Tuesday, March 18, 2008
I listened to a rebroadcast of the speech earlier on public radio. Here's the text. It's worth reading, or better yet listening to.
It's astonishing to see Obama responding to the Death/Noise Machine, not in its terms, but in his. In doing so--in speaking back to inhuman Noise in a human voice--he is demonstrating and embodying the central message of his campaign. But he's doing it in a more sophisticated manner.
It's almost as though the Hillary campaign--and I mean "Hillary campaign" in the broadest, most accurate sense, which has plenty of overlap with the Death/Noise machine--has forced Obama to produce the magical "substance" deemed to be missing from his standard campaign speeches--to make the subtext of those speeches explicit and vivid. The result is brilliance. Therefore, sadly, I assume the candidacy is doomed.
Some words from James Baldwin's 1955 essay "Stranger in the Village":
The black man insists, by whatever means he finds at his disposal, that the white man cease to regard him as an exotic rarity and recognize him as a human being. This is a very charged and difficult moment, for there is a great deal of will power involved in the white man's naiveté. Most people are not naturally reflective any more than they are naturally malicious, and the white man prefers to keep the black man at a certain human remove because it is easier for him thus to preserve his simplicity and avoid being called to account for crimes committed by his forefathers, or his neighbors. He is inescapably aware, nevertheless, that he is in a better position in the world than black men are, nor can he quite put to death the suspicion that he is hated by black men therefore. He does not wish to be hated, neither does he wish to change places, and at this point in his uneasiness he can scarcely avoid having recourse to those legends which white men have created about black men, the most usual effect of which is that the white man finds himself enmeshed, so to speak, in his own language which describes hell, as well as the attributes which lead one to hell, as being as black as night.
Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it. It is of quite considerable significance that black men remain, in the imagination, and in overwhelming numbers in fact, beyond the disciplines of salvation; and this despite the fact that the West has been "buying" African natives for centuries. There is, I should hazard, an instantaneous necessity to be divorced from this so visibly unsaved stranger, in whose heart, moreover, one cannot guess what dreams of vengeance are being nourished; and, at the same time, there are few things on earth more attractive than the idea of the unspeakable liberty which is allowed the unredeemed. When, beneath the black mask, a human being begins to make himself felt one cannot escape a certain awful wonder as to what kind of human being it is. What one's imagination makes of other people is dictated, of course, by the Master race laws of one's own personality and it’s one of the ironies of black-white relations that, by means of what the white man imagines the black man to be, the black man is enabled to know who the white man is.
People who shut their eyes to reality simply invite their own destruction, and anyone who insists on remaining in a state of innocence long after that innocence is dead turns himself into a monster.