Saturday, July 20, 2013

Obama, Trayvon Martin, and the Legacies of Pain

It may not go down in history as one of his greatest speeches.

There were no soaring flights of rhetoric, he hardly raised his head as he delivered it.

But I thought Barack Obama's reaction to the Trayvon Martin verdict was one of the finest moments of his Presidency.

For this needed to be said:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African-American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that — that doesn’t go away.

And this seems obvious to me...

If Trayvon Martin had been white, and George Zimmerman had been black, the killer wouldn't have got away with murder so easily.

And when I see the disgusting way right-wingers are reacting. 

It's pretty clear that the Americans need to have a serious national conversation about the legacy of racism.

But then so do we.

For when I saw this picture of native children in Canada, and read that they treated some of them like lab animals.

It made me feel sick to my stomach. All I could do for a while was lay my head upon my desk and close my eyes. For that's OUR shameful past. The legacy of pain native people are still living with, and we need to deal with it so much better than we have.

And when I read the disgusting comments regularly aimed at native people in the comment sections of newspapers and blogs, I can see that far too many Canadians are no better than the bigots of America.

But then that's what happens when some people think that others are less human than they are. And would so easily dismiss the history of the marginalized.

Even though the scars are still fresh, bigotry is still an open wound, and still damages and destroys so many lives.

Just like it destroyed the life of the brilliant Alan Turing...

Who although he helped save countless lives during the Second World War, and invent the computer, is only now going to be pardoned for the "crime" of being gay.

Alan Turing, the Enigma codebreaker who took his own life after being convicted of gross indecency under anti-homosexuality legislation, is to be given a posthumous pardon. The government signalled on Friday that it is prepared to support a backbench bill that would pardon Turing, who died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41 in 1954 after he was subjected to "chemical castration".

The gentle genius seen here in this drawing by his mother indulging his lifelong fascination with flowers...

Who could have done so many more amazing things, but was driven to kill himself, like so many gay kids still are today.

And when I see that, or read about Turing, or all the other cruel things gay people have had to endure, I understand what Obama meant when he talked about the legacy of pain. For I share it myself. 

But I also share his optimism, that the new generation will finally make things better:

As difficult and challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, I don’t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes when it comes to race.They’re better than we are. They’re better than we were.

And in that regard, I want to end tonight by celebrating the tragically short life of the Canadian actor, and Glee star, Cory Monteith...

Who in his own way, in the role of the straight jock Finn Hudson, helped send out a message of tolerance.

In an era of macho antiheroes, Finn countered that being a man didn't have to include physical strength or objectifying women, but could instead be defined by expressiveness, vulnerability, and compassion. He failed as a quarterback, a soldier, and a boyfriend, but he succeeded in glee club, where he sang and danced and hung around with a bunch of queer kids.

In a country and a world so full of old prejudice.

Good for Cory. Good for Obama for telling it like it is.

Don't stop fighting the bigots. Fight for that new and better world.

Heal the wounds that divide us.

Don't stop believing...

Click here to recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers.


  1. Anonymous7:45 AM


    Thank you for this moving tribute and call to action.


  2. hi p2p...I'm glad you liked it. I was moved by Obama's statement, I thought it was honest and courageous. And I was shocked by the reaction of the racist right, and quite a few others who should know better. But then I started wondering how many other people don't understand that those who have been marginalized cannot escape the past as easily as they can. When I think of how they treated Alan Turing it makes me really angry. And if I was a native person, and I read what they had done to those poor children I can only imagine how I would feel, after all the horrors of the past and the present. Because I'm not exaggerating when I say that story made me physically ill.You know I suppose it would be nice if we could all forget the crimes of the past. But to do that would be to betray the memory of the victims. Bigotry is the most horrible crime, and a wound that takes a long long time to heal...

  3. Anonymous12:25 PM

    You don't get it.
    obama bin ladin's speeches are and ever have been nothing but empty bullshit sound bites. The u.s. will never ever get past their bigotry and hatred. If they did, the people might actually wake up to what is perpetrated every murderous day in their citizens' names and actually rebel against the monster, and that will not be permitted. There is too much money being made to ever allow the unwashed masses there to return to consciousness and become proactive. All this race/sociological stuff is kabuki to keep the sheeple preoccupied so their masters can get away with murder and then some.
    I hate to sound that negative but I was there for a long time and saw the real deal and the preznit's speech was just more of the same empty crap.