Several days ago, I listened to President Barack Obama’s eulogy of Reverend Clementa Pinckney. He gave it a week ago but I didn’t hear it until after the weekend. The eulogy thrilled me – and I hope that thrill isn’t too irreverent a way to put it – both as a sincere, heart-rending, eulogy and a suburb political speech. For a while, I forgot about the whistleblowers and the drones and remembered the Obama for whom I had walked precincts in Reno, almost seven years ago. About 9 minutes into that eulogy, Obama says What a good man…he is talking about Reverend Clementa Pinckney but when Obama says, sometimes, I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you are eulogized…after all the words, recitations, and resumes are read…to just say somebody was a good man, I think his hesitation, his body language, is Obama being self reflective.
During both summers just before both of Obama’s Presidential elections, Obama seemed to go AWOL. The same thing has happened several times during Obama’s presidency. The good thing is Obama is a clutch hitter.
I think that we are going to see an awakened Obama, an energized Obama, an Obama acting from his heart, rather than politically, for the next 570 days. I hope so.
Listening to the entire eulogy, I think that this is one of the major speeches of this presidency. Maybe of this time. And if you haven’t heard it in its entirety, do yourself a favor, when you can take the time, maybe after dinner, whatever, pour a glass of wine, sit down, and listen, let it engulf you. It is one of the best religious speeches I’ve ever heard and one of the best political speeches.
the Supreme Court has agreed that Equal justice under law means Equal Rights under law. After so much resistance for so long, the United States made a seismic shift to the left in this week’s two major rulings. As far as I am concerned, it is a seismic shift for the better.
The Right to Marry who we want is not a right that the Supreme Court has the prerogative to give, still, it is great to see them confirm the self-evident truth that all people are created equal with certain unalienable rights (to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence).
The Supreme Court does have the prerogative to rule that Obamacare, as now practiced, is the Law of the Land and their ruling has saved health insurance for millions of Americans (and, as an added bonus, I love the irony that Obamacare – first put out as a derogatory putdown – seems to have become the preferred name for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act).
The Right to be offended while Black is not the prerogative of the Supreme Court and it is not a Right that has been practiced in the United States for most of our history but that may be changing. The realization that the Confederate Battle Flag is offensive to many citizens is starting to sink into our national conscience and that hateful flag is starting to come down.
It has been a great week made even greater by Obama lighting the White House to show his approval of the ruling.
Last evening, we went down to the Town Center to hear and see the Lara Price Band performing, what they call, rootsie rock’n blues. There were kids running around everywhere, perfect dogs – on very loose leashes – sniffing each other, and beautiful people relaxing in the twilight. It was idyllic and, the day after a white terrorist murdered six women and three men in Charleston, it made me sad.
Looking at the people around me, the kids playing, the adults laughing, everybody relaxed and comfortable, feeling safe, I kept thinking that everybody should have this. The right to a safe, open, public space with music every once in awhile, should be a Civilization’s highest priority. What is the purpose of government if it can’t or doesn’t want to keep its citizens safe. As Americans, to feel safe in public should be our birthright.
If the state doesn’t provide safe places for everybody and anybody, what is the point of having a State?
Oh, and The Overheard Snippet? We were standing in line, waiting to order a panini from a food truck, when I overheard part of a conversation. It was just a snippet as the line momentary contracted enough to hear the couple standing behind us. He: How was your lunch with Alice? She: We had an interesting conversation about failure. About the importance of failure to learning and growth and building character. He: Everybody fails. She: It worries me that Emily and Ryan are so afraid of failure. Then the line moved, we stepped forward out of hearing range, and my eavesdropping was over.
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
We are tribal and have been for a long time. According to suppositions made from our DNA, about 50,000 years ago, humankind was down to around 1,500 individuals composed of ten to twenty isolated tribes. Several tribes, about 600 individuals in total, left Africa and, over the last 50,000 years, they have populated the rest of the world. If they were like today’s hunter gatherer tribes and, the evidence suggests they were, the tribes were constantly fighting over territory (which was probably a primary driver to human dispersal). None of that is very controversial.
I have been reading A Troublesome Inheritance by Nicholas Wade and in it he postulates that humans, H. sapiens, have continued to evolve, locally, to their environment, both in and out of Africa, since that diaspora. That we have continued to evolve is controversial, however. Wade further postulates that this evolution has resulted in five major races – with lots of slightly different regional gene pools – and that these five races are, each, slightly different with different abilities because they are evolving in different environments. This goes against almost everything that I believe.
Among many other things, Wade presents an excellent case that people living in Europe and Eastern Asia – China, Korea, and Japan – have evolved to be less violent because the greater population densities of those areas have pushed the evolving humans in that direction. The inference from what Wade is saying – and inference may be too soft a word – is that Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court ruling upholding a sentence of 1,000 lashes for jailed liberal blogger Raif Badawi, that we Westerners find so despicable, is not just a result of Saudi culture but also because the Saudis are genetically more violent. This goes against our liberal mantra, We are all the same.
Everybody I have talked to about this has disagreed; vehemently (I haven’t talked to any white supremacists but I suspect that they would agree). Nobody has put their hands over their ears, saying I hear no evil, but damn near. I know that feeling, for as long as I can remember, We are all the same has been at the center of my belief system. It is the main reason why I am against capital punishment (that and the practical matter that, because of all the appeals, it costs more and it delays closure). We are all the same is why I get so bothered when people demonize whomever we are currently bombing as if they were not as human as us.
But, what if Wade is right, what if the Saudis are more violent than the English? What if young blackmen in the hood in Baltimore are more violent than young whitemen in Appalachia? Not just more violent because of culture or circumstances but more violent, as a group, because of their DNA? What if we aren’t all the same? What if different groups aren’t the same? Just writing this makes me feel uncomfortable and I have to keep reminding myself that we are talking about groups not individuals that can vary wildly within each group (only a fool would think Jalāl Rūmī was more violent than Joseph Goebbels).
Thinking about Wade’s thesis, I wonder if, in a way, saying We are all the same is sort of a cop out. If everybody is the same, it is much easier for us to accept them, to not prejudge them, it makes it much easier to love them because they are just like us (and, we are certainly lovable). But if we are not all really the same, will we still be able to accept The Other, will we be open to Love someone who is different? Will we still be able to judge someone for who they are rather than for what group they are a member? If they really are The Other, will that make a difference?
I don’t know, I like to think not but I don’t know, and I understand why this is such an explosive book.