Last night on Fox News, after the results from Wisconsin came in, heralding another victory for Barack Obama, they showed his speech to supporters in Houston, Texas, where he was campaigning. I watched it with Shirley in our bedroom on our new large screen high definition television set. We were spellbound. Here was a young man unraveling brilliant oratory for a full forty five minutes. There were no interruptions or commercials, after which the pundits were obviously floored, almost speechless, having also watched it from beginning to end. They referred to it as his 'stump speech,' which means that was his standard repertory for months, but I imagine he's been continually editing and polishing it. As a result it was nothing short of phenomenal, a feat of rhetoric that has been called 'all talk' and 'just words.' The man has no experience, or compared to his opponents in both parties, hardly any. But he made more sense to us than any of the other candidates, and though we've been Republican conservatives for many years, we've almost decided to throw party and ideologic affiliations aside and promote and vote for the man.
In a way, this is unbelievable to me. A week before I would have dismissed anything he'd have to say as coming from a liberal and a peacenik. But in the last few years, the combination of sticks and carrots from PearlSoupers has caused me to think and rethink again and again, to the point that I am ever more open to opposite points of view. I must say that corresponding with Algernon has influenced me, as have some emails with Ware and comments from BawBaw and DonnaSue. All these interactions have caused me to question my loyalty to Big Business and unfettered Capitalism and free enterprise. The past few years have brought to my attention the ruthless and corrupt nature of some Big Businesses and the unfairness of widely divergent incomes. I found it harder and harder to dismiss the suffering of the disadvantaged and poor. Perhaps government does have a place in leveling the playing field.
Another strong influence in my turnaround has been the longstanding correspondence I have had with a liberal professor, who has been both chairman of a sociology department and law school professor. We started a correspondence years ago over the suspension of a faculty member because the students thought he was insensitive to their feelings by citing certain facts about how some minorities performed on written tests. I wrote the president of the university, complaining about the suspension and asserting that this kind of sensitivity to students was an infringement on academic freedom. The president referred my complaint to this professor, who took the time and trouble to elucidate the real complexities of the situation. The back and forth led to a discussion on the merits of the death penalty, and we were off to the races. He changed my mind on that subject as well, with a combination of facts and opinions that were persuasive.
More recently we have been discussing present day politics and the campaign. As we were getting into the intricacies of moral judgments, such as whether or not the government and the population as a whole had a role in alleviating the suffering of the poor. Was it fair that so many millions did not have medical insurance? Do we want to live in a country where the majority of the people don't really care? He ended up comparing me with the average German during WWII, who looked the other way while some of his countrymen were being oppressed and persecuted.
I challenged the comparison, but rather than back off, he amplified his argument to the point that I had to admit that he was right, painful as it was.
Eventually, I wrote him this letter, which I want to share with my PearlSoup friends:
You have no idea how powerfully you have made your case. What with our daughter Dorcas becoming a precinct delegate for Obama in the state of Washington, and her writing me much as you have, deriding my attempts to downgrade Obama on the basis of his inexperience, Shirley and I watched with increasing fascination Obama's 'stump speech' in Houston last night, and were completely overwhelmed and won over, if you can believe that. We have a 60 inch high definition television and we watched and listened to his speech in our bedroom for 45 minutes. Even the pundits on Fox News were breathless and shook their heads in disbelief! Obama went on and on, obviously with no notes, and the speech from beginning to end was like a classical symphony in its organization, in its intellectual and emotional appeal. The man is undoubtedly a genius, highly intelligent and articulate, as well as politically, psychologically and philosophically astute. The man has character, depth and integrity, qualities which are sorely lacking in politicians today.
My shorthand as a lifelong practicing psychiatrist and psychoanalyst is that his head, heart, guts and balls are all together, connected. That makes for a powerful person. As you have said, he is articulate--- the speech gathered momentum and covered every possible contingency and issue relevant to America and the world today. He brought up arguments against him and answered all of them thoroughly, convincingly and brilliantly. Freud writes like that, bringing up all possible counter-arguments to his arguments, and then answering them systematically, logically and persuasively.
The odds are that he cannot fulfill his hopes and dreams and expectations. The world is too complex and resistant to change and there are powerful forces against him. But I think his becoming president of the United States and Commander in Chief would be a vital and pivotal experiment that is worth the risk. As Dorcas reminds me, what can be worse than what already is? Obama makes a great case for change and reform, for a resurgence of integrity, idealism and social justice, even more fairness and humanitarianism.
And consider the Talmudic:
If I am not for myself, who will be for me?
And if I am only for myself, what am I?
AND IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
So I will buy his books and further study the man to better support my arguments in his favor to my Republican conservative contemporaries when the time comes. They will think I am nuts, but they do respect my intelligence and historical knowledge, so they might listen enough to reconsider their entrenched positions. Shirley feels the same way, but for the time being will keep our opinions to ourselves, biding our time for propitious moments.
Thanks, Rick, for sticking with me, taking the time and trouble to detail and organize your arguments, and for giving me the benefit of the doubt, instead of merely dismissing me as just another Neanderthal.