Obama's speech has turned stale

I liked it but persistence of my fears are trumping audacity of my hope.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
OPINION Some political speeches are like wine - they mature with age, becoming more mellow, more memorable, more resonant. The classic example of that is the Gettysburg Address. First scribbled on the back of an envelope, initially upstaged by the headline speaker of the day, Edward Everett, Abraham Lincoln's speech did not become a classic overnight. Other speeches are like bread - they are warm, fluffy, inviting at first, but quickly become stale. In the weeks since Barack Obama's now classic speech on race, I'm afraid that his speech increasingly strikes me as stale; it loses its freshness with age. True, politically, it did exactly what he needed it to do. He stopped the political bleeding, changed the subject, and sent reporters into paroxysms of pleasure over his eloquence and his courage. I confess, I, too, appreciated his attempt to inject complexity into the normally Johnny-one-note discussions we hear in campaigns. And I respected the fact that Obama could not cut and run, that abandoning a 20-year-relationship with his pastor and spiritual mentor the Reverend Jeremiah Wright would alienate Obama's core constituency, and make him look like a weathervane and a coward. But I am still stuck on the wrongness of Wright. I am overwhelmed by the fact that Obama could not point to one statement of Wright's that struck him as so wrongheaded that Obama confronted his spiritual mentor, either publicly or privately. I am furious that a State Senator from Illinois, let alone a Harvard Law graduate with political aspirations, could maintain a relationship with a pastor who on the Sunday after September 11, 2001 rejoiced that America's "chickens were coming home to roost." As a parent, I cannot accept that Obama chose to send his daughters to a church where a pastor could preach that whites were spreading AIDS, or excuse Hamas terrorism or shout, repeatedly, "God damn America," not God Bless America, and claim scriptural support. I am saddened by this because I really want to like Obama. I think his brand of bridge-building moderation could be the tonic America needs after the divisive Bush-Clinton years. As a post-baby-boomer myself, born just weeks before Obama, I share his disgust with the baby boomers and all their screechy, self-righteous ideological conflicts. But as a Jew I am troubled by his silence when his church voted to divest itself of investments in Israel. As the product of a Na'aseh v'Nishma - We will do, then we will listen culture - I am disturbed by his passivity in the face of immorality and his faith that the loveliest of words can compensate for the failure of timely and necessary actions. And as an American I am hurt that someone who wants to be President of the United States can be so casual about influential community leaders bashing the country - or try to wriggle out of it by playing the race card, and equating his preacher's systematic demagoguery with his own grandmother's occasional fear of black men in dark alleys. I liked the speech, I want to believe, but the persistence of my fears are trumping the audacity of my hope. My head is overriding my heart; Mister "Yes We Can" is striking me as Mister "Maybe I will stand up for my country, only if it is convenient, and as long as it does not offend the people immediately around me, who are paying attention this minute."