He had me at “two hundred and twenty one years ago.” OK, maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. I’ll spare you the dithyrambs. To my eyes and ears, the core of the speech was this:
But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America.
At the heart of Obama’s campaign is a conviction of the possibility of profound societal change, and what this episode has now done is show something of what, for Obama personally, that conviction is deployed against: not just a general sense in America that we are locked into our troubles but a profound sense that that is the case in the black community. Against the jeremiads of left and right, of black as well as white–which trade in the enumeration of ills–Obama offers a Kingian vision of the Beloved Community, achieved with struggle to be sure, but always appealing to the better angels of our nature. It’s a daring proposition, but it’s not one that has always failed to carry the day.