Inspired by Obama

/ 6 October 2008

I’m not quite sure how I’ve become the email destination of a few rabid conservative friends-of-friends, but considering what they put in my mailbox does get me thinking. Here is my response to an “Obama-youth” video making the rounds in conservative circles.

Bill writes to me…

I think [this video is] a frightening example of a militant black view of Obama. I believe there’s a lot of things being hidden about this man and his radical past in Chicago politics. I want to know more before we allow him to be president.

Sadly, when you put black faces on an activity it seems to become scary. What does that say about us?

I notice the web site juxtaposes this video with a Farrakhan video that is totally unrelated to Obama. Just to make sure you don’t forget to be frightened, the site uses “Jungsturm” in its title. That’s a reference to Hitler Youth, for those who missed it. Basically, it’s trying to get you to associate Obama with Farrakhan and Hitler before you get out the gate, so it is hard to even watch the video with a fresh eye.

I am not a fan of the military, though I understand they have a role to play in our world and I honor the sacrifices those who choose a military life make for the rest of us. Still, I cringe whenever I see kids in camouflage. The military is not a game, to me, it is very serious business. So as these kids come marching in I’m prepared to be upset.

They start out saying “alpha, omega” as they march in. Is there a reason that should frighten me? Then each kid steps out and says “because of Obama I’m inspired to be the next…” and then they name a profession: doctor, lawyer, automotive technician, architect, engineer, fireman, chemical engineer, entrepreneur. Then there is a round of “yes we can”. Then there are a few phrases that are hard to make out due to poor audio quality, but none sound troubling. Things like “take more responsibility for our own lives” and “we can accept things that bring division and create conflict or we can get together and say ‘not this time’”.

By the end of the video I realize that I can look past the camouflage and see some proud young black men who are trying to change their lives, inspired by the example Barack Obama has set for them. The discipline of marching and moving in unison hardly seems threatening once I take the time to hear what these kids are saying. They are imagining a better world for themselves and all of us. Isn’t this what we’d want from all kids? Isn’t this actually something to be celebrated in a group of young black men?

The site Bill directs us to juxtaposes this with Farrakahn and Hitler. What a sad and hateful response to something that is actually rather fragile and beautiful. This has much more in common with drum majors and marching bands and US Army drills than it does with Farrakhan events. This has absolutely _nothing_ in common with the Hitler Youth that the site invokes. In fact, there is no reason to think that Obama has any idea this was happening or has done anything to organize it. He’s organizing kids to go register voters, not march around in unison.

Bottom line, I fail to see the “frightening example of a militant black view” that Bill sees in this video. I also see no association with Obama except that these kids are drawing inspiration from a black role model who is doing something other than rapping or dope dealing. Obama is helping a whole generation of black youth realize that America really is a country where they can achieve their dreams. They see what he is accomplishing and are inspired to reach for more. Listen to that list of career aspirations again: doctor, lawyer, automotive technician, architect, engineer, fireman, chemical engineer, entrepreneur. Wow!

Even if he is not elected president, Obama has made a real difference in the lives of these and thousands of other kids. An amazing accomplishment. What a shame that so many are determined to see hidden demons where our best angels are trying to rise.

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