Saturday, June 27, 2015

History in the Making

I’m stunned. Who could have believed that an American president could speak as President Obama just did in his eulogy in Charleston? It just goes to show how powerless a President is in some ways, with the possibility of being obstructed by Congress and blocked by lobbyists and shut down by big money. These checks and balances of democracy are healthy in one way, blocking a despot as well as a visionary. But damn the Republicans for not getting behind him and working with him and engaging in genuine conversation that might have led to civil compromise. Instead, they refused to accept him, demonized him, wished him ill and did everything in their power to stop him from making so much needed change. And yes, it’s possible that he needs to take some responsibility for not being forceful enough or less naïve or too compromising. I’ll be honest—I don’t know the details.

But this I do know. I have never felt more ashamed to be an American than during the 8 years George Bush stood up and told his lies and spoke his narrow vision in such inarticulate language. He was a good old boy without shame, the guy born on third base who thought he hit a triple, the one who opened his $1000 a plate fund-raising dinner by toasting “Welcome to the haves and the have mores! (chuckle, chuckle),” whose concept of winning was to protect the unearned privileges of the ruling class and call that “America.” His inability to speak proper English was good fodder for comedians, but set a disgraceful tone in America, making intelligence suspect and glorifying stupidity.

Contrast Obama, whose “sermon” ranks side by side with Martin Luther King’s speech and delivered in the same style and in the same context. He set the tone for the nation to actually feel things and face things and work to overcome than rather than try to hide them or spin them or secretly laugh about them. He was the teacher whose class rose to his level of discourse and were inspired to work harder and think deeper and care wider. He was the preacher infusing the room with Spirit and Soul. He was the father sternly rebuking and the idealistic child refusing to give in to cynicism. He was the spiritual man leaning toward forgiveness and the politician looking for helpful solutions and the citizen reminding us all to do our part. He was the radical outing the selfish using their power for their own self-interest. He was the praiser, blessing those who did acts and lived lives worthy of praise. 

Never have I felt so proud to be an American. I believe that though too long for most people’s attention span, this speech is one of the most significant historical events of the last fifty years. I believe it should be required viewing in every school across this nation. And indeed the world, for people to see an America they rarely get to see. Side by side with the Supreme Court's extraordinary ruling on Gay Marriage, upholding Obama care, Republican politicians agreeing to take down the Confederate Flag and the Pope speaking out on climate change, this has been a week for history to remember. 

Here’s what I wrote in Facebook about the speech, with lots of Amens and other comments from my “friends.”

Ladies and gentleman, I believe there has never been a speech by an American president in the entire history of our country more eloquent, more true, more heartfelt, more soulful than Barack Obama's Eulogy in Charleston. Take 37 minutes out of your busy life and see if by the end, you're not holding your hands up to the screen to feel the full power of the grace in that room released by his extraordinary sermon. Imagine each of us with the courage to open our hurting hearts that wide, with the intelligence to articulate the height and depth of these complex issues, with the humility of Spirit to feel some greater purpose at work, with the common sense to not ignore the political issues that we humans need to address. We have the possibility to do all of that and if we step toward it, there might finally be the healing in this land we all need, we all crave, we all deserve.

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