I've been called naive more than once in my life (always figured it had more to do with my appearance and personable disposition than with any real perception of my understanding of the world). I always denied it, but I'm beginning to think it's true.
I waited with great anticipation for Barack Obama's speech yesterday. It was everything I wanted him to say, but more than I'd ever hoped possible. For too long now, open discourse has been nonexistent in this country, as there are certain topics that we're just not allowed to talk about. In our modern America, the biggest taboo topic of all has been race. There is no understanding, because in any case of misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, we're NOT ALLOWED to ask. I was elated to hear Obama speak so openly and passionately from his own experiences on this issue - opening the door for more candid discussion all the way around.
After experiencing this moment in history, I could not imagine that anyone could have a negative reaction to this speech. Okay, not ANYONE, because there's no shortage of small-minded, pathetic examples of humanity, but as for thinking and reasonable people, I thought the response would be a universal welcome to the introduction of a free exchange of thoughts and ideas, the beginning to true understanding. (THAT, btw, was the naive part.)
I'm stunned and baffled at how many of the responses from so many seemingly intelligent people has been so negative. I really thought intelligent people would welcome the open dialogue, but instead, people are still complaining that he hasn't sufficiently denounced his pastor yet. Seriously?!?! This is the priority for people?!?! Or is it that the need to AVOID discussion of race so strong that people will cling to any weak argument they can to get away from it?
What I got out of that speech is that THIS is a man we NEED at this time in our history. And it's not about the war, or the economy, or health care - it's getting people to come together and opening their eyes. Nothing will ever be resolved for us until we can make that happen.
I've been reading commentary saying this is the speech he never wanted to give, on the subject he'd rather avoid - I think exactly the opposite is true. This is the subject that needed to be discussed and dealt with - it's been swept under the rug for too long now. The condition of race relations in this country, in this century is shameful - and much of that is because, for so long now, we haven't been ALLOWED to talk about it.
Like him or not, Obama reaches out in his oratory and grabs a person by the heart and doesn't let go. He could be saying almost anything and it wouldn't matter. The power of his speech has his listeners crying out "yes! yes! I will follow you!" History's most well known examples of speakers like these are the legendary evil ones - like Hitler - and the stereotypical ones like cult and private militia leaders. But this skill in a man of integrity and honor and sincerity in the package of a man who is the personification of unity can bring about profound shifts in race relations in this country. And it's about time. It's well past time. This has gone on far too long. I only pray that he is indeed a man of integrity and honor and sincerity. We need it so desperately right now.