Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama rocks my world

If you haven't read the whole Obama speech on race today, you'd best do that. The press won't do it justice, and that's part of his point, I think. We're so focused on stupid racial spectacle, like the O.J. trial, that we neglect to talk about the real issues that divide us--and the critical needs that bind us.

Say it with me.

There is no them. There is only us.

This man is my President. It's not even close. And I actually think, once we bind the wounds from the battle with Hillary, that he'll win in November. I can't believe I think that, but I do.


tommyspoon said...

Don't be afraid to hope, TRP. It brings out the best in us. I think he understands that, while HIllary and her bunch have traded it in for cynicism and fear.

I heard it live today. I wept at my desk. I got caught up on "John Adams" tonight. I wept then, too. I don't think you can chalk this up to just my allergy medication.

Hope is the greatest thing we have. How joyous to find a candidate who believes the same.

Paula said...

He nails it every time, doesn't he?

Alison said...

I have not been able to read the entire speech yet, but have been incredibly impressed by what I have seen. That said, I still vehemently disagree with your us/them thing.

Anonymous said...

Obama rocks my world!!! He is awesome!!!!

TeacherRefPoet said...


I really want to understand why there has to be "us" and "them."

1. How do we define "us" and "them"?
2. What do we do with that information once we have it?

Alison said...

TRP - there isn't just one us and them - there are dozens of them. In terms of race, you and I are both on the same side of the us/them world, but in terms of, say, gender, or rural versus urban, or religion, we aren't. Take gender (since it's a nice easy obvious one): I'd be willing to lay money that you have never been the first man to work for a company - I have been the first woman at a company twice now. That experience forever informs the way I see the world. It is a very important way in which I am Not Like You.

Similarly, you are an urban person. I am a rural person. We've had discussions of solutions for failing schools. Inevitably, solutions people (not just you) propose to fix bad schooling assumes an urban or suburban setting, because the people who are making them come from urban or suburban settings. I look at those proposals and either am pissed off that large chunks of the middle of the country are not considered important enough to worry about, or amused at how clueless the experts are who suggested them.

Look what you wrote:
"There is no them. There is only us."

Whether you mean to or not, what you are saying there is that everyone is like you. We aren't. Those differences in experience are important. Hell, they are everything. When you repeat the sound-bite that says we are all alike, you cut off any way for those of us who have different experiences to be heard.

I am willing to buy the argument that, at birth, we are all roughly equivalent. As soon as you start getting pink clothes or blue clothes, though (to return to gender) that ceases to be the case.

Tommy can back me up that the worst thing you can say in any improvisation is "No it isn't." To do that cuts the scene off. There's nothing to talk about, because everything has been answered ("Yes it is" is almost as bad.)

By denying the myriad us/them dichotomies out there, and ignoring some very real and important differences between groups, you are effectively saying "No" in an improvisation. You leave us with nothing to talk about, when discussion is just what is most needed.

TeacherRefPoet said...

Okay--I get your disagreement, and I see where it's coming from.

When I say "there is only us," I am not saying anything remotely like "we are all the same." We are -not- all the same.

But the problems of Other People need to become our problems. To take your school example: those who ignore crumbling urban schools and tolerate them because "well, our school is fine, so why worry about theirs?" That's the insidious side of us/them thinking. Solutions (like my proposed one a couple of years back) that overlook rural people are every bit as guilty of that kind of poor thinking as you say, especially when urban/suburban residents who say "well, who cares about -them-, as long as we get the cities and suburbs taken care of." I suspect that this kind of discrimination/belittling is, alas, an all-but-inevitable consequence of us/them dichotomies.

So I guess that's the difference...I see it as a consequence of thinking in terms of us/them, and you see it as a consequence of ignoring us/them.

Obama's speech, in fact, is what led me to think of the no-them-only-us idea, and on education. Here's what he said:

"It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper."

It's too easy for one Us to write off a Them. To make everybody an Us is not to deny our differences. It is simply to recognize what my religion believes in the priceless divinity of us all...God in everybody. We don't ignore differences...we just are damn-set-certain not to use them to ignore injustices committed against Them.

But if you read my post as a call to deny any differences between people, I certainly don't believe that any more than Obama does. In fact, that's why I respond so much to Obama's speech. He puts the differences out on the table, but challenges us to empathize.

MCMC said...

Alison and TRP--

To me, the goal is to get as many people from different experiences and backgrounds to understand two things:

First, there are forces greater than any of us that keep us from the society we want for ourselves and our children. These forces act on people of all different backgrounds and stories, even though the consequences are not always the same or proportionate.

Second, that when we come together from our different vantage points in a society, and when we acknowledge that we share common sources of oppression (for lack of a better word...) we build something powerful enough to overcome those forces and create the world we want.

I think that's what Obama wants too. That's why he's my guy.

The speech on race is amazing. Even more powerful is the first third of Obama's first book on the same subject.