Friday, March 7, 2008

Burning Bridges

Obama gave a speech in Selma Alabama to commemorate the 42nd anniversary of that seminal civil rights march. He spoke movingly about how his mother and father dared to come together because of the march. The crowd in the church where he was speaking in Selma were inspired to enthusiastic applause. Obama said that he would not be there in Selma, he would not exist at all, save for the courage of those brave men and women who stood up and marched against the tyranny of Jim Crow and institutional racism, that some form of equality might eventually be achieved.

A black man from Africa and a white woman who's ancestors had owned slaves were swept up in the tide of hope that crossed the land and came together in love. "There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge," says the Senator. And his parents "got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born. So don't tell me I don't have a claim on Selma, Alabama. Don't tell me I’m not coming home to Selma, Alabama. I’m here because somebody marched. I’m here because y'all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants."

How beautiful. How beautiful.

The march in Selma occurred in the third month of 1965. Obama was born in August of 1961.


Well, perhaps he just got the dates wrong? Maybe there was some other Selma march over a bridge? No. Perhaps he meant a march over some other bridge, and just got the city name wrong? No.

"Liar" is such a harsh word. To stir up people's emotions with heroic images cannot be wrong, even if we stir them up with fiction. We are after all moved by fiction. That's what literature and movies are for. Am I wrong? So what's so bad if he makes us think something that never happened is real?

And we will ignore the fact that this is the very definition of a lie. His motives must justify that mere technicality.

He says something else, as well. "So the Kennedy’s decided we're going to do an air lift. We're going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so they can learn what a wonderful country America is. This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country." Interesting. Interesting. A Kennedy program made it all possible.

A problem, though. Kennedy was sworn into office in January of 1961. Obama was born in August of '61. Generally that would mean that he would have been conceived in November of 1960 -- say, Election Day. Before Kennedy was president, so before he could have instituted any such African outreach. Time travel? Something Kennedy did from the Senate? But Obama says it happened from the White House. Is he talking about Eisenhower and Nixon? I think not. What, then?

Facts matter. Someone who gets fundamentals wrong on a consistent basis cannot be taken seriously. Is this Obama? I am insufficiently informed on the details of all his many speeches. But in these particular matters, which play such a very important part in Obama's own personal narrative, we must suppose that he should be familiar with the actual facts.

He is not. Or he is lying. Both are pretty serious charges. Either he himself is ignorant of things that I know, who have no specific reason to know. Or he is assuming an ignorance on the part of his listeners, which seems arrogant and actually contemptuous. Seems that way to me. That's how I frame it when someone lies to me. You're thinking I'm so stupid that I'll just believe any idiot story you make up. That's what I used to say to teenagers.

There's something so adolescent about lying. There's something so immature about not getting easily discovered facts straight.

But you have to form you own opinion. Maybe it's not important. But how is this Change? What is Hope to be founded on? False Hope?



Jack H said...

The Youtube description, posted by a lefty partisan site, has it that "Presidential candidate Barack Obama returned to Selma, Alabama, the site where the civil rights movement began 47 years ago. ... This excerpt of Obama's speech was a slap in the face to those who claim the Illinois Senator is "not black enough." He preached that had it not been for the civil rights movement in Selma, Alabama, he would not be alive today.

If it was 47 years ago, the math works. But the very heading of the Youtube clip says "Obama commemorates 1965 civil rights march in Selma, AL". Is this 2012?

Will C. said...

I hope you pointed that out to them...key word being hope.

brent said...

I usually suggest to teens that they must have a trust problem if they can't trust me enough to be honest with me.

Jack H said...

W -- Do I have to do EVERYTHING?

B -- You're inviting intimacy with them. I framed it in terms of respect.

MuscleDaddy said...

Here's a thought:

Maybe he didn't get the dates and facts wrong.

Maybe he was a fatherless bastard in 1961 and the Selma march made his "father" brave enough to come out of the woodwork in 1965...

...before he abandoned them again later on (livin' the stereotype).

Maybe his mother told him that if his father had not come on the scene when he did, she was planning to sell his carcass to the dogfood plant.

So, if it hadn't been for the Selma march....


No need to assume the worst.

- MuscleDaddy

Jack H said...

I did go the the syntax of his phrasing, and strictly speaking it need not be a blatant true/lie situation. But we go with the very most likely, as opposed to the remote possibility. Words have meaning, and clarity matters more than nuance, to anyone actually interested in communication. There is a kind of lying that uses true words, after all, and that's not a talent any *American* would vote for. Better to be a liar.

Dogs are unclean in Moslem culture.

Jack H said...

"I did go INTO the syntax..."