"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."
These are the words, had Barak Obama chosen to use them as the centerpiece of his "race speech" just before Easter, that would likely have delivered his campaign from the divisive race issue.
"Father, forgive them for they know not what to do." Simple words with profound meaning.
Instead Obama lamented, "I expected to give a speech on race, but not under these circumstances."
With his campaign besieged by the dribble of embarrassing comments, the Senator found himself defending himself against the Reverend Wright, Michelle Obama, Louis Farrakhan etc...instead of promoting the positive "change you can believe in" message. Like a tire going flat, the Obama campaign witnessed an 18 point swing of likely independent voters away from Obama to McCain according to the most recent Gallup poll. Will Americans rethink Obama-mania as more skeletons in the closet are revealed?
His family, friends, and associates running around damning America, blaming white people for the present problems of black people, never having been proud of America, calling American a mean place, etc...may have a place on the fringe elements of American politics and religion. But such talk plays poorly amongst average Americans. "Bad company corrupts good character" is the old Proverb. Thus, the Reverend, the wife, and the black panther zealot Farrakhan have done this post-racial candidate no favors.
To make matters worse, Obama's foot-in-mouth moment stating that his grandmother's reaction about being scared of blacks was just a typical white person's reaction, does little to carry favor with Americans in a general election. But what might the primary Democratic voters think about this gaffe? Is it possible that even the latte drinking liberals might double-take on Obama's statement since they thought they were supporting Tiger Woods of golf repackaged as a post-racial Democrat?
Could liberals be waking up in the weeks to come in a cold sweat? They thought they were getting Colin Powell. Instead, they ended up with Obama's secret thoughts that look more like Sharpton and Jackson of the Civil Rights era? I'm not sure Americans in general are in the mood for Selma and Montgomery again. Civil rights have been won and are here to stay. So why does Obama's wife, the reverend, and others intend to wage the Civil Rights battle all over again?
For 16 months, Obama tapped successfully into the post-racial veins of American politics. He talked neither of black or white; but what he believed what was good for America. He understood that Americans weren't looking for a Black, White, Latino, Chinese, Indian, or a Japanese President. Americans were looking for a man or woman who could unify a fractured nation. He excelled. Women swooned. And young people were smitten all the way to the voting booth.
Then the pre-Easter race speech was given.
Masterful in its oration, its delivery, and clear in its content, the speech condemned the words of his 20 year pastor and spiritual advisor that stunned America. Yet, Obama stated that he could "no more divorce himself from him (Reverend Wright) than he could from his white grandmother."
"Race is still a problem," continued the Senator from Illinois.
Prior to this speech, Senator Obama transcended race and gender. He was the "New American" that millions of American liberals were falling in love with. Distancing himself from the fringe elements of the NAACP world, Obama became the celebrated "New American" for the 21st century.
After the speech, Obama looked much more like a defender of the NAACP. Shades of South side Chicago activism bubbled to the surface. The speech affirmed that black grievances require dialogue. To what end, we do not know.
Senator Obama, for just a moment, appeared out of nowhere as a man running for President who happens to be black. After the Easter race speech, Obama has painted himself as a a black man running for President. Is this distinction important?
Americans fell in love with the former, not the latter. Did ordinary Americans did not fill jam-packed arenas in Iowa, Wisconsin, Kansas, Vermont, etc...to see and listen to a candidate being defined more by his race than his American ideals?
So with a wife who wrote a Princeton thesis on "black power", and a spiritual mentor and pastor who damns America for injecting the aids virus upon blacks in America, Obama's "New American Idealism" may be short-lived. The Obama message for 16 months that transcended ethnicity may be in flames come November against war hero McCain.
What should the Senator have done differently during his race speech?
He should have quoted Jesus:
"Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."
He then should have stated that America is a good land; not a place of shame. And that because God has offered forgiveness for all who would receive it, we as Americans must accept the challenge, as a people, to forgive the sins committed in the past and present.
For the nine Presidents that held slaves of their own, we must forgive. For the 3/5 of a man amendment in the Constitution...we must forgive. For the back of the bus...we must forgive. For the separate water fountains...we must forgive. For the separate schools...we must forgive. For the evil perpetrated because of skin color...we must forgive. For the separate Sunday morning services every Sunday...we must forgive. For the racism that exists on all sides...we must forgive. For the bitterness within...we must forgive. For the pain that has been caused...we must forgive.Senator Obama's papal-like homily could then have reminded us all that George Washington instituted a day of Thanksgiving in 1777. Washington thanked the Creator for the bountiful blessing of the American nation. We celebrate this day each November.
Senator Obama could then have declared a specific day in March, just before Easter, a day of forgiveness and reconciliation. As Washington met the spiritual needs of Americans, so too Obama's mantle of reconciliation on this one day would meet Americans from all walks leading them to drink from the same well of George Washington's decree. Such a day would have schools shut down, families gather, sermons be given, and people carrying out Christ's mandate:
"Forgive as Christ has forgiven you."
Barak Obama's race speech could have landed in the pantheon of great American speeches. Instead, it will now only be studied by political science professors and political junkies. MLK would have been proud of a national "Forgiveness Day" to address the sins of the past and present committed against one another. Americans would have listened. Americans would have learned. Perhaps Senator Obama's first race speech would have won the hearts and minds of not just liberals; but all Americans.
I wonder what Jesus would say concerning such a "Day of Forgiveness" in America instead of a racial grievance and justice message?