|President Obama gave a remarkable eulogy in Charleston.
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On the morning of this travesty, I awoke, and as usual, tuned in to CNN as I ingested my first cup of black coffee, and watched talking heads speculate about what the Supreme Court would do regarding Same Sex Marriage until the good news was revealed. Not too long after that, images of the joyous spontaneous celebrations at the Court and places like the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village (where the gay rights movement’s first small but powerful protest, dubbed a riot by the police, took place) filled the screen. The talking heads began to address the wonderful words of Justice Kennedy (above), who only the day before cast the deciding vote and read the decision on President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, allowing those already receiving their care through the program to keep their health care (a big win for the President).
Just about the time I dried my tears of joy, CNN switched to images of the Charleston ceremony honoring State Senator and Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, 41, the pastor of Emanuel AMC Church, and friend of President Obama. The President sat in the front row as moving prayers were presented by various ministers and the wonderful gospel chorus sang songs of joy and sorrow. Then, he was introduced to the gathered, and he delivered his eulogy for Reverend Pinckney. The President’s words were moving, edgy, full of grace, and as powerful an experience of the President as I've ever had. That day I saw the President I voted for twice. In the course of his speech, which was delivered with the passion of a preacher, which the place and occasion supported, he not only paid homage to the Senator, and to the other Charleston victims, and offered healing words to their families, but he also used the eulogy to become even more presidential by talking about what we have already accomplished, what he intends to accomplish in the remaining days of his presidency, and how we need to change, grow our tolerance, embrace our struggle, and address race. He addressed politics, and Same Sex Marriage as the gathered rewarded him often with applause, occasionally with a “tell it brother,” frequently with lengthy standing ovations, and throughout with tears of profound grief.
Days before, President Obama caught some flack for a word he used, appropriately, from my point of view, in an interview conducted by comedian Marc Maron for Maron's popular podcast. It was a relaxed exchange in which the President spoke frankly. He said that the United States had not overcome its history of racism, and weighed in on the debate over the racially motivated shooting deaths of the nine black church members in Charleston, South Carolina. "Racism, we are not cured of it," Obama said. "And it's not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That's not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It's not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don't, overnight, completely erase everything that happened 200 to 300 years prior."
The president said that while attitudes about race had improved significantly since he was born to a white mother and black father, the legacy of slavery cast "...a long shadow that's still part of our DNA that's passed on." Though the President also expressed frustration that "...the grip of the NRA on Congress is extremely strong and prevents gun control from advancing in Congress even after 20 children and six educators were massacred in a Connecticut elementary school in 2012. I will tell you, right after Sandy Hook, Newtown, when 20 6-year-olds are gunned down, and Congress literally does nothing. Yes, that's the closest I came to feeling disgusted," he added. "I was pretty disgusted."
I want to round this out by saying that once again, the media missed many opportunities to go deeply into these and other topics that we’ll continue to explore in this issue of Don’t Just Stand There. Do something! Instead of reporting on the ideas that President Obama presented during the podcast, every talking head and mediocre daylong talkfest presenter started their conversation with each guest by asking, “What did you think about the President using the N-word?” They should have asked, “What do you think about the President’s desire to confront racism in the country after the slaughter in Charleston? Where do you come down on it?” They also failed to present the dozens of brilliant statements strewn throughout his remarkable eulogy, each outlet choosing without fail to run and rerun and rerun his singing of Amazing Grace, which was a delightful moment, but hardly the appropriate takeaway from the moving and provocative event where he held the nation spellbound.