Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The REAL Question Facing America: Will the Media and the American Republic be Humanized by the Example of Michelle Obama?

While the Media Class—with its usual flair for normalizing the most horridly racialized assumptions via blandly innocuous-sounding language—framed the drama of last night’s opening of the Democratic Convention around the question, "Will Michelle Obama be able to 'humanize' Barack Obama for the American public?", Michelle's brilliant speech not only put to shame the racialized assumptions supporting this media framing, but turned these assumptions on their head.

And by turning on their head the assumptions undergirding the media’s framing of last night’s Convention drama, Michelle Obama’s exemplary words highlighted the REAL question that this Convention and Presidential Election poses to the people of the American Republic [--and if the class of media pundits observing this Convention really wants to humanize itself and serve the interests of both its audience and the Republic, it will henceforth learn from the speech of Michelle Obama to substitute this REAL question for the horribly banal and racialized questions it otherwise seems so stupidly condemned to reproduce ad nauseum]:

Will the American public of 2008 and its media class rise to the humanizing challenge posed by the values (of family and patriotism) exemplified by the words of Michelle Obama, and thereby humanize the American republic?

If the Media Class wants to rehumanize itself and demonstrate its own true patriotism in the weeks of election coverage remaining, it will learn from the example of Michelle Obama’s words to begin confronting itself and the American public with the REAL questions that need to be asked after a decade during which our Republic--operating in defiance of law and human decency--has allowed itself to be dehumanized by a corrupt regime of excuses normalized under the administrative mask of the "war on terror."

As usual in its amazingly banal forms of racialized language, the American media class framed Michelle Obama's challenge to be that of "humanizing" her husband for the American public. This framing not only presumed that the American public perceives Barack Obama to be less than human, and therefore in need of being “humanized,” but then presumed to place the heavy burden of responsibility for rehumanizing an Obama that a racialized media and the reigning public discourse has been so responsible for dehumanizing, not on itself—but on the black woman who married the black man who presumed himself to be human enough to deserve the right of every citizen to run for this nation’s highest office.

This framing trope, which attempted to make the black wife of a black man responsible for “humanizing” her husband, dipped back into the ocean of racialized powers of discourse and politics going back to slavery times, and itself speaks deeply to how much re-humanizing and de-racializing of the media and our Republic is still needed today--all the more so in an era that so often and so blandly presumes itself—against all evidence to the contrary—to have achieved a level of human consciousness “beyond race and racism.”

Apart from the offensive absurdity of all the racialized assumptions inherent in the media class's framing of the drama of Michelle's challenge during the first night of the Democratic Convention, the presumptive stance taken by media pundits toward Michelle, as if they assumed that they could define and prescribe for Michelle what she was supposed to do with her speech, was made all the more absurd by the brilliance with which the humanizing spirit of Michelle Obama's words posed the real challenge of this election quite differently: Will the media class and the American people rise to the challenge of humanizing itself posed by the exemplary words of Michelle Obama last night?

While so much of last night’s TV coverage by the pundits of CNN, MSNBC, and even PBS, continued to be grounded in the same old clichéd framing that has managed to make this most exciting of election campaigns sound boring over the last seven months, Michelle's speech embodied the ennobling power and inspiration of the humanizing passion evoked by Teddy Kennedy's words, and reemphasized the reality underlying Kennedy's proclamation that what is now being presented to the American people in this Election is the most profound of choices:

A choice between a continuation of the destructive politics of racial and class division that has defined the past, and has been reexaggerated by the policies of the current administration, or a turn to a new politics that can begin to embody in policy and practice the hope inspired by the words of Martin Luther King uttered 45 years ago in Washington, D.C.

The REAL Question is: Has eight years of lies and corrupt administration been enough to wake more than half of the American people up to the horrible future into which we are heading without a change, or has it merely reinforced the worst tendencies and assumptions of American power and discourse, and hardened them under the guise of fear and the self-justifying rhetoric of a self-defensive war on terror?

This election, with all that is so immediately at stake for the Republic and the world in the four years ahead, may well determine whether the ennobling hope and dream of a just and equal American Republic, embodied in words by Martin Luther King, Jr., 45 years ago this Thursday, will remain merely a fading dream, or begin to be embodied in the policies and practices of a democratically renewed American Republic. Let us hope, at least, that in the days ahead, both the American public and its Media class will prove itself worthy of the ennobling gift presented to us all by Michelle Obama’s exemplary words last night. For it is not Barack Obama who needs to be humanized for the American public (since he has already shown himself to be abundantly human), but the American media and its public that needs to be humanized for the sake of the future of the American Republic and the rest of the world.

And if the words of Michelle Obama last night are any indication of the role she would play as “first lady” of this Republic, we can be sure of one thing: Our Republic would be deeply ennobled and humanized by her presence at the helm of this Nation’s ship of state.

So the real question is not about what Michelle Obama will do to "humanize" her husband, but what WE will do in the weeks ahead, culminating on November 4, to give ourselves and our country the opportunity to be humanized by the experience of living in a nation that embraces the challenges of making the DREAM real, over the misleading comforts of living in the mire of fear and self-deluding presumptions of totalizing power that have been fueling our so-called “war on terror.”

Such fear and self-delusion, if allowed to control us, will enslave us all to an ever more monstrously self-defeating police state that devotes our national resources to running away from, rather than embracing, the humanizing courage and creativity needed to meet the tremendous challenges of the twenty-first century. As guidance in the right direction, the words of Michelle Obama exemplify the humanizing courage and dedication our country so deeply needs for inspiration.

I hope our political work and choices in the weeks ahead will prove ourselves and our country worthy of the gift of Michelle's humanizing example and faith, as manifest last night. And I hope that for the remainder of this election campaign the Media class will substitute the humanizing insight and vision of her perspectives for the dehumanizing and blinding perspectives of the present.


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