he didn't talk about peak oil

Silly guy. You can't make a thorough, nuanced speech that people have to, like, read. You can't deconstruct the petty rhetoric of this political climate. Or call yourself "imperfect" and generally tell the truth when everybody knows that politicians don't do such things. You can't make a concerted investment in the intelligence of the American political audience, nope. Not based on the CNN.com blog comments I've read, which--duh!--represent everyone in America. You can't concisely explain why poor white Americans believe in terms like "reverse racism" and why those beliefs stem from modern class inequalities. Did you forget that you're only out to help "black America," "the blacks," or some equally meaningless variant thereof?

You can't say: "... The most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races." How are we supposed to condense that, yo?

You can't say: "This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings."

You can't say: "Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism."

You can't say: "We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change."

No, you can't say any of that. All of it is too thoughtful, too outside the lexicon of the political horse race. Shows too much self-awareness, too much sensitivity to historical contexts. No, you need to spend more time acting like every other politician. You need to spend more time saying anything people want to hear. That's what you do, right? You need to spend more time being another comfortably arrogant and easily dismissed politician. Be scarier. Be stupider. Allow us to retreat--as always--into cynicism and disregard, so we can peddle our own self-interests, or our perpetually nascent and conveniently useless notions of change ("yeah he didn't talk about ___, screw voting, screw these big words, i'm an expert, screw this shit") that allow idleness and civic disinvestment.

If you keep talking like this, Barack, other people are going to stop feeling naive and actually start talking. Maybe even speak toward something tangible. We can't have that. No, sir.


Logan Ryan Smith said...

hear hear!

Anonymous said...

Right on. Well said.