My better angel

Tuesday I wrote a snarky piece about how easy it is to solve the current financial/economic crisis.  But I didn’t post it because before I clicked Publish, I was feeling very . . . not-snarky.  The surely soon-to-be-famous Cute Shoes Solution can wait until tomorrow.

What happened to my snarkiness? I heard a speech.

  • Eloquent, articulate, delivered with quiet, calm, impassioned authority.  Presidential.  It was the speech of a leader.
  • It was courageous, speaking honestly of tensions that are never mentioned on the political stage.  Only the most cynical would describe it as political, even in the midst of this political season.
  • It was about love and loyalty.  It was about nuance, understanding the complexity of the very real and imperfect people we all are.

Senator Obama spoke to me as an intelligent, good-hearted adult.  He spoke to my better angel.

As my granddaddy would have put it, there really isn’t spits difference between the two remaining Democratic candidates this year with regard to policies, both foreign and domestic.  There’s very, very little difference in experience.  So is this primary season all about style rather than substance?  Yes and no.  Because this time the style is the substance.  It’s about a fundamental change in the process of our national dialogue and national business.

  • It’s about a national conversation in which we listen to each other.
  • It’s about forging consensus, not settling for compromise.  (And heaven help us, may we never again have a president that doesn’t understand the difference!)
  • It’s about our individual responsibility to be informed and engaged, to be in the words of Thomas Jefferson an enlightened citizenry, “indispensable to the proper functioning of a republic.”
  • It’s about talking to our enemies, not only our friends.
  • It’s about transparency in government—about a large, round table in a glass-walled room where every group has a seat at the table.
  • It’s about elected representatives who accept the mantle of statesmanship, honesty, and civility.

Abraham Lincoln ended his first Inaugural Address, given just months before the first Civil War shots were fired . . .

I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

In the end, the question isn’t whether Senator Obama can live up to my expectations.  The real question—the question that terrifies me—is can we live up to his?


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