He may be inspired by dreams from his father, but a vain idealist or ideologue Barack Obama is not. And his second inaugural speech, delivered last week before an audience of millions in America and abroad, demonstrates this compellingly.
A mathematically ministered, microscopically balanced, tears-tipping endorsement of people-power on one hand, and a rousing rebuke to rabid Republican posturing around America’s pioneer patriots on the other, President Obama’s speech was a radical realist’s tour de force.
This is not to say it was a flawless speech. But rather that, in anticipating incompletion, imperfection and similar “flaws” in both form and content, the president’s words vindicated his Martin Luther King Jr.-like dreamers’ rallying call: “Yes, we can.”
By urging noble optimism and action on a course where victory, however desirable, is not assured, he affirmed the necessity-based validity of audacious hope.
I had read only the first few paragraphs of this extraordinary composition before I excitedly typed the note, “A rebuke to empty Republican rhetoric about the Founding Fathers.”
But it is the theme of incompletion, conjoined from the outset with the call to incremental, completing installments by and of “We the people,” that is the dominant theme of the Creole Christian Obama’s oracle.
“Creole Christian,” I say, because like fellow Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, the mixed-race Obama exemplifies the quintessence of creative Caribbean expression.
He exemplifies the “creative use of schizophrenia,” as Caribbean thinker Dr. Viola Davis might put it, in the fraught founding and evolution of the Americas.
Invoking the American Constitution’s panhumanist declaration of equality, the oracular Obama enjoins his audience: “Today we continue a neverending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time.”
And in this seminal speech act he imparts a germ of immortality (or the sperm of perpetuity) to his audience.
Like the faithful of the biblical passage in Hebrews 12:1, surrounded by an ancestral “cloud of witnesses,” the masses gathered before him and those attending via the Internet and airwaves are reminded that the challenge to be authentically free and equal is perpetual.
What is not said here or henceforth in the speech, but is implied throughout it, at least indirectly, is the failure not only of many Republicans but also of still-doubting, dithering and diffident Democrats—like Allvoices contributor Herbert J. Dyer, possibly—to comprehend and embrace the dictates of their contemporary role in the construction of the edifice that is the United States of America’s legacy.
This unuttered reproof recalls Obama’s own gentle rebuke of himself for having neglected the creative, risk-taking role of his white-American mother, Ann Dunham, as he sought to ensure that his idealist, much maligned and marginalized, black-Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr., was vindicated historically.
Previously in this forum, in a partly satirical response to one of African-American Dyer’s most vitriolic attempts to unfavorably compare his president with the pacifist and panhumanist icon Dr. King, I expressed my bewilderment at that writer’s agenda: my bafflement at the image of the "evil Obama" that Dyer seems intent on painting. (My response there is in the form of a comment.)
Dyer’s disappointment with President Obama, more recently expressed in his similarly baffling criticism of the speech I praise here as “rather standard, even lackluster,” is in fact reminiscent of the most lamentable elements of another speech I recently had occasion to mention: Democratic Labour Party (DLP) co-founder and former Barbados Prime Minister (and national hero) Errol Barrow’s acclaimed “mirror image” general election campaign speech of May 13, 1986.
I might have put his disappointment down to his having been "wowed" by Kelly Clarkson's performance, but Dyer's prior demonstrations of contempt for Obama's offerings preclude that possibility.
Like leftist Barrow’s electioneering offensive—in which he subtly scolded Barbadians for selling their votes to the then-ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and cast aspersions on Americans’ intelligence, questioning then-President Ronald Reagan’s literacy, among other things—Dyer’s analysis of President Obama’s first-term performance seems motivated by idealism and indecent haste simultaneously.
And Dyer comes close to admitting a degree of indecent idealism, in my view, when he decries African Americans’ complacency, lamenting, “And so we can only watch in open-mouthed wonder as other ‘groups’ get all the juice.”
Something about Dyer’s words here just strikes me as obscene. They suggest a mendicancy and impotence among African Americans that I am more inclined to expect from Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. They smack, albeit subtly, of Donald Trump’s and Rush Limbaugh’s socially simplistic labelling of and contempt for the “takers” that Dyer himself denounces persistently in his writing.
But distillation of the details of Dyer’s and other African American’s apparent confusion is for another time and place.
Obama’s inauguration speech was a definitive historical moment that no misanthrope dialectical materialist, corporate communist or other well-meaning or ill-willed menace can take away from him—or those of us who see the cup of his first term as half full, rather than half empty.
Those of us who, like Lincoln, like King, like Obama, like “Sam Couchie an he duppy” (as Barbadians might say), hear and see the beautiful music that human beings can make as Clarkson-like soloists or fictional band “Lemonade Mouth,” collectively. Those of us who have seen that 2011 Disney Channel movie, especially the climactic band showdown/audience participation scene, know what I mean: the beauty of small beginnings; the mathematically, methodically evolving potential of a mustard seed.
I had the pleasure of interacting with a number of such persons at the Democrats Abroad Presidential inauguration ball held in London last Monday, which was also Barrow’s birthday, now a national holiday on the island, incidentally.
More on that and other mementos from the margins of the political volunteer and other activist stratosphere follow in this space, imminently.