"Race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now."
        -- Senator Barack Obama
Wow.

I just heard* the speech Obama gave this morning in Philadelphia, and I have to say... I am really impressed.

He tackled race head on, in a way that I have heard no other politician do before: Black anger. White anger. Racism. Racism on all sides. The legacy of slavery and discrimination. The perils of affirmative action and political correctness. The sermons of Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The comments of Geraldine Ferraro. He even acknowledged white liberal guilt. It was incredibly refreshing to hear these issues talked about honestly and directly by a politician, without flinching or dancing around the issues... and in a way that stressed the unity of our country.

He took the high road all the way through, acknowledging all sides in our country's polarized racial makeup, but approaching all points of view with respect (though not always agreement).

And then he goes on to bring all the sides of the racial divides together, past cynicism, past old hurts, in common cause. To fight injustice, and help America become the "more perfect union" our forebears worked to bring about. A brilliant piece of speechcrafting.

I have to say it is clear to me that Obama, standing with one foot in the black world, and one foot in the white world, is uniquely placed to bridge that gap between black and white, to reach out to both Americas. This speech felt like a balm on an old wound.

He also took on the Iraq War, health care, outsourced jobs, and greedy corporations -- all issues aimed to appeal to the working and middle classes. Obama is clearly a gifted politico. The only part of the wide-ranging speech I disagreed with is his unequivocal and uncritical support Israel... but like the speech said, you don't have to agree with everything someone says to hold them in high regard.

This speech is truly a masterpiece. I had a sense of listening to history when I heard it.

He just raised the bar on political discourse in this campaign. Instead of spinning and equivocating and attacking, as other candidates have been known to do, he approached a difficult subject with poise and respect.

If he wins the nomination, he has my vote. I'll come home to the Democrats for him.

* I "heard" it courtesy of the International Herald Tribune's synthesized voice reader of the full text of the speech. Such an awesome free service IHT offers on its articles -- you should try it. I can't wait to hear the speech in Obama's own voice.
I will be accused of being anti-semitic for writing this (I'm not, I'm anti-zionist, there's a difference), and maybe even someday lined up against a wall and shot for it when the Christian Reich takes over the U.S., but I agree with Bishop Desmond Tutu: Israel is a state founded on racism and apartheid. If anyone has the right to call it Apartheid, Tutu does.

Any state that exists to promote one religion or race over another is wrong. Period. And until Israelis give up this notion of a "Jewish state" and seek a one-state solution, where every citizen is treated equally, with respect, there will never be peace. After all, the Israelis stole the land from the Palestinians (the same way the Americans stole this land from the Native Americans).

My prescription for peace in the Middle East is this: The Israelis must a) stop stealing the Palestinians' land, b) make reparations to the Palestinians for what they have stolen, and c) stop pretending that a make-believe sky-being called "god" gives them the right to be racists and theives. The Palestinians must a) stop the suicide violence, b) adopt a non-violent approach to the Israeli oppression, a la Gandhi, and c) stop pretending that a make-believe sky-being called "allah" gives them the right to be racists and murderers.

Enough is enough. The United States needs to stop supporting Israeli Apartheid.

And it's not anti-Jewish to say so.
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