Monday, January 28, 2008

Obama, The Speaker

I intended to talk more at length about yesterday afternoon's Obama rally here in Birmingham, but have not had the time to do so until now.

Let me first respond by saying that the sentiment expressed by bloggers like Blue Gal in her Sunday posting is justified, well-founded, and worthy of contemplation. I respond to her and others I have read by saying that had the rest of the country been in the audience and heard the talk that Senator Obama gave, the doubts still present in the minds of many voters would have been quelled. Though the overall tone was optimistic and deliberately hopeful, he did not sugarcoat the truth, either. The crowd of 11,000 which had being churned into a frenzy by occasional feel-good platitudes and a few instances of well-placed humor filed out not singing hosannas of praise or excitedly babbling to one another. Certainly some people were in jovial spirits at the end of Obama's nearly hour long talk, but the overall mood was sobering and contemplative.

The Senator from Illinois' talk was prefaced by nearly twenty minutes of a black gospel choir, belting out praise and worship numbers which gave thanks to Jesus and the Lord above. The point, lest anyone miss it, was that Barack empathically gave his support and his allegiance to the Jewish carpenter we know and love. As reported by Charles J. Dean of The Birmingham News:

Obama came to Birmingham after a visit in Macon, Ga., Sunday morning, where he spoke for about a half hour to about 1,000 people at the interracial and interdenominational Harvest Cathedral. He talked about how he became a committed Christian as a young man in Chicago after rarely attending church as a child.

Now, he said part of his mission as a politician is "to go out and do the Lord's work."

Obama the fighter was in full force, even more so that in his South Carolina victory speech. His speech vascilated somewhere in between the swelling optimism of his Iowa speech and the harsher, more defensive language used in South Carolina. Obama's talk incorporated two full sentences which he, as memory serves, mentioned that though he had deep respect for those who practiced Islam, he was, in fact, a Jesus-loving man who had been a member of the same Christian church in Chicago for the past twenty years. This direct talk countered the recent series of chain e-mails that have asserted otherwise.

In the midst of all this tough talk, however, his reaction does beg the question: what does it matter if Obama was, in fact, a Muslim? Leonard Pitts' latest column addresses this dynamic in some detail. Wasn't this nation supposedly based on the idea of religious toleration and freedom of religion? Do many of the same fears the Clintons have tried to implant in the minds of Americans deserve to be validated by our attention? Do they serve any real purpose?

To his credit, Obama gives a great stump speech. He knows how to work a crowd and interweave policy with pertinent anecdotes and dramatic emphasis. He says everything we've wanted a politician to say for years. For almost every criticism mentioned not just by Blue Gal but by the person on the street and many in the blogsophere, he had a sensible, thorough answer. Now it is up to voters to decide whether his brand of idealism tempered with pragmatism meets their approval at the ballot box. The leadership with whom he surrounds himself will be crucial because he is running against the Washington establish and coming out against it with both barrels blazing.

No comments: