Diatribes of Jay

This is a blog of essays on public policy. It shuns ideology and applies facts, logic and math to economic, social and political problems. It has a subject-matter index, a list of recent posts, and permalinks at the ends of posts. Comments are moderated and may take time to appear. Note: Profile updated 4/7/12

21 January 2008

Follow the Light!

Unstated headline: Obama got more delegates in Nevada than the Clintons.

Now we all know. Whites will vote for a “black” man. They did in Iowa and Nevada. They did even in New Hampshire, where the race was very close.

All it takes is one so far above the field that none can fail to see his merit. Obama is that one. Knowing him dissolves all trace of prejudice in admiration.

In truth he belongs to all of us. He is half and half—black from Africa, white from Kansas—and Ph.D.s on both sides. Black or white, we each can claim him.

But Obama is no mere symbol. He’s the best we have. None can match him. In judgment, brains, wisdom, humanity, and empathy he has no equal. Zbigniew Brzezinski lauds his judgment in foreign affairs. Ken Burns thinks he may be Lincoln returned. He is the “genuine article.”

After forty years of mediocre leadership or worse, redemption is at hand. After centuries of slavery, oppression, disrespect, condescension, tokenism and galling sympathy, Africa’s descendants’ time has come. Who of any race does not exult?

When your grandchildren ask of this historic time, what will you say?

Will you say you fell for “spin” and myths about “experience”? That you owed the Clintons for speaking kindly about race? That you failed to value judgment in keeping us safe? That you voted with the “establishment”? That you did as your pastor or leader bade? That you failed to register or vote? That gender blinded you to glaring flaws and uncommon greatness?

Or will you say you seized the moment? Will you say you voted your heart? Will you say you helped to quell division and restore America’s promise?

Will you put an end to fear, “spin” and demagoguery? Will you close the Civil War’s dreadful book at last? Will you drive away the darkness of despair? Will you let our light shine once again?

Long before there was an America, an English King named Henry led a small band against a much larger French force. He won. What he told his soldiers before battle we should all recall while in the voting booth:

        This story shall the good mom teach her child;
        And prim’ry voting day shall ne’er go by;
        From this day to the ending of the world,
        But we in it shall be remembered;
        We few, we happy few, sisters and brothers;
        For she to-day that votes her heart with me
        Shall be my sister; be she ne’er so vile,
        This day shall gentle her condition:
        And men and women found in lands abroad
        Shall think themselves accursed they were not here
        And hold their voices cheap while any speaks
        That voted with us on election day.

William Shakespeare, King Henry V, Act. IV, Scene iii (with apologies for editing).

On to South Carolina and victory! Follow the light!


I was thinking of posting a more current essay, but I’m going to keep this post front and center for another few days. What changed my mind was watching Obama’s speech at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church on Martin Luther King Day.

After watching it for a few minutes, I forgot the venue. I forgot that the audience was mostly African-American. I saw only people listening with rapt attention to our future president, a great leader, perhaps our greatest in a century and a half.

I know many people will skip over a post like this. It doesn’t have any current facts, gossip or analysis. It’s emotional, not analytical.

But we’re all human, after all. Emotions dictate our most important decisions: whom we marry, where we live, what we fight for, and whom we vote for. The smartest and most disciplined of us are blends of reason and emotion.

Obama’s speech shows how deeply he understands this, and how fit he therefore is to lead us.

Our trouble is not that we are emotional. For seven years we've been governed by the wrong emotions: fear, greed, hate and division. Obama wants to replace them with confidence, charity, empathy and unity.

Take half an hour and watch his speech. If you do, he’ll convince you that, like Lincoln, he can help us achieve that goal. As Plato understood millennia ago, it is virtue, not five-point programs, that makes a good society. Virtue is where it all starts and what our leaders lack today.


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