For those of us who’ve never seen ourselves as part of the political mainstream (or maybe anything mainstream), it’s sometimes easy to forget that when Barak Obama talks about bringing the country together, he really means it.
Unity in opposition is a groove that’s easy to slide into. Solidarity that comes through facing the other can only be sustained because we choose not to face ourselves; we define what we are by declaring what we are not.
So at a moment when division seems to have become the substance of the presidential race, it’s worth listening to what Obama had to say today in Indiana:
The text of this part of Obama’s speech:
Let me just close my initial remarks by talking about bringing this country together. You know, Bobby Kennedy gave one of his most — gave one of his most famous speeches on a dark night in Indianapolis. Right after Dr. King was shot. Some of you remember reading about this speech. Some of you were alive when this speech was given. He stood on top of a car. He was in a crowd mostly of African Americans. And he delivered the news that Dr. King had been shot and killed. And he said, at that moment of anguish, he said, we’ve got a choice. He said, we’ve got a choice in taking the rage and bitterness and disappointment and letting it fester and dividing us further so that we no longer see each other as Americans but we see each other as separate and apart and at odds with each other. Or we can take a different path that says we have different stories, but we have common dreams and common hopes. And we can decide to walk down this road together. And remake America once again. And, you know, I think about those words often, especially in the last several weeks – because this campaign started on the basis that we are one America. As I said in my speech at the convention in 2004, there is no Black America, or White America, or Asian America, or Latino America. There is the United States of America. But I noticed over the last several weeks that the forces of division have started to raise their ugly heads again. And I’m not here to cast blame or point fingers because everybody, you know, senses that there’s been this shift. You know, that you’ve been seeing in the reporting. You’ve been seeing some of the commentaries of supporters on all sides. Most recently, you heard some statements from my former pastor that were incendiary and that I completely reject, although I knew him and know him as somebody in my church who talked to me about Jesus and family and friendships, but clearly had — but if all I knew was those statements that I saw on television, I would be shocked. And it just reminds me that we’ve got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. But what I continue to believe in is that this country wants to move beyond these kinds of divisions. That this country wants something different.
I just want to say to everybody here that as somebody who was born into a diverse family, as somebody who has little pieces of America all in me, I will not allow us to lose this moment, where we cannot forget about our past and not ignore the very real forces of racial inequality and gender inequality and the other things that divide us. I don’t want us to forget them. We have to acknowledge them and lift them up and when people say things like my former pastor said, you know, you have to speak out forcefully against them. But what you also have to do is remember what Bobby Kennedy said. That it is within our power to join together to truly make a United States of America. And that we have to do not just so that our children live in a more peaceful country and a more peaceful world, but that is the only way that we are going to deliver on the big issues that we’re facing in this country. We can’t solve health care divided. We cannot create an economy that works for everybody divided. We can’t fight terrorism divided. We can’t care for our veterans divided. We have to come together. That’s what this campaign is about. That’s why you are here. That’s why we’re going to win this election. That’s how we’re going to change the country.