The first is he's a decent human being. The election crowd contains frenzied royalists disguised as peasants, power brokers whoo flaunt it, "B" actors wearing presidential makeup, and messianic-like figures who reduce politics to cheap shambles. Obama appears as a hope.
But why is his opposition so downright sleazy? For example, all that nonsense -- funny on Leno although essentially disgusting -- raising the non-question of a so-called missing birth certificate. How low will this particular roller coaster roll? Yet that got sidetracked by the advertised star appearance (by a starkly faded celeb) at the Republican convention. A new Clint Eastwood movie "Trouble with the Curve" got a plug on TV. This particular curve included an empty chair on stage. In an incredibly fake sense, Mr. Eastwood seemed to address remarks to the chair. Was it the intent of someone (maybe the Wizard of Oz?) that the President of the United States sat in that chair? Probably this mismanaged shadow of theatrical lore has simply ended up on the trash heap where it belonged.
As for Obama, well, he simplly went his way presidentially. He served as the U.S. President abroad and at home. He clearly held onto his splendid sense of humor. What can one say except that he behaved presidentially. At that point, in my opinion, he not only won the election. Clearly he deserved to win it.
The second reason Obama will win? He isn't a phony. Alas, many are. Obama is somewhat new to the whole political scene. He worked as a community organizer. He has grassroots experience. Nobody handed him very much. He earned it. Obama comes from the people and represents us.
In my opinion, he manages this gracefully and with a distinct minimum of ego. He is neither a reincarnation of a streotyped king on a throne nor a self-appointed savior of the masses. He is on the young side, apparently a good husband and father, and has positively stirred the thoughts and feelings of untold millions of people who yearn for a truthful, dedicated leader -- one who understands and honors them.
Why, then, the vitriol? The deliberate smears? I guess I can add -- the lies? As Americans do we have to go back to the drawing board? The drawing board has too often been race. Can't we get over it? Maybe a reason is that we don't know how. Slavery existed. It did so in a particular culture. Obviously over several centuries this produced several different, and competing, cultures. It wasn't only race. It was also money and power and subsequent attitudes and beliefs. The Civil War was, indeed, a classic and monumental civil war. People were literally pulled apart from one another. Nobody won. Nobody ever has. Race itself has never been understood, primarily because it involves so many other things catalogued under one label.
I participated in workshops and conferences designed to explore the essential "why" of slavery in the United States. I think one problem is limits on our imagination to understand or literally explain slavery in the U.S. It seems so counter to most of our beliefs and aspirations now. Perhaps we are ashamed to look back. Or, have our leaders and teachers simply been unable to understand themselves. Is this why they couldn't teach us? I yearn that we may be able to reach a kind of leveling field where we find that we can be wholly honest, explain ourselves, listen to others explain themselves, and strive for a newer and higher ground.
Let me explain myself here. I was an absolute novice about race in 1961 when I was invited to participate in a Freedom Ride-Prayer Pilgrimage designed to combat overt racism in American society. I participated. It taught me many things and changed the course of my life. Martin Luther King Jr.'s message of nonviolence was central to everything. So my own life and, necessarily, my views changed. I have been a part of two interracial ministries in parishes in Washington, D.C. and Detroit. I have written books and seemingly endless articles on the subject. It is a basic commitment. As a gay priest and activist, I also find myself involved in many aspects of cultural and spiritual changes. My beloved grandmother, Ruth, if she were still living, would be simply amazed at how the world we knew has changed in multilple and complex ways.
Obama is a symbol of such change simply by virtue of being our first African American President.
The third reason Obama will win is that, amid the visible collapse of many institutions -- cultural, spiritual, academic, civic -- Obama offers a clear example of public and private morality in action. Obama does not parade his religion. He does not "wear it on his sleeve," as an old saying goes. On the other hand, his deep morality and grounding in faith are always close to the surface of his public life. He is exactly the kind of president whom we need right now. We are a people who have suffered and continue to suffer. Obama's achievement of a balance between his personal belief and public belief is exemplary. He is not a phony.
I promised three and a half reasons Obama will win. What is my final half reason? I like him. (Not hero worship, but genuinely like.) I'm confident he isn't lying to me. He's got the toughest job in the world. He could cash in, make a fortune, play golf and spend more time with his family. But apparently he doesn't want to. He's ready, willing and able to serve as president for another four pivotal years in our nation's history.
Thank you for the best offer I've had in a long time.
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