Saturday, March 07, 2009

Barack Obama in March of 2008

I found this blog entry in my drafts folder, last edited on March 22, 2008, soon after Obama's signficant speech on race (March 18). I'm not sure what kept me from posting it then, so I'm posting it now.
It was a great speech, but it contains two things with which I disagree. The first is in the sentence "But [the story of Barack Obama's ancestors] is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one." Genetic makeup does not contain ideas and it cannot contain ideas. Ideas come from people, through words and upbringing. This is nitpicking, I admit, since he was using a common metaphor, but I think it matters. The idea that one's biological ancestry determines one's ideas is wrong, and it is dangerous. It's not clear that he was actually guilty of that mistake here, but it does sound like it. I think that moving beyond race requires being clear about the fact that while ideas can be passed on they cannot be inherited.

The other nit I want to pick concerns the word "every," in the statement "I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue." Again, I think that this was a rhetorical device, but the notion that there are so few races (two, three, four, five?) that anyone could have relatives of every race is also wrong, and it it also dangerous.

On the whole, though, I feel that this was a great speech, and it shows that Barack Obama is an orator of a caliber that we have not seen in decades. I agree with Richardson that it is time for Hilary to leave the race. This is not about her. This is about Barack Obama. When greatness comes to the door, one should step aside to let him in.

Hilary did not step aside, but it came out alright in the end.


Blogger PatricktheRogue said...

Steve, I must agree, this seems nitpicky - the "genetic makeup" remark was rhetorical device, as the President, I am certain, does not believe that ideas spring from our genes. It is a modern way to say "deep in my soul."
Howver, that being said, what do you think of studies indicating that the propensity to believe certain things, like religion, for instance, does seem to be inherited? I recall reading something along those lines, but can't remember where. I will post back with something concrete if I find it.

24/11/09 12:27  

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