I never thought I'd live to see it. I'm not talking about the Barack Obama nomination, I'm talking about Patrick Buchanan's effusive praise of his populist speech. If Obama can win over Pat Buchanan in a night, imagine what he can do in the next two months. America's fiercest culture warrior deemed the speech "magnificent." I have watched conventions since 1960, but I have never witnessed anything like last night. And after Obama's speech about the specifics of his direction as contrasted with the Republican agenda, I can't understand why anyone wouldn't wish to cast their vote for him. Oh, wait a minute. Yes I can. I live in Memphis, Tennessee, where racism burns like an open flame that some recoil from, while others can't help but draw near to stoke.
The headline of this post is both simplistic and in error. Only, as a songwriter, I couldn't resist a catchy title. But I know that despite the historic event we just witnessed, 45 years to the day of Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech, scores of people refused to watch while others watched while muttering obscenities under their breath. Racism lives all around me, and soon, maybe in the comments to this post, you'll see it raise it's pock-marked face once again. I received an anonymous message after Obama won the Iowa primary stating that "America will never elect a black man as president." I told the sender to get used to saying President Obama, but of course I am not that naive. The Old South will never surrender an ingrained white supremest mindset and embrace racial harmony until the last old dog dies. Why do you suppose Ronald Reagan opened his campaign for the presidency in Philadelphia, Mississippi?
But I have just seen a crossroads moment in history presented to the American people for their ratification, and I pray we don't blow it this time, like we did in 1968 and 2004. Last night, Obama said, "Let's not have a big election over small things." In the middle of two wars, the populace re-elected the criminal Bush to halt gay marriage. Then, after Obama's triumphant speech in Berlin, where 250,000 Germans stood and waved American flags, he was ridiculed by his opposition as merely a celebrity. I saw in the negative GOP ads every subliminal way to turn that triumph into a hollow moment, just by appealing to the good old boy American hatred of foreigners. Did you ever notice that those that scream, "This is the greatest country in the world" the loudest, are the one's who've never been anywhere else?
But this country is the only place I can think of where something like last night could have transpired. I read an editorial earlier in the day that spoke of the struggle from "the middle passage" to the present moment and realized, that's just it. Neither Obama's Kenyan father nor Kansan mother had anything to do with the "middle passage." That's why Jesse Jackson and the old guard of the Civil Rights Movement at first had such difficulty moving to his side. Obama was a child during the sixties and was not a participant in the physical, marching reality of the movement, but he is a child of Dr. King's dream nonetheless.
There has been much talk about a post-racial America, and although Obama may be the living representative of such a notion, the country is a long way from that day. As evidenced by recent political activity in Memphis, racism exists on all sides of the skin pigment spectrum and black racism is as insidious as white. But racial politics did not work in Memphis this time. It seems that people are sick to death of it, as well as all "identity politics." They simple wanted to elect a person with their best interests at heart, and not beholden to some party ideology. That is why Obama's multi-racial perspective gives him the ability to speak authoritatively about the subject to all races. I am supporting Barack Obama for the same reason that Oprah stated, "Not because he's black, but because he's brilliant." Don't believe, however, that it will happen without a fierce struggle. But isn't it great that the Democrats finally found a nominee who is prepared to fight back?