SHOULD HE HAVE OR SHOULDN'T HE HAVE?
Well, conservatives will just about unanimously say President Obama shouldn't have made his comments today on the George Zimmerman trial and on racism in general, and this is primarily because nowadays they pretty much unanimously hate Obama (if they didn't unanimously hate him before he even became president).
I'm hearing lots of things in the news today like "He's supposed to be the president of all Americans, not just black Americans", "He is making stereotype comments about white people", and "He's injecting himself into something he shouldn't be", "If he wants to have a discussion about racism why is he lecturing us on it", etc. And maybe there can be arguments made for some of those points.
But as usual, he addressed issues within larger contexts and looked at the bigger picture. This is something with which his opponents continue to struggle, and it is illustrative of how both right and left have concerns for the county as I see it; the right's concerns relate more to the individual's rights, while the left is more concerned about getting individuals to work together. It would sure be wonderful if there was a way to get those two view to unite.
I was listening to AM radio the other day and had the Sean Hannity show on for a while. All Hannity's callers wanted to talk about was race, and about how the left is to blame for all the talk about race. I tuned to another station, and the Pacific Northwest's own conservative talker Lars Larson's show was on... and guess what all his callers wanted to talk about? It would have been amusing it it hadn't been so sad.
This represents a far cry from what I hear some of my conservative friends saying, which is basically "We don't have to talk about race anymore. We live in a post-racist society, and only liberals talk about racism."
I would disagree with any assertion that racism no longer exists, and I applaud Obama for bringing up a difficult and uncomfortable topic. I perceive that his aim was not to divide society further, as many conservatives will tell you, but rather to provide some perspective and give an opening for more open discussions. It's a difficult subject, and while his opponents want to talk about it a lot as a way to try and denigrate him or bring him down, they want to ignore as a reality. Obama doesn't want the country to ignore racism, he wants the country to get over it.
While many conservatives want to talk about race, they don't want the president to join the discussion. Well, he spoke. Not that what he said is going to shut any of them up... far from it. Race is all they are going to talk about now for the next three years. They will continue to harp on this, and will even suggest that Obama shouldn't be allowed to exercise his rights and express his opinions like the rest of us get to.
As I see it, Obama had a message for young black men in America, and that was a variation on "I feel your pain". When he was a youth, maybe he didn't have it as bad as some young men in our country might have it ... who knows? But from his personal experience he does have some understanding of the pain and frustration that goes with dealing with what he suggests is the prism from through which many of us see the world. It's the "context" thing he was talking about.
Also, with no thanks to the Republican House and others, Obama is looking like a lame duck president. Conservatives can rejoice about this if they like, but it means he can pretty much do and say what he wants, so they ought to be careful with their wishes. Today he felt like joining in with his comments, whether or not people wanted him to.
I'm certainly OK with him making comments like he did today. He can speak to various segments of our society if he feels like it, but because I do believe he is a racist, I believe he was speaking to all of us today. For what it's worth, ultimately, I don't think this will hurt the Democratic Party's chances of getting their presidential candidate elected in 2016 because I think the things he said today will resonate with more Americans than the conservatives' endless anti-Obama commentaries (which are all the GOP has to run on these days anyway).
What is happening to young men in America is itself a tragedy, regardless of the color of their skin. Young men aren't finishing high school at the same rates as they used to, and they are underemployed. More needs to be done to keep our young men vital. While he mentioned young black men, what he said applies to all. He said that communities and churches ought to be the leaders in finding solutions, and that this would be more effective than government intervention. He spoke from the heart on this subject.
And he is right to say that the young people of America "are better on these issues" than people in his age group. I don't think we will be able to eliminate racism in America in my lifetime, but I agree with the president when he says kids today have more sense about these things. I have hope for our future, and that in another generation or so America may not have to endure the kind of frustration and acrimony our country has gone through in the wake of the Zimmerman trial and subsequent verdict.
Accepting responsibility as a community and working together to change things is the only way out. Our young people aren't entrenched in their views like so many of our adults tend to be. Their minds tend to be more open, and they're more willing to try on the other guy's shoes. So, the future is wide open. Let's lead our youth by example, and work together to solve problems. It's the way Americans fix problems, so let's get to work on it and leave the naysayers in the dust.
And thanks to the president for his reminders that the job isn't done and that there is still lots of work to do. I think what he did today was necessary, because I think it's time for America to wake up.