Obama Gets Real, and Reflections on Take Back America
Adrienne Maree Brown
March 19, 2008
I’m at the Take Back America conference this week, seeing the event with the dual eyes I have been using for viewing this entire election season thus far.
This is the most exciting election of my lifetime and most of the folks I know have to say the same, whether they want to admit it or not. everyone’s talking about it, the speeches and debates are water cooler conversation for more than the usual (political nerd) suspects.
Our next president will be a black man, or at the very least a white woman, according to the masses at this conference (nicknamed the “progressive convention”); the passion is in people’s eyes, their bodies aquiver with the idea of advancing progressive ideals. it’s been a while since we had a national moment of victory.
The speakers here are talking about green jobs, healthcare for all, workers’ rights, Martin Luther King–things/ideas/people I take seriously, believe in, need. and more than ever before, the speakers and participants here are referring to a history of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience, the idea of protecting our democracy with actions that make our words mean something. So that makes me happy.
On the other hand, the talk is always far better than the action. we are on a very fine line where people want to hear real talk about race, for instance, but also want to see themselves as beyond racism.
Yesterday Barack Obama gave the best speech I can ever remember hearing from a politician, the kind of speech that everyone from electoral cynic to Obama fanatic had to lean into. We have waited for this kind of speech, we have dreamed of this kind of candor about race from a national platform.
Where Obama has most excited me has been in his deflection of responsibility back towards the people. he is willing to occupy the space of charismatic leader, but not of magician race/economy/world fixer. In speeches like yesterday’s, he is saying ‘I come as an observer, as a listener, and to channel what I see and hear–what i hear behind closed doors as well as what i hear in town halls’.
Hillary Clinton will be hard pressed to have anything close to a response to this way of doing things, even if she comes up with some amazing content to fire back. What we are seeing is how a candidate can elevate the issues beyond his or her self, and into our own hearts, into our own greater calling.
Sitting and listening I thought lovingly of the white racists in my family, of those impacted by economic injustice and combatting addiction and prisons in my own family, of their proximity to each other, of the long journey we have to a point where both sides of my family are equal, respected, evolved, free of hate and bitterness.
Attending this conference with people who desperately want to see change and watching them arch and writhe with the pleasure of hearing their own inner heart’s desire for healing makes me want to open my own heart to them. Election years are so tricky this way. For a moment people are willing to believe, to join with those of us who work day in and day out on radically changing the status quo of gross inequality. For a moment it feels like the momentum is there to get the work done.