“When they go low, we go high” –Michelle Obama
Finally, yesterday I saw in the person of Michelle Obama and felt the dignity of human aspiration restored to an otherwise degenerate presidential campaign. She called on the angels of our nature to reconcile basic human relations, not only between men and women but between our hopes and aspirations of what it means to acknowledge the duty and desire owed to ourselves as human beings intent on creating a more just society. The First Lady spoke to the courage of transcending the fear embodied by bullies who would ignore the dignity of all human beings. Michelle reminded us of our potential for rising above the threat posed by nasty discourse and cheap shots in this media driven election, the campaign rhetoric that focuses on the worst elements.
At another critical time in the life of the American experiment Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address and transcended the chaos of the Civil War by appealing to the Declaration of Independence, the ideal statement of the American project: “ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [“and women”] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. For Lincoln said then and this election illustrates that “We are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.”
During the last few decades I have felt the truth of William Butler Yeats lines in The Second Coming that “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” But Michelle spoke simply and said with passionate conviction;“Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.”
For fifty years one political party has appealed to the racist “southern strategy” while advocating the invasion of a woman’s private space with hoary patriarchal notions of command and control, all in an effort to divide and conquer. The other political party has served as a mask for the growing inequality of wealth and the retrograde transformation of morally endowed citizens into economically indentured servants as tenants OF the corporate state.
In the process of transforming moral beings into material functionaries, the dignity of conscious human beings has been subjugated to the overlords and their appetites for power and the satisfaction of appetites. In an ironic twist, both parties have engaged in propaganda and conspiracy to block public education from its historic mission of leading the generations out of the darkness into the light. Rather than teach students to think, we teach them to obey. But we human beings can choose to exercise freedom and dignity, and all the human values, which flow from those choices each day.
Last night in so many words, Michelle reminded us of the promise and the history and why we must reject the politics of fear and implied that we should remember the legacy of those who consecrated the American struggle with blood and treasure. Lincoln said, “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
President Obama said yesterday, “Listen to Michelle’s speech.”