I received an email with a link to Obama’s speech on racial issues, so I read all the text and watched most of the Utube video. And was, well, unimpressed. I had hoped to be transported, but felt very far from that. The content wasn’t new and the deliver was far too measured and methodical. I felt as if I were sitting in Sociology One. Although, brevity being the soul of wit, he did manage to say in about twenty minutes what most sociology courses take ten weeks to say.
I was thankful for that.
Though probably my impression of Obama’s speech was informed by John Adam’s little speech right before the Declaration of Independence was signed. That’s not a fair or just comparison. Adam’s speech was transporting partly because he delivered in a situation far beyond his control and because he recognized and registered that situation as being beyond his control. He knew the Declaration was risky business. Should the colonies come out with the shit end of the stick, the signers of the Declaration had a good chance of losing property and life. Either that or be signed on as collaborators when the British retook control. Ignominy or death. Those were his options.
Of course there was another: that the Colonies would win and probably in the innocence of his child heart Adam’s was in denial. No, nothing really bad was going to happen. Still when he said he would stake his life on the justice of their cause and the principles from which it was derived, I believed him. To risk his life, limb and property for an idea or an ideal, that’s pretty heady stuff. Of course, the idea and principle have become pretty rusted over. But being ideas, the damage is far from fatal and they still could be burnished up. What with a lot of elbow grease.
What would Obama die for? What is there for Obama to die for? So the context was not there—one that might provide a transporting dimension. What does Obama stand to lose? An election? Is Obama willing to die to be president? And if he is so willing, I must ask if his priorities aren’t all screwed up. I don’t know honestly what I would die for, but I am pretty sure I would not die to be the President of this Republic.
Right now that office reminds me of those public restrooms you can find in Greyhound bus stations. One enters a booth to find it so befouled by its previous occupant that no way I am going to go in there. This stench would drive me from the room and my flesh would crawl. I don’t think that place worth dying for, not at least without it having been previously disinfected. And that would be the most minimal of requirements.