“Obama’s Challenge” – a challenge to read

“With his talent for leadership, a President Obama could transform American politics on several dimensions. He could restore America’s constructive role in the world. (After Obama’s Berlin speech, New York Times columnist Frank Rich wondered how long it had been since American children watching TV has seen American flags being waved by foreigners rather than burned.) He could redefine the connection between liberty and security after more than seven years of scare tactics eroding constitutional protections. He could at last lead America to take the climate crisis seriously, and turn us away from a path toward planetary catastrophe. He could finally end the stalemate on the key domestic issue of health reform. He could activate the latent idealism of young people and mobilize an entire generation to be lifelong progressive Democrats, the way Roosevelt did.

“He has already transformed attitudes on race and on tolerance, and he has just begun. Despite his own background, Obama paradoxically is a post-racial figure in a society weary of racial division. Both for younger, more tolerant Americans who are electrified by his promise, and for an older generation of more conservative whites skeptical of racial preferences, Obama shines out as the opposite of affirmative action—a biracial African American who, against all odds, succeeded based on sheer merit. After a generation of blacks helped up the ladder by affirmative action, Obama is not a black man who got to his present position thanks to the need for racial symbolism, much as, say, Clarence Thomas. He rather evokes Jackie Robinson—one whose talent was so exceptional that he could not be denied. He is what Americans of goodwill dreamed could occur once we put racism behind us; as Leon Wieseltier memorably put it, not the seed of civil rights but the flower.”
Kuttner, R. Obama’s Challenge, Chapter 1: A Great President or a Failed One, pages 16-17. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont. ISBN 978-1-60358-079-6 Chelsea Green Publishing

Gotta stay positive, gotta stay up, gotta get happy, gotta chase all those blues away, yes, I can, yes, I can, yes, I can, (shuffle ball change, shuffle ball change, wings wings wings [who’m I kidding? I could never do wings]), but DAY-YAM THIS BOOK IS A SLOG. Okay, there I said it, maybe it liven up later on, but, friends, I’m on page 24 of chapter 1 (man, these are long chapters) and the two paragraphs above are the most uplifting thing I’ve read so far. Jesus, Bob, we know we’re in trouble and Obama’s not perfect, but he’s our best shot at survival, so could you please put on a happy face and lighten up a little, daddy-o?

Y’know, I really don’t know why a progressive African-American scholar wasn’t asked to write this book. Or any book on BH Obama because R Kuttner is a scold and a bore so far. I mean, I know this book is supposed to be the antidote to Jerome Corsi’s smear job, and that it’s supposed to change people’s minds about Obama, but change them which way?

This book needs some fire and I’m hoping for it to ignite on page 25. Stay tuned, readers, I’ll be posting excerpts here as I read. Or you could just buy your own copy and stick around here for the witty cultural commentary and foul language. It’s entirely up to you.

By the way, here’s This African-American Moment, an audio forum with Dr. Maya Angelou, Ishmael Reed, and Alice Walker. But first you must listen to Gwen Ifill and some guy go on and on about Hillary. And then Maya Angelou goes on and on about Hillary until her own phone mysteriously cut her off. Y’know, I was a Hillary supporter when there was a campaign to support, but that’s over, so can we now go on and on about Obama? Oh, and then Alice Walker and Ishmael Reed did, in fact, discuss Obama. Sort of, Alice Walker was asked about Obama, but decided to talk about what she was thinking and doing in 1963 and how things have changed. Forty-five years later, I should hope so. However, Ishmael Reed laid it on the line about how to the Right Obama has moved, which is a big drag. But the mod kept trying to get Dr. Reed to talk about race, which was not Dr. Reed’s point. Race seems to be a bigger issue for White journalists than Black scholars and artists. So then Maya Angelou came back and talked more about Hillary. Man, even I’m sick of Hillary now. I’m not only ready for a post-racial society, I’m past ready for a post-Hillary society.

Update 090808: If you buy this book at Amazon, you can use this discount code RGVTUIQY for a, y’know, discount. I hear Obama is 4 points behind in the polls (who on earth are they polling?) so if buying and reading this book will help, then, please! Buy it! Read it! Preach it on the street corners and wheat fields of this once-great-and-will-be-again-great-if-Obama-is-President nation. Thank you for your attention.

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One Response to “Obama’s Challenge” – a challenge to read

  1. janinsanfran says:

    If you are looking for a book that won’t put you to sleep on race in America, can I suggest Michael Eric Dyson’s “April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Death and How It Changed America”? I listened to it in audiobook and it was excellent in that medium. Review here. He situates Obama in the King lineage in a very helpful way.

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