I'm sorry I have taken such a long break from blogging, and that I have blogged about pretty much nothing else but the American election process the past couple of months as I try to get this man, Barack Obama, who blows my educated cynicism to smithereens, elected.
I was going to write about Dreams from My Father, which I finished on a plane to Atlanta last week, and how it made me hopeful and sad, melancholy and amazed all at one time. Does America deserve a man like this as president? Can we rise above the grubby reality of politics as usual to work together for a common good? Are we ready for this? Is the nation he imagines possible? And what will the presidency do to him?
Today, I was blown away again by his speech "A More Perfect Union," which struck me as about the most perfect description and confrontation of race in America that I have seen in a long time--or at least since I finished his memoir. It indicated an understanding of both white and black America--the "sometimes bawdy humor" the "dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear" of the mostly black church I attend, the anger and frustration of those who have to deal daily with ingrained racism in society--the story my pastor has told about how he will never know if the person who demanded his ticket as he walked into a theatre behind his white friends was racist or not, but how such reocurring and repetitive slights rankle for years; the apologetic and curious tone my working-class white Republican aunt took last week as we talked about how admirable Obama is and when she apologized to me for not being able to support him. "I know," I said, startled. I never expected her to, but it made me hopeful to hear how much she liked him anyway. How all the bitterness I've heard in previous years when she spoke of "hypocritical and self righteous liberal" democrats melted away when she spoke of Obama--the wonder and sheepishness in her voice.
Obama consistently resists the easy political binaries that fit into sound bites, and his speech today, in which he critiqued Reverend Wright's controversial statements while acknowledging the good he and his church community has done--the love he has for both his pastor and his occasionally racist white grandmother--was that of a visionary, a wise man, and a poet. But also one who is close enough to the people to see us for who we are.
THIS ultimately is America. This is America in all its complexity and nuance--its mess and its beauty-- its loves and its hates--its anxieties and its hopes--its bitter history and its idealism. Obama respects America by taking his audience seriously. The question is, are we Americans ready for that? Are we ready for open and honest dialogue? Can we handle it? Can we live up to these expectations? Does he tap into our collective hope or is he a prophet who will fall beneath the stones of those who cannot bear to hear Truth?
I find myself praying for politicians these days. For wisdom and strength. For good to prevail. Lord knows I'm being idealistic. But I think He created us like that.