When you consider the risks Barack Obama is taking, just by being Black and running for President, and further by taking progressive political stands, it puts his earnestness front and center. There is a reason people feel they can trust this man.
My friend Brad, (who when pressed is full of insightful yet cuttingly cynical remarks about politics), is not someone I’d consider johnny Democratic volunteer. I haven’t really given Obama’s speech a critical once through yet, but I’m heading into it impressed through the eyes of my friends. Brad’s impressions foremost among them.
In the face of eliminationist rhetoric against Barack Obama escalating into actual assasination attempts, a lot of the political culture Obama is running in becomes easier to comprehend. Right wingers are desperately trying to pin white supremacy on liberals (see the comment thread for examples). Conservatives love their crazies when they vote, and do their best to either distance themselves from or ignore the crazies who act out.
In spite of all of this, Barack Obama is running to be president.
When looking at opposition candidates in third world countries, its hard to image how devastatingly difficult it is to run in the face of life ending violence. While our own government is thankfully not corrupt enough to kill politicians, some of our citizens are murderous and hateful enough to try and take our vote away from us by force. There are people out there seething at the possibility of a black president. I think all the talk in the various supremacist and neonazi forums about wanting a black president so he can fail is bullshit. Not simply because Obama (who has been surrounding himself with some increasingly impressive allies) is geared to succeed (and he will). But because the kind of psuedo-intellectual urine soaked cowardice that drives racists cannot stand the fact that their hated enemy will hold a position of incredible symbolic power. As definitely as their paranoia extends to additional worries beyond Obama’s victory in November, they are surely worrying that his victory will represent a powerful blow to the cause of white supremacy. They’d be right there. When Barack Obama shatters the glass ceiling, the symbolism of a black statesman on JFK’s level showering the oval office with the alien sensation of competency will drive a nail into the coffin of racial inferiority in such a public way it knocks the coffin into the ground and buries it all at once.
The focal point is Barack’s sheer skill. He literally lifted himself onto the national stage with a speech at a convention most reporters and politicians routinely mock as a mere informercial for the parties. His speeches aren’t simply articulate or effective, they are electric. He’s what Cicero had in mind when he wrote “On the Ideal Orator”. The laughable criticism of Obama as a “rock star” is an incredible boost: The man is a rock star because of his oratory. He’s not a rock star like Prince or Nickleback. He’s a rock star in the sense of Bob Dylan or Pete Seeger. You cannot energize and uplift a crowd with empty words. That’s why his supporters know in both brain and gut that the weak attacks on his “lack of substance” are innately pathetic. You can’t make that argument in good faith having actually listened to his speeches.
This is why the violent underbelly of American culture, racism, is a source of violence aimed at the Democratic presidential nominee. Because at their core white supremacists, nazis, and racists run on fear. And they fear being shown completely wrong their twisted take on humanity is. If they could only let go of that fear, they’d find the world a much more loving place than they imagine.
Barack Obama is an embodiment of the America Martin Luther King Jr had the audacity to hope for, and the bravery to work for. The Senator shares that hope and bravery in the face of a boiling undercurrent of hate and violence. It is a deep honor to support and believe in such a person.
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