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(March 27, 2008)

          So we again are flayed and whipped by the “race issue” in the USA, which reminds me of the W.C. Fields adage, “Time to take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” Or, as the great Don Van Vliet says, “It’s like trying to find out what the bull ate.”
          There is a solution to the “race problem” in this country, of course: intermarriage and genetic blurring. That’s about it. Otherwise, there is no black-and-white answer. Well, maybe more gangsta rap and hip-hop and celebrity worship to “level the playing field” with more brutishness and banality. Maybe that would do it. These things have very wide appeal to all races, and really have fostered more “unity” (along with sports) in the past 20 years than anything else I’ve witnessed.
          Peace through dumbed-down pop culture!
          Or maybe not. Now, thanks to Barry O., the race issue is being smarted-up. Well, sort of. Was his speech incredibly shrewd and crafty defusing of a dire problem involving his prejudiced pastor-pal who pontificates about “white people?” Or was it an earnest and eloquent statement aimed at blacks and whites by a man who is black and white? Or some of both?
          If you take The Speech as sincere, it’s a fine piece of work. If you haven’t read it, do so. The ending might well leave you choked up. You’ve not read or heard a speech this apparently earnest and considered since, well, since I don’t know.
          In it, the O-man did something axiomatically considered suicide for a politician: he addressed the Amerrygun public as if it is intelligent and capable of reason on a large scale, as opposed to having scales. This is sort of like singing for cats, but what the hell. Lying and conning and posing haven't accomplished much for this country in the last 30 or 40 years. And one thing is beyond dispute: McCain couldn’t have written The Speech, and neither Clinton could have. Hillary wouldn’t have had the nerve, and probably not the quality of thinking. It would have been focus-grouped right out of focus.
          Yet somehow, despite the wrongs of  Rev. Wright, Barry O. is riding high in the polls, even creeping up in PA.
          Hmmm. . .maybe people still generally like to be treated as if they’re sort of intelligent, even if they really aren’t. Maybe it’s good for them. Treat someone with a little dignity, and that person feels. . .dignified. Of course, this can be dangerous. It’s liable to engender self-confidence, which can lead to ambition, and that can lead to self-aggrandisement, which can lead to Tom Cruise. Or worse, becoming a presidential candidate.
          Still, compared with what we are used to from our “leaders” (“Is our children learning?” and “I mean, people have access to health care in America---after all, you just go to an emergency room.”), The Speech was like a communique from God. It has been universally praised---even from some writers in the “enemy camp.” Former John McCain aide Dan Schnur said this:
          “There are still many voters who are uncomfortable with his implication that the only way that America can heal its racial divisions is by electing one particular candidate to the White House. But if his speech can jump-start a serious national conversation on race relations, Senator Obama will have made an important contribution well beyond the parameters of this particular election campaign.”
          The good reviews can’t possibly last, of course, in this blogdamn era of people with long, furry tails tucked down their trouser legs, managing to use science-fiction technology to share their um, thoughts, with the entire world. A pack of slavering contrarians will tear the flesh off its words, soon enough. Why, a terrifying red-headed female called “Devvy” has already written this:
          “This speech was . . .a carefully crafted oration full of all the right words and phrases in an effort to stop Caucasian voters from running away from his campaign. . .Some gas bags on cable networks are comparing Obama to Abraham Lincoln. Really? Abraham Lincoln was. . .a white supremacist who hated the Negro race and cared nothing about freeing slaves.”
          Yowzah. What was I saying about people responding well to reason and dignity? Forget it.
          Just for fun, let’s consider that The Speech was in earnest, and the O-man is not a paper-thin Hello Kitty version of 1984, with his “Vote for Change” hypnosis festivals. No, wait---for the sake of skepticism, let’s say the speech was 50-50. Fifty percent sincerity, and 50 percent ass-saving. (That’s my guess.) Well, you know what? Even so, it almost makes the guy seem like Gandhi, compared with every other politician in this country. An idealist by contrast.
          An idealist? Gasp! An idealist running for president? Does the law allow it? I mean, I know they let Mormons and Jews run these days, and troglodytes, and even women, but. . .idealists? Y’know, that ain’t far from bein’ uh commie. They both want everybody to be happy, don’t they?
         Yes, if you read The Speech, and take it on its face, it’s full of idealism. There is "can't we all get along" empathy for everyone. There is empathy for angry blacks, angry whites, angry latinos, Asians, Native-Americans, and I suppose implicitly, dyspeptic Eskimos and Samoans. But I don’t mean this snidely. The man (or his speechwriters) gamely---I hope---tried to cover it all. Tried to deal frankly with all major aspects of the “race issue,” certainly more frankly than Hillary Clinton has ever dealt with anything in her life, outside of the White House bedroom.
          Of course, this possibly noble undertaking was doomed from the start. The more equitable you attempt to be in covering a problem as stark raving gooble-gobble crazy as race relations, the more you irk somebody. It’s not a can of worms, it’s an ever-expanding universe of snakes.
          Cagey or not, The Speech was extraordinarily ambitious, and understatedly eloquent. No one else in American public life (if you call that living) has made such a speech in my memory: not Jesse “Hymietown” Jackson or Sharp Alton or Billary or Ed Johnwards or Mad Eye McCain or “Thousand Points of Light” Bush 1 or even Her Most Pious and Revered De Facto Majesty, the Queen of Americana, the Honorable and Ongoing Opera Winfrey. No, Barry O. did not take the weasely way out and say, “I’ve never had sex with that man, Rev. Wright.” And he did not say he landed at Trinity Church under sniper fire, ducking and covering---later claiming that he “misspoke.”
          Also, there are some real headlines in The Speech, no matter the motivation. Yes, it acknowledged “black anger” (yawn), but it also took issue with black victim-complex (mmm-hmm!), suggesting that angry black Americans stop thinking they are the only deprived people around (tell it!):
          “For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. . .But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man who's been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family.”
          Even if this was said to appease voterus caucasoidus, it is still a very, very important statement to come from a (somewhat) African-American leader. It revives and promotes the corny old “melting pot” idea that was in every social studies grades school book in the ‘60’s. And why not? Barry O. is a one-man melting pot. Race relations have been closer to meltdown than melting pot for decades. This is an infinitely refreshing point of view, compared with the separatism and suspicion fostered by “celebrating” race and ethnicity---the perverse, caricatured outcome of the courageous ‘60’s attempts to champion the plight of minorities. I long ago sickened of ethnic pride parades, ethnic studies departments, black/latino/white/ pygmy/ lesbian/pygmy-lesbian/whatever culture festivals.
          So has Pat Buchanan, one of the first to break the near chorus of raves from Tee Vee Punditmannequins and columnists weighing in on The Speech. Buchanan makes the correct and potent argument that all the government aid that Obama calls for to fix “urban” (black) problems has been already been rendered for the (ahem) past 50 years, to the tune of many trillions of dollars. Yet the so-called black communities remain blighted by the familiar litany of complaints, anger, resentment, victim-complex.
          I’ll add to Pat’s contention: black anger is actually far worse than it ever has been. The racist and self-defeating “whites are in control” atmosphere that Rev. Wright promoted pervades black America. Never mind the countless African-Americans in politics, corporations, universities, entertainment, medicine, etc. Political correctness which has made it taboo for any non-black to make the most innocent generalizations (“they’re good in sports”) has ironically reinforced feelings of persecution, discrimination, victimization, hatred. Same for Affirmative Action and de facto quota systems.
          You know, folks, if you tell people they are persecuted, discriminated against---let alone set up for genocide by a government-engineered virus called AIDS, as Wright did---they’re going to develop attitudes to fit. Attitudes that in this case have been picked up and magnified by (highly profitable) rap, hip-hop, gangsta pop "culture," and the PC media, all of which continue to reinforce the insane idea that the USA is the most fiendishly racist country on the planet. Young blacks understandably just eat it up.
          The O-man did not address these Bill Cosby-esque complaints in The Speech, probably for two reasons: 1) he grew up in the generation that embraced this nonsense (hence his continuing to attend a church where the gospel of anti-white racism was preached) and 2) he would lose the black vote. To his credit, though, he did recognize as understandable the vast (white) disenchantment with so-called Affirmative Action and other egalitarian experiments:
          “Most working-and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas . . .So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African-American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.”
          Still, The Speech ultimately almost had its opposite intended impact---to drive me away from the subject. I mean, there really are more important problems in this country than race, aren’t there? Such as, oh. . .being in debt a few trillion to China and the Saudis in order to bankroll the wang-dang-doodle in Iraq. Such as outsourcing ourselves to death. Such as education being unaffordable. Well, the O-man apparently knew these things would crop up in the minds of us pesky, reactionary white folk. Just when I was tempted to dismiss The Speech because of this---it turned out that, well, Barackandroll agrees with me! Quoth Barry:
          ”Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many.”
          While I think he is wrong to dismiss racial quota programs as a “real culprit,” he’s still on the right track here. It’s the corporatocracy, stupid.
          So let’s forget about race, and even Iraq, and Hillary, and Wild Bill, and Mad Eye McCain, just for a moment. Let’s forget about all the greasy, touchy-feely Obama worship, and the revolting sight of his surrogate, Oprah, screaming “He’s brrrrilliantttt!!!!” Let’s forget about Obama’s schoolboy debate quips that rudely toyed with whatever respectability Hillary has left. Let’s especially forget that adolescent, dreary comment about checking out Bill’s “dancing abilities” to find out “if he’s a brother.”
          Instead, let’s look at a guy whose candidacy was about to burn out from the hellfire and brimstone ranting of a megalomaniacal racist Jeezo buffoon (but a rich buffoon, here in the “white man’s” discriminatory world.) A guy who did not do the politically convenient, scripted thing. A guy who instead came up with a thoughtful, substantial, and moving treatise on race. But wait---no, he didn’t. You see, The Speech isn’t really about race at all.
          It is about human cooperation.
          This is what Barry O. is getting at.
          Human cooperation is the only remedy for all problems. Never mind that such cooperation is almost as elusive as thoughts in Laura Bush’s head. Human cooperation won WWII, invented the polio vaccine, put men on the moon, gave us Beatles music and some beautiful Laker teams, and is the only bet for surviving global warming and getting rid of reality TV.
          Do I imagine that Barry Obama can unite everyone in a new We Shall Overcome Rainbow Coalition from Harmony Heaven? And lead us all to guh-lory and prosperity and sensible behavior while bunnies and Teletubbies dance in the distance?
          Not quite.
          But I find it interesting that he professes to want to try.
          And hell, even if it’s just propaganda, it’s better propaganda than Mad Eye McCain’s 100 years in Iraq, and Hillary taking that 3 a.m. phone call.

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