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Is this what patriotism feels like? [Mar. 19th, 2008|12:27 am]
There's a lot of linkage today to Barack Obama's speech about race in the U.S. I don't usually talk about politics much, but I have to say that I think this is really something quite extraordinary.

Normally I try to stay as far away from political speechifying as I can, because it makes my brain itch and fills me with annoyance. This is something different. I read it -- I haven't listened to it, just read it -- and it's like, oh my god, he's actually saying something. Something other than "vote for me", which yes, was in there, but alongside some very interesting statements about how American society works or doesn't, and ways to think about a set of problems, and observations about people, and...

It's like he's saying "Okay, fine. You want to talk about race? Let's talk about race." And then he pulls out the race card and tears it into tiny pieces and throws it on the floor because people need to stop freaking out about it and focus, people, focus on all this other big important stuff because then we could actually accomplish something, and I don't think I've quite processed it all yet.

Somebody who can say things like this is actually running for president? As in, might actually be elected? Not just in theory, but, like, actually elected in reality? That... doesn't really fit into my worldview at the moment.

To be honest, I'm kind of afraid to let that idea in, because if I do and he doesn't get elected, I'll be heartbroken, and if he does, I might have to, y'know, abandon my hip and jaded Gen-X cynicism about American politics and actually care about stuff, and I'm really not sure what to do about that.

Even now I'm distancing myself from it with humor and irony because I think that speech may have actually moved me, and I just... don't know how to react to that.

From: (Anonymous)
2008-03-19 07:10 am (UTC)
I listened to this speech twice today, and unfortunately, it doesn't have a lot of Obama's *delivery*. It's a great speech, but it's delivered a little flat up 'till the end. If you liked that, though, I'd suggest checking out this one:


It's both excellent, and really well delivered. I'm not even marginally religious, but this is one of the first things I've heard that makes religion in the public sphere seem... reasonable?
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[User Picture]From: helava
2008-03-19 07:11 am (UTC)
Argh. That was me, twice. Sorry.
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[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2008-03-19 02:55 pm (UTC)
I agree with you on both points. I saw Obama interviewed after his speech on race and he looked really tired; I think he was up all night writing that speech, which perhaps explains the delivery.

This speech on race (does it have a title?) reminded me a lot about his speech on religion and politics. Both speeches has been called "The most important speech on (race|religion in politics) in recent history" by commentators and they don't go for soundbites but take a difficult issue head-on.

One of Obama's strengths is to be able to look at an issue that divides people and say basically "come on, we can all do better here". Obama is also not afraid to challenge his audience. When he spoke at Ebenezer Baptist (MLK's parish), he challenged the audience on issues of homophobia and xenophobia within the black church.

What impressed me about yesterday's speech was his ability to disavow Rev. Wright's anger, yet still empathize with him and accept and respect the whole person of his pastor. It flies in the face of typical politics where the media and opposition want to throw someone under the bus every time he or she makes a misstep (I think we saw a small part of that politics when Michelle Obama said she was proud of her country "for the first time"). An environment like that prevents people from speaking their mind, admitting their faults, giving leeway to the other side, and generally working towards common goals.

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[User Picture]From: helava
2008-03-19 05:13 pm (UTC)
The speech's title is apparently, "A More Perfect Union," which is pretty much the theme that bookends the speech. One of the things about Obama is that I can't imagine McCain or Clinton giving a speech that is nearly as ... heartfelt. I'd heard he wrote this (and a number of his other speeches) single-handedly, and whether it's true or not, that's certainly what it feels like.

It's light on the platitudes and soundbites, and strong on things that feel *real*. Clinton and McCain are *so* steeped in the Rovian brand of modern politics that stuff like this almost never comes out of their mouths un-focus-tested. The only time Clinton's seemed genuine on the campaign trail was the time she talked about how it's politics isn't a game - it's the first time she's seemed human. Obama seems human the majority of the time, to me.

But whether it's Clinton or Obama, either one is so radically more articulate and intelligent than ... well, being more articulate and intelligent than Bush ain't saying much. And seriously - totally seriously - if that sycophantic crony fuck McCain wins, it's fucking over for the US.
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[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2008-03-20 04:37 am (UTC)

One of the things about Obama is that I can't imagine McCain or Clinton giving a speech that is nearly as ... heartfelt. I'd heard he wrote this (and a number of his other speeches) single-handedly, and whether it's true or not, that's certainly what it feels like.

Obama definitely writes a lot of his speeches, but he also has a speechwriting team. I read an interesting profile of his chief speechwriter a while back (the key quote: "If there were 48 hours in a day, we wouldn't need a speechwriter").

As for his authenticity, everything I've seen from the man puts him miles ahead of everyone else in national politics. Sure, you can look at his campaign and see typical political maneuvers and language especially during debates and stump speeches. However, when I've seen his one-on-one interviews, I feel like I'm watching a real human being, rather than a political machine.

This speech too, shows this authenticity. It seems like political commentators are virtually unanimous in their praise for this speech, but it's not clear how it will play with voters. Some of the negative comments I've seen are really frustrating and most completely miss the point. I hope this doesn't hurt his chances at the presidency.
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[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2008-03-20 05:16 am (UTC)
Along these lines, some interesting analysis here. When you step back, it's crazy to think that we expect our politicians to promise us things but are dazed when they ask something of us. It is against the norm of every other authority relationship.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2008-03-19 12:20 pm (UTC)
I thought patriotism was listening to Pete Seeger while paying my taxes.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2008-03-19 12:59 pm (UTC)
What I find interesting is that a conservative talk-show host was defending Obama (not the speech but his association with pastor Wright in general) on the grounds of "Haven't you ever had a minister whose political ideas caused you great embarrassment?" Because then I think of my mom and her current priest, a man she likes very much but whose politics, especially during mass, drive her utterly bonkers.

He might get elected, he might not. This is why we have an election, after all. But from my perspective, at least, this seems to be a lot less of an emotional campaign than the last presidential run.
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From: chaosqueen42
2008-03-19 03:30 pm (UTC)
I haven't had time to listen to / read the speech yet, but I've read some of the commentary.

Here's my problem. As you say, he's saying "Okay, fine. You want to talk about race? Let's talk about race."

But I don't want to talk about race, actually. I want to talk about 5 years in Iraq, with continually mounting death tolls of soldiers and civilians. I want to talk about the collapsing economy. I want to talk about why we haven't managed to catch, try, and execute Osama Bin Laden yet. I want to talk about the on-going corruption in our government because it's beholden to corporations. I want to talk about why we are pulling federal funding from sex-ed programs that want to talk about anything other than abstinence, when 1/4 of our teenage girls have STDs. I want to talk about why we have such a messed up health system, where people cannot get basic care, in one of the wealthiest companies in the world.

All this snarking about whether or not Clinton, or Obama, or their advisers, or their pastors, are racist -- not to mention all the articles about how New York governors can't keep it in their pants and whether their wives should stand next to them making a frowny face when they admit it to the press -- seems to me to be distracting from the issues that are hurting our country more.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2008-03-19 03:44 pm (UTC)
You should go read it, because that's pretty much exactly the point he's making: "This is not what we should be talking about, but apparently we need to, so fine, let's spend five minutes on it and be done with it."
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[User Picture]From: nematsakis
2008-03-19 04:07 pm (UTC)

I don't want to talk about race, actually. I want to talk about 5 years in Iraq, with continually mounting death tolls of soldiers and civilians.

Obama is giving a speech on Iraq today, the 5th anniversary of the start of the war. I'm not sure what he'll say about the economy, but I expect he'll discuss that soon too. The speech on race was really a response to a lot of media coverage an commentary on Wright.
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[User Picture]From: boat_of_car
2008-03-19 05:24 pm (UTC)

have i mentioned lately

That you're wonderful?
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[User Picture]From: drdeleto
2008-03-19 03:34 pm (UTC)
I don't know if "patriotism" is the right word to use here.

How about "sudden, unexpected surge in previously dismal confidence in government, potentially"?
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2008-03-19 03:46 pm (UTC)
Something like that. It's the unexpectedness of it that's so disconcerting. "Wait, I'm having a positive feeling in this context! Too... confusing... can't... cope!"
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[User Picture]From: ancawonka
2008-03-19 05:10 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm listening to the speech now - it's pretty amazing.

I've been hearing about the speech for two days now - from people who were stunned at the line "I am married to a black american woman who has the blood of slaves and slave owners in her veins", to MoveOn.org and you and dpolicar in LJ.

I've more or less stopped reading the papers when it comes to election coverage. Their take on what's going on is too self-centered (what makes a good story?) rather than what's really going on, which may not make good sound bites, but is far more important.

You've gotta have hope. Clothing yourself in irony so you don't feel the pain will not make things any better.
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