Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Dream

It appears that the infamous columns are not Greek temple-denoting or Brandenburg gate echoes, but a mock-up of the Lincoln memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke forty-five years ago:

The Illinois Democrat will officially become the nation's first black major party presidential nominee when he accepts the Democratic Party's nomination Thursday night at a Denver football stadium in front of an expected 80,000 people.

Adding to this historic symbolism, Obama's accomplishment arrives on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and march on Washington.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not denying that this nation of ours has come a long way on racial issues in the forty-five years since King's "Dream" speech. And I don't want to suggest that Barack Obama has never experienced racism during his years in America. In some sense the nomination of a biracial man whose white mother seems to have been a sixties radical and whose father was a man from Kenya who may have still been married to his Kenyan wife when Stanley Ann and Barack Sr. were together is still an amazing thing, given the knee-jerk prejudice of many of our nations' people against anyone whose skin color is darker than theirs.

But there's a slightly "off" feeling about tying Barack Obama's nomination to King's speech. If I really think about it, I think it's because Dr. King was speaking to all Americans, regardless of party affiliation or level of political involvement; the civil rights movement transcended politics, and brought many Americans together to overcome the dehumanizing racism of the past. But Obama's speech tonight is, in one way, the apex of partisan politics: the moment when one party's nominee stands up to say why he, and not the other fellow, should be elected. Am I wrong to think that any conscious, deliberate attempt to tie Obama's speech to King's only cheapens the dream?

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