what he said today was the bravest thing that any politician in recent memory has had to stand up before this nation and say, and it was probably also one of the hardest oratories a politician has ever had to deliver.
It saddens me that as a nation of intellectuals there is so much we can’t seem to agree on, whether we’re black or white. Today, I saw a man put everything on the line to tell the truth as he sees it. I saw the Senator stand up for a man who he loves - though he doesn’t agree with his more controversial remarks AT ALL – and respects for those qualities that have served he and his family well over the years. And I saw a man that in a million years would never wish this country harm. In that there is no question.
But sadly, other people like the maniacal bloggers who are ripping him to shreds even as I type saw what they wanted to see – a racist, or liar, or whatever other names they’ve chosen to call Senator Obama since he left the podium this morning.
But ask yourself this – who is it who throughout this campaign has consistently thrown mud, and distorted the truth, and used surrogates and her ex-pres husband to say or do whatever it took to cast doubt on her opponent? Who is it that has done everything possible to stoke the flames of racism in this country, just to gain political advantage? And who has consistently gone on record as not wanting to engage in gutter politics, not even to revive his candidacy or ensure victory for himself? And yes – who is it that stood up today in front of the American people and spoke from his heart about his deepest fears for our country? Who reminded us of what should have been patently obvious to anyone who has picked up an American history book – that slavery was a blot on our nation’s history that left a terrible, enduring stain? And who was it that did it possibly at his own political peril?
You know the name. Say it with me. O-B-A-M-A. This country needs the leadership and honesty that Senator Obama showed today, nothing else will do if we’re to ever leave the generations of racial division, hatred, and confusion behind. I for one long for the day when asking questions about someone’s racial motives is as passe as asking about their shoe size. I have faith that that day will come, and that when it does, Senator Obama will have lead us there.