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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama speaking on March 18th – Political Equinox

Jack Lynch

It is commonly believed that the vernal equinox on March 20th represents an equality between day and night, but that is incorrect.*

Yet perhaps in reality, and certainly symbolically, the equality between day and night, as symbolic of the dual American experience of black and white is a fitting coincidence to Barack Obama's speech on race addressing his relationship with his church and his pastor's racial comments – in addition to the spatial realities, the conception of equinox is itself a paradox of time, in that it can only exist as an abstract moment, come then gone – or as Obama said in his speech, quoting William Faulkner, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past."

Obama seems especially qualified to suit our interest in racial duality, or better yet, a post racial experience, because of his living with a split racial existence, he has personally experienced a transitional racial identity. The only sour note to his handling this matter seems to be the credibility of his responsiveness, as pointed out by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. You must decide whether his message transcends belief in his purpose to disengage himself from racial remarks and campaign fortunes, whether it is simply political in the sense of self serving.

The speech itself was impressive. He called the Reverend Wright's views "…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; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam. "

He also used this to point towards his support for Israel, which may also have previously left some doubts as well, calling his church experience "…the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black…"

And discounted the Reverend's remarks as part and parcel of "…in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America."

He won points for describing the duality of divisiveness and racial antagonism coming from the prejudices and fears of all races, coloring, (no pun intended), their expressions of economic reality, and aspirations for survival and well being. He embraced a black racial experience, while holding to the values of humanity and forgiveness on each side of the historical divide – that is quite an accomplishment. He finally embraced the pastor based on his goodness and humanness, frail though its expression may be, but clearly that it is personal and just: "…As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me."

He reflected the family of white and black in his symbolic equality, aspirant and destructive, each in its own racial perspective and often hidden resentments. It was more an American sermon than a pure political speech, and it seems to reach out beyond the choir of supporters.

As he said, "…embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past."

* Technically, due to the alignment of the sun as centered on the equator, and the arc between it and the horizon, and light refraction, a complication of the sphere of the earth being projected upon by an apparent disc of light rather than a point of sunlight (lets just confess that it's a complicated physical, and physics, reality), the actual equality of daylight and night only occurs at positions about 7 degrees to the side of the equator, and it occurs a couple days preceding the vernal Equinox.

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