An America for My Grandfather as Told by Barack Obama
In some deep way, parts of American Judaism are still paralyzed by fear and still suffering from holocaust induced post-traumatic-stress. Going to day school I felt it, and being the grandson of survivors I know the narratives in a deeply personal way. We often hear that things seemed just fine in Germany before the Nuremberg Laws. Of course, everything wasn’t fine and all it took was an economic disaster to bring long-held hate to the surface in the form of blame. In some ways, our country today, looks a bit similar. Beset by enormous economic trouble we don’t yet know how our fellow countrymen will respond. A we-are-never-safe Jew might worry that– between all the Jewish Wall Street tycoons and Greenspan presiding over the run-up that resulted in collapse–rosy days might not be ahead. I don’t buy that analysis but at the same time I know how deep the narrative runs and re-runs. That is why it was so heartening to read Obama’s speech on race given earlier today (I hope to watch later, at home). An amazing excerpt from the speech on the flip:
Here is an excerpt:
In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.
This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.
This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.
Though the vision doesn’t talk about Jews specifically it fights against the idea that minorities should be constantly on edge that one day, when the shit hits the fan, and the problems are great, that the “real Americans” will behave like the “real Germans”. It says that we are all, together, the “real America.” My grandfather recently passed away but this is the sentiment, the dream, he was chasing when he fled Dachau, a place where he could be a real citizen. It is beautiful to hear a major candidate offer such an inclusive message (and mean it). This articulation of what America truly is and what politics should be about is, to borrow a phrase, very good for the Jews.