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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.

[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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