[The Times, U.K.]



Nachrichten, Switzerland

Obama's Words of 'Courage' that

European Politicians Should Hear


"Obama's speech was an extraordinary speech for a politician anywhere in the world - and not only American voters should listen to it attentively."


By Patrik Etschmayer


Translated By Patrik Etschmayer


March 25, 2008


Switzerland - Nachrichten - Original Article (German)

It was a speech that could make history, and in fact it may already have. It's a speech that sent shivers up the backs of listeners and has been downloaded by millions over the Internet.


It was a speech that stands head and shoulders above the speeches of other politicians. Not only because of its subject matter, but because of the honesty with which Barack Obama tackled the subjects of race and political cynicism in the United States.


The reason for Obama's speech was something that really could have - indeed was likely to have - put the nail in the coffin of his campaign. The pastor of his congregational church in Chicago, the man that had wed Obama to his wife and had christened his daughters, a man with whom Obama was very close indeed, had delivered a sermon about war, poverty and racism that culminated with the impassioned plea of "God damned America." In the aftermath, Obama distanced himself from Pastor Wright and his angry homily, but had refused to disown him, just as he couldn't disown his White grandmother who had uttered racist stereotypes to him that made him cringe. Because his Pastor - just like his Grandmother - is an expression of America's contradictions, wherein fate is an amalgam of horror and triumph, and where hardship and success are inextricably intertwined.


To even approach the subject was already extraordinarily courageous. But Obama went farther and did something politicians almost never do: He called his unfolding difficulties by name - in this case, the latent racism on all sides and the stereotypes that are so easily resorted to on these occasions.


He reminded his listeners of the all-to-easily forgotten fact that only fifty years ago, racial segregation and discrimination were the rule in the United States and that many African Americans are still burdened by the legacy of this oppression. He spoke about how the dialog between the races still continues to avoid this toxic legacy and how the anger continues to simmer, emerging only when a person is among their own kind.


He also spoke of the rage of the White lower and middle classes, who had never themselves perpetrated injustices against Blacks but who now watch as African Americans are given preferential treatment when applying for jobs and entry into universities or who live on social assistance, while White fears of violence are labeled "racist." And he spoke of how politicians exploit and deepen these prejudices in order to attract votes.


The question now is whether one wants to dwell on these differences until Election Day so as not to address the real problems that need resolution, only to come up with another diversion next time around - in four years. Or whether one can say: "Not this time!," and address real problems like the credit crisis, education, health care and unemployment - and debate them, not just to pass the buck to someone else but to begin finding lasting solutions.  



The crazy thing about this speech is that Obama didn't try to present himself as a political messiah, but rather just as a politician - not looking for a scapegoat or trying to further divide the electorate into separate groups that can be played off one another for political gain.



Although parts of his address were very specifically American, it was nevertheless an extraordinary speech for a politician anywhere in the world - and not only American voters should listen to it attentively. Because he spoke directly to what disgusts many people about politics in Europe: cynicism, filth and out-in-out dishonesty. On the one hand, the nasty smirking; on the other, the oh-so affected and constantly complaining politicians who pander to a special clientele just looking for a narrow majority - and even when part of a coalition, making sure that sufficient animosity continues to simmer. Politicians that shun uncomfortable truths only to look for fitting scapegoats.


Now, one might argue that these were just words. But what words! The author cannot recall a single European politician ever daring to make such a speech. Because this speech demanded one thing: courage. And that is a characteristic rarely encountered on the political landscape.






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[Posted by WORLDMEETS.US March 26, 1:40am]