Senator Obama did not ask for my advice. Surprisingly, his campaign rarely calls me, and almost never writes. (and when they do, they just want money.)
But, tomorrow–today, actually, as I look at the clock–the Senator should, in my opinion, not opt for lofty rhetoric, or defensiveness, or repudiate anyone. He should not prevaricate, or obfuscate, or even hesitate. It will, no doubt, be tempting to try and walk down the road Dr. Martin Luther King so brilliantly paved, and I’m sure Senator Obama could deliver an inspiring speech, albeit an inevitably less ground-breaking and indelible one. But, with the Democratic Party–and, in too many ways, and for too many reasons, the entire country–currently teetering angrily on the edge of despair, I think he should channel Harry S. Truman, instead.
Be honest. Be direct. Be humble. Tell the truth. Don’t mince words. Shoot straight. (And one must never forget that President Truman was a man who abruptly made history with a single bold signature on a vital document.)
I will quote the crucial passage: “It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion or national origin.” (Would I like to see gender and sexual orientation in there, too? You bet. But, life is flawed, and in recent years, the formerly glorious concept of a sweeping executive order has been egregiously abused.)
America has a tangled, and distressing, racial history. It is endlessly confusing, and complicated, and infuriating, and it is hard to believe that there is anyone who has ever even been to the United States, who doesn’t have strong opinions about race–and the other categories and concepts which are used to try and put people in tiny little boxes, and limit and diminish us all. People hear coded words where they don’t exist–and sometimes miss them entirely in what appear to be benign remarks. Everyone, invariably, feels as though they have to walk on those proverbial eggshells–and I daresay that most of us bitterly resent it, on the occasions when we feel as though we are being pushed in directions where we don’t want to go.
I, personally, have never cared whether anyone agrees with my opinion, but I unfailingly want to be treated with respect–even on those (one likes to think, very rare) occasions when I don’t particularly deserve it. And, I operate under the presumption that, if I make my best effort to treat others with respect, too, they will be kind enough to overlook my mistakes, and I will try as hard as I can to respond accordingly.
Sometimes, I fail. That’s the way it goes. Ideally, though, you try again–and, with luck, do better the next time out.
I have many very strong opinions–about faith, politics, race, gender, sports, you name it. And I know that sometimes I make assumptions about people based upon things as seemingly trivial as whether they like cats. (Full disclosure: I like cats. It is not required for other people to like cats, but I expect them never to say anything offensive about my cats. Because, frankly, that would be impolite.)
I don’t like guns. Many other people do. I don’t get it. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t try to find common ground. (Unless, of course, someone tries to shoot one of my cats–but, I hope not to encounter that particular situation.)
I have wildly conflicting opinions about religion, and worry about this quite a lot. Once, at a church I had attended for many years, the priest–and the congregation, as a whole–did something which offended my sensibilities to the degree that, once they had all settled down, I walked out in the most dramatic way imaginable, and even slammed the door. I like to think they noticed–but, maybe not.
I deplore a number of things that the United States government has done in my name–but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get very upset when people don’t bother taking their hats off while the National Anthem plays at baseball games. And yet, by virtue of the First Amendment, they are certainly free not to do so–and I guess I am equally free to find it extremely disrespectful.
I don’t like war; I do like soldiers. I don’t like rules, but I do like laws. I think Harry Potter is just silly, but Buffy is cool.
Life is a muddle.
I want Senator Obama to be direct tomorrow. Unflinching. Clear. Brave.
He has a chance for A Moment.
I hope he grabs it.