Farrakhan endorses Obama
The 74-year-old Farrakhan, addressing an estimated crowd of 20,000 people at the annual Saviours' Day celebration, never outrightly endorsed Obama but spent most of the nearly two-hour speech praising the Illinois senator.
"This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better," he said. "This young man is capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow. If you look at Barack Obama's audiences and look at the effect of his words, those people are being transformed."
Farrakhan compared Obama to the religion's founder, Fard Muhammad, who also had a white mother and black father. "A black man with a white mother became a savior to us," he told the crowd of mostly followers. "A black man with a white mother could turn out to be one who can lift America from her fall."
Saviour's Day, for those who don't know, "is the annual commemoration of the Birth of Master Fard Muhammad, February 26, the Founder of the Nation of Islam." What's really interesting about Farrakhan's speech is the way everything is cast in terms of race. "This young man is capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow." How many people walk around thinking of themselves as "black and brown and red and yellow" instead of "Jacques or Joe or Pham or Pedro" as a primary descriptor?
Maybe it's time to revive the entire clanking machinery of racialist politics at the behest of the Nation of Islam. Terms like Quadroon, Octoroon, Quintroon and Hexadecaroon should once again be used to describe persons, such as candidates for President.
The existing Federal system of racial classification already forces people to choose an "ethnicity" based on completely arbitrary definitions. The difficulties are especially pronounced when persons are of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic background. ...
The system forces individuals of mixed racial and ethnic backgrounds to choose one ill-fitting label. Until the 2000 census, for example, Latinos were required to identify with a single race despite the long history of racial mixing in Latin America (Note: the EEOC continues to define Hispanics as a separate and distinct "race.") Also, consider the following scenario: how might an individual whose mother is of European and Asian ancestry and whose father is of Native American and Hispanic origin be expected to classify himself?
What audience is "American"?
Farrakhan's fulsome praise is especially interesting because Barack Obama pointedly "distanced" himself both from Farrakhan and his pastor, Jeremiah A. Wright Jr in the following statement
"I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree."
A perceptive article on the religious message of Barack Obama in the Stranger describes him as a man who sees religion less in eschatological terms than as a means for providing meaning to the Lost in the here and now.
Obama is cagey, in a lawyerly way, about the supernatural claims of religion. Recounting a conversation about death that he had with one of his two young daughters, he wrote, "I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn't sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang." So I think we can take it that he doesn't believe—or at least doesn't exactly believe—in the afterlife or the creation. His conversion to Pastor Wright's brand of Christianity was "a choice and not an epiphany," born of his admiration for "communities of faith" and the shape and purpose they give to the lives of their congregants.
It's an anecdote with a curious resonance for me because I just had a similar conversation with my own son on the same subject. But my answer was different from Obama's. I told my son I didn't know what happened when we died; but that I believed that the good was never forgotten and hoped we would see each other again as Jesus taught. Yet if I were a politician it might have been better to have provided a more definite answer, to hold out certitudes instead of the fragile hand of faith. Obama understands what I think few contemporary politicians do: that people don't crave the little "gifts" that Hillary Clinton has to offer, the small packages of benefits and percentage improvements. They want comfort, salvation and meaning. And in a world where secular society has destroyed every tradition of transcendance, the world is a wide open market for anyone who can offer -- not national security, economic growth, or the right to keep and bear arms -- but Hope. Obama has this market all to himself and provides "shape and purpose to the lives of his congregants" in a way that his rivals don't even know is necessary.
Whether Obama leads his flock coldly and calculatingly -- as the article in Stranger suggests -- on his own authority using the structure of religion as a convenient organizing principle or whether like Moses in Exodus 17 he inwardly listens for a presence beside him as upon a rock in Horeb, is something we cannot know. At the heart of the Obama mystery lies a curious duality. He is man who self-identifies with a particular race on the way to achieving the vision of making all men brothers; a man who appeals to our better natures yet speaks to Tony Rezko; a man who would lead a brotherhood of the downtrodden but with George Soros at his side; a man who distances himself from Louis Farrakhan yet receives his accolades on Saviour's Day.
What is he? Messiah or huckster? Whatever he is, our fundamental condition as a people wandering in the desert is less in doubt. There is a deep hunger for meaning in much of Western society, a vacuum which no amount of physical pleasure can satisfy. Obama has every right to try and 'transform' his audience. But only his audience can decide whether they want his kind of transformation.
The following quote is often mis-attributed to GK Chesterton. "When a Man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything." Chesterton.org thinks it the quotation is really amalgam of two Chesterton quotes.
It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense. ["The Oracle of the Dog" (1923)]
You hard-shelled materialists were all balanced on the very edge of belief - of belief in almost anything. ["The Miracle of Moon Crescent" (1924)]