Obama should maybe follow his own advice and listen to his opponents
It’s time bullying American liberals emulated the good Christians of Charleston
Published 28/06/2015 | 02:30
'Everyone thinks progress depends on indignation, accusation, aggression, demonstration, marching," wrote the commentator Peggy Noonan last week. "But we just saw anger lose to love. It's a huge moment."
The moment she was alluding to in an article headed 'Two Miracles in Charleston', was "that scene of amazing, other-worldly forgiveness" shown by relatives of some of the nine black people murdered by a white supremacist in South Carolina, in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Dylann Roof had wanted to ignite a race war: instead, victims responded to his bloody hatred with what Noonan called "the first miracle, the amazing grace that pierced the hearers' hearts" - public statements "that laid out the essence of Christianity, unedited and undiluted."
This "expression of faith and forgiveness took our breath away," said Republican Governor Nikki Haley, leading to Noonan's second miracle - the announcement that the Confederate battle flag that Root had flourished proudly in numerous photographs would no longer be flown in the grounds of the state capitol building.
We know all too well on our little island how contentious flags can be and how they can be objects of hatred and contempt as well as love and pride, and I know good people who revere the Confederate flag for honourable reasons.
Standing beside Republican Senator Tim Scott, Haley addressed the issue sensitively: "For many people in our state, the flag stands for traditions that are noble - traditions of history, of heritage and of ancestry."
But "for many others…the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past."
She emphasised that it could still be flown on private property. Similar reaching out came from Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia.
Obama also used the theme of grace in his moving eulogy to the church's mudered pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who "knew that the path of grace involves an open mind. But more importantly, an open heart.
"It would be wrong to slip into old habits whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong, but bad," he said, "where we shout instead of listen."
That will require a real sea-change in shouty, moralistic, angry, American politics. Right now, intensely divisive issues include race, guns and single-sex marriage.
Obama recently addressed all three issues head-on, grabbing headlines and much tut-tutting when he said in a podcast interview that the United States is not "cured" of racism, which is "not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public". (For those not up to speed on modern etiquette, that's an OK word to use if you're black - but will land you in court if you're white.)
He also advocated new gun laws and attacked the National Rifle Association's "grip" on Congress. When running for President he had expressed his opposition to gay marriage, but as his one-time political strategist David Axelrod recently revealed, he was lying. On Friday hailed the Supreme Court's decision to over-rule the right of states to ban single-sex marriage as a victory for love, and approved the White House being lit up with rainbow-coloured lights.
In his very being Obama is a metropolitan liberal who dislikes the tens of millions of Americans who don't agree with him and now he's demob happy, he's been putting two fingers up to them.
It would be good if during the rest of his presidency he tried to practise some of the lessons of Charleston. One important contribution would be to challenge bullies who want whites to be in a constant state of liberal guilt over race and who denounce any "people of colour" who want to assimilate and have conservative views.
Governor Haley's parents are Sihks from India, Senator Tom Scott is black and Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, who wants to be President, was born to Indian immigrants. For the crime of being Republican assimilationists, all are savaged as Uncle Toms. As Michelle Malkin, a commentator born to immigrants from the Phillipines put it, "the jack-booted Enforcers of Ethnic Authenticity" cannot bear "those of us who dare to succeed in American without relying on tribalist entitlements".
Thomas Sowell, who was born in Harlem, is vilified for suggesting that welfareism and anti-family liberal policies have set back the life chances of black children in America as they have the white underclass in England.
So let's see Obama spreading some love. Just because you don't hyphenate your identity, oppose guns, hail single-sex marriage or vote Democrat doesn't mean you're a bad person.