21 March 2008

Obama, Lincoln & The American Family

We're currently about half-way done with a collection of Lincoln's speeches and letters. His most notable speeches--to the Young Men's Lyceum, 1st Inaugural, Gettysburg Address, 2nd Inaugural--we've read a number of times. They are awesome. His 2nd Inaugural Address may be the greatest speech in American history.

We've also listened to and read a number of Barack Obama's speeches. He is, as MJ says, a powerful speaker. However, we agree with a point made by Peggy Noonan a few weeks ago (WSJ subscription required). Barack Obama is an intelligent, articulate speaker. His ability to work a crowd and speak extemporaneously is awesome. We've done a bit of the latter and appreciate his ability all the more for it.

But we distinguish between the power of a speaker and the lasting effect and power of their words. Obama's speeches and rhetoric lose their power when read from the page. They are insipid and narcissistic. "We are the ones we've been waiting for." The culmination of human history.

With all due respect to our friend MJ--and really, we can't blame him, because he's only parroting the line of the liberal intelligentsia--suggesting that Obama rivals Lincoln, belies either a complete ignorance of Lincoln's speeches or a blind obsession for Barack Obama. His last speech was good, and it may save his candidacy from its association with Wright, but we're familiar with Lincoln's speeches and writing, and Barack Obama is no Abraham Lincoln.


We cite, but two examples from his recent speech:

In his speech, Barack Obama used his grandmother to communicate the depth of his association with Wright, "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother." Why not? He goes on:
[she was] a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
Did he really need to out his grandmother as a racist? Does he really believe or expect any of the rest of us to believe that his grandmother's private utterances are on par with the repeated and public racist statements of his chosen pastor?

This, folks, is moral equivalence. And it doesn't explain or excuse Wright's statements. Wright didn't privately mention his racist prejudices to Obama, he peddled them in church week after week and then packaged them in a series of DVDs and sold them to the general public.

In his speech, Obama said that he didn't think that racism was endemic in America (read: white people) but then, in a New York Times follow up to the comment about his grandmother, he said that she was "a typical white person." (emphasis added)

Nice racial stereotype, Barack.

This contradicts his speech-professed belief that white America is not racist.

What will it be, Barack? Are we all racists like Wright and your poor grandmother?


The second point also draws on Obama's poor comparison between his grandmother and Rev. Wright. Obama's does not address and again, gives tacit approval to, the racial double standard that exists in this country. It is a double standard characterized by the soft bigotry of low expectations:
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 politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
He's right about one thing: Democratic politicians have always exploited black anger. And the liberal elites in this country permit a racial double standard that does African Americans no favors.

It wasn't just Wright and his generation applauding his conspiratorial racism, young African Americans cheered when he talked about the government's secret plans to use AIDS and crack cocaine to kill blacks. He is inculcating his racism and bigotry in yet another generation.

If we want to end the problem of racism in this country, we cannot continue to allow one standard for whites and another for blacks. We are a member of the NAACP. We don't agree with all of their policies, but we appreciate their historical fight for Civil Rights. If Barack Obama wanted to be a unifier, he would encourage, nay, demand, that the racial double standard end.


The biggest single problem disadvantaging not only blacks, but every ethnicity in this country, is the breakdown of the family. As Peggy Noonan mentioned in the same column:
That's the great divide in modern America, whether or not you had a functioning family.
The division is not between white and black or haves and have-nots, it's between those with functioning families and those without. There are exceptions, but a dysfunctional family is very difficult to overcome. Every problem Obama mentioned in the latter part of his speech can be combatted and overcome by fortifying the American family.

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Amanda said...

Go Lybberty. I'll make the speeches of Lincoln my next reading.

I was so frustrated by Obama's speech. Thanks for pointing out his speech for what it was; an empty bag of pretty words to tug on the emotions.

Amanda said...

Go Lybberty. I'll make the speeches of Lincoln my next reading.

I was so frustrated by Obama's speech and the excuses that it made for Wright's flagrant remarks. I can understand the frustration and hatred that can come from the effects racism and slavery. I have no idea what it must have been like for those men and women. However, I see no purpose in perpetuating and condoning hatred, on either side of the racial divide.
Like you said, the difference between his white grandmother and Wright was much bigger than Obama admitted. (We have an obligation to family, probably an obligation that should have prevented him from comparing his grandmother to Wright).
Furthermore, I can't understand how Wright taught such hatred as part of the doctrine of Christianity.

I can't agree with you more on the problems of society. When men and women realize that the solutions of society lie in strengthening the human family instead of trying to blame race, society, or lack of money (or too much of it), I think we will finally see the improvements and changes that the U.S. needs.

And here is my own little plug, (Sorry Lybberty) for any of you interested, there are all sorts of wonderful programs that you can involve yourself in to change the lives of foster and at-risk children who don't have families. These kids need adults to give them the attention and love they crave. Go to http://www.unitedwayucv.org/volunteer/search.tcl to search for opportunities in Utah County, Personally I would suggest http://www.utahvalleyfamilysupport.org/ It's wonderful.

Dave said...

Did Obama's white grandmother fear black men walking down the street, or did she just fear thugs walking down the street that were black. Fear cannot be equated with racism. and profiling is not racism. Racism is a willful act; not a passive feeling. Passive feelings can build into willful acts, but they do not necessarily appear racist. If the thug was latino, asian or white, he would still be a thug and would instill fear in most people. Is that racist; I don't think so, that is, if one is intellectual honest. If one is not intellectually honest, then it would appear that they are willfully racist.....racism seems to be in the eye of the beholder.

Spikers said...

1. Racism need not be active. Racism is prejudice based on race. Racial prejudice can be limited to passive belief. That it may be limited to passive belief in no way lessens its racist nature

2. Fear based on race is racist. To the extent her fear was based on race, she was racist.

3. People who rely on the term "intellectually honest" to bolster their position often use the term to abscond the dishonesty of their position

RD said...

Good points from Spikers. I do, however, feel that Obama's moral equivalence is a bit disingenuous. The white grandmother who raised and loved a black child (Obama) but harbored some racist fears is hardly relevant to the debate about a pastor who made rasist, libelous, public accusations about white people. Obama supported this man and gave him a position of authority. This is very different from the grandmother example, and it's unfortunate that Obama is willing to compare the two to further his political career. This reminds me of how Romney repeatedly threw the LDS Church under the bus. Further, I hope African Americans are offended by Obama's statement that he can't disown Wright any more than he can disown the Black community. If I were an African American, I would be severely offended when Obama puts me in the same category as the racist, irrational Wright. Obama's use of the word "divisive" to describe Wright is laughable. Affirmative action is divisive; accusing the US government of injecting people with HIV is blatant dishonesty. Finally, as an American, I'm offended that Obama is willing to continue playing the victim card, after he and his wife have both benefited substantially from the American system - Ivy League educations, upper middle class living standards, etc. Obama is good at reminding people about the problems of American culture, but he's not so good at actually taking steps to heal those problems. He points them out in a way that will divide us further.

Spikers said...

I agree that Obama's comparison is irrelevant to his Pastor's inflammatory and racist rhetoric.

mj said...

MJ is laughing like a little boy and loving this article! (claps his hands) And how did I know the “Barack Obama is no Abraham Lincoln” line was coming my fellow Eclectus. LYBBERTS, you must edit this article to read, “His last speech was great,” as anything else would be a slap in his face. Look, that was George Bush at 9/11 in the hard hat or a Mission Accomp…nevermind. As you know, I am not aligned with the liberal intelligentsia (which even if it did exist, would not be anywhere near as scary as the Rush crowd), as I was a Hillary Supporter, who my heart still follows, yet my Chris Matthews says has no chance (OK, so I do share a crush on Obama Girl’s other bestie, even though he is a little Obiased).
Moral Equivalence….MORAL EQUIVALENCE? Oh, my “I’m-not-a-populist-but-I-quote-the-WSJ-on-my-blog-and-frequently-trash-the-NYT” friend, don’t you know the great speech former president Lincoln gave in 1842. Here’s some moral equivalence for ya folks….

The Temperance Address OR Honest Abe the Pusher, 1842
“I have not enquired at what period of time the use of intoxicating drinks commenced; nor is it important to know. It is sufficient that to all of us who now inhabit the world, the practice of drinking them, is just as old as the world itself, -- that is, we have seen the one, just as long as we have seen the other. When all such of us, as have now reached the years of maturity, first opened our eyes upon the stage of existence, we found intoxicating liquor, recognized by everybody, used by every body, and repudiated by nobody. It commonly entered into the first draught of the infant, and the last draught of the dying man. From the sideboard of the parson, down to the ragged pocket of the houseless loafer, it was constantly found. Physicians prescribed it in this, that, and the other disease. Government provided it for soldiers and sailors; and to have a rolling or raising, a husking or hoe-down, any where about without it, was positively insufferable…It is true, that even then, it was known and acknowledged, that many were greatly injured by it; but none seemed to think the injury arose from the use of a bad thing, but from the abuse of a very good thing.”

Obama said the honest thing, I think you all can appreciate that, no? Much like the great orator, Mr. Christopher Rock, Obama reminded us that we all have someone in our family or our life that sometimes says things we disagree with. Lincoln dealt with race issues while still building America. Obama is dealing with race issues as America needs to be restored. Each use the language of their time and you guys pulling old speeches to discount a point made independently by numerous pundits.
MJ Reads: “Nice racial stereotype, Barack.” Laughs. You guys crack us…err…me up! I love it! A little bit pieced, but really good stuff.
I think that

You honestly don’t understand what the statements about crack cocain meant, and I know that if you did, you would agree the government has allowed that drug to debilitate a community heavy in African Americans. On that point you are dead wrong. Though you go on to write “if we want to end the problem of racism in this country, we cannot continue to allow one standard for whites and another for blacks.” To this I say Omen.

Can you please define “functioning family?”

That said, this is a really great argumentative article and you guys must have entered a speech competition at some point in your careers.

To Amanda’s point that Sen. Obama’s speech was “an empty bag of pretty words to tug on the emotions.” What a brilliant critique. Before we look at Obama’s writing, lets look at yours, in your second paragraph, you say, “I can understand the frustration and hatred that can come from the effects racism and slavery. I have no idea what it must have been like for those men and women.” THAT is an empty bag of pretty words to tug on emotions.
Can you please define the doctrine of Christianity?

How did Romney continually throw the LDS under the bus?