"No, I didn't see the speech. What did he say?"
"It was exhilarating. I'm still tingling."
"What did he say?"
"He was in rare form. Dignity. Poise. Handsome."
"Nonsense. He looks like Stan Laurel's mulatto love child. What did he say?"
"His inflection, his tempo. Just perfect."
"What did he say?"
"His is a rare eloquence. He struck just the right note of conciliation while still expressing the anger of black America without all the, without all the anger."
"There's a neat trick. But I thought he was addressing some controversy or other."
"Yeah, the Clintons played the race card. Just reprehensible. I'm sickened."
"What's this? The same Hillary the Great as you've characterized her BO?"
"Before Obama. Everything changes AO. It's a whole new paradigm. An exciting time."
"Yes, it's amazing how much of an impact he's had already. To think that some would deny him the presidency! I swear, if we fail to elect this man for the first time in my life I will be truly ashamed of my country."
"I was being facetious."
"I know. He's already bringing us together."
"What I meant was--hey, Alex, you work here too? Set me up."
"You're right; the pastor's remarks were taken entirely out of context..."
"Did I say--yes, one must place 'God damn America' in its proper context. Wide margin of nuance."
"Besides, it's not like he has to answer--"
"For the religious/political philosophy of his stated 'spiritual mentor' and key player in his rise?"
"For twenty years of resentful racial separatist demagogy, every Sunday? What Barack condescendingly attributes to those 'raucous' negro church services?
"Exactly! It's all guilt by association."
"Yes, mentoring is such a tenuous association. Especially for a politician."
"You said it! Alex, get this guy another."
"Thanks, but I was being--"
Barack addresses these questions from a whole new perspective."
"What's the persepctive?"
"I mean, this guy understands race as and you and I simply cannot."
"Why is that exactly? I mean he's had neither the typical white nor typical black American experience. That's fine, but why is it this alone constitutes insight? If his history is so unique isn't also true that he doesn't quite share the experience of most Americans, black or white? I mean, why is it necessarily a positive? Because he says so in a hundred equally meaningless ways? Is this insight a genetic birthright? Because after the perfunctory bragging about his mixed parentage, all I hear are platitudes."
"Yes, yes. That's what I'm saying. He understands."
"I see. 'I have understood you, America.' What exactly is his understanding?"
" Exactly. Barack understands. It's a rare thing among politicians."
"Are you fu--? What the hell does he understand? Why can't I hear it like everybody else? Where is this understanding everyone keeps talking about? What's wrong with me?"
"You see, as a black man he's experienced first-hand the oppression of his white ancestors. It's a very unique perspective."
"Yes. Imagine an indulgently guilty white liberal getting to actually be black. It must be exquisite. Continual bliss. To be able to resolve this angst in its glorious reversal, to indulge in the romance of oppression not as an outsider but as its subject--as both, in supreme sanctimony, over and over! But it is kind of weird when his white half condescends toward his black half. I think if it was me I'd call it a wash and get on with business. But I'm not the ambitious sort.
"None of that for Barack; no grace, no generosity. No leaving anything on the table. Just a meticulous, thorough wringing out of any and all possible political advantage from this circumstance--and then some. He lays claim to all he surveys. He claims a unique perspective on all human suffering with those artlessly exhaustive rhetorical sweeps of his, those godawful geography name-checks. It's a kind of greed. 'From the family crossing the Rio Grande to the Hillbillies in Appalachia', he's feeling you. Something to go with his response to the Wright controversy which, if I'm reading him correctly, is 'if it offends, I condemn'; call it 'if you're sore, I'm you're recourse.' If you've got a claim on the collective guilt of white America, Barack Obama is your man. Barack wants his cut. Isn't it a little presumptuous of this guy that he thinks he can coopt the very idea of collective guilt and lord it over the nation?"
"Yes. He's already overcome so much."
"He shall overcome."
"Exactly! I mean, here is a guy who's taken the pain of being a black man in America, all that pain and suffering, he's made that sacrifice."
"Can I use that?"
"Oh. By all means. But what pain? What suffering?"
"Duh. He's bla-ack."
"Hey, now you're talking. And white--don't forget! He's half-white!"
"Now you see! And white. He's had to endure the oppression and daily humiliation of the black American, while carrying on his shoulders the tremendous guilt of white America. These are the yin and yang of the American racial dynamic. And he contains them entirely within himself."
"But it seems he gets all the credit for the suffering and none of the guilt for it. They're not equal at all."
"Of course not. You're backsliding now. The suffering is the thing. Dude, it's in Hamlet. You see, because the guilt is complicity in the suffering, for someone on the receiving end of the suffering, because for him it must be borne, the white guilt is just more suffering!"
"My head hurts. But the guilt is conceptual. It's not really suffering."
"No; it's the most purifying suffering there is, because it's conceptual. Because it takes place entirely within, uncompromised by physical reality, it has no bounds. This is not the suffering of the body! This is the suffering of the soul. You and I simply aren't capable of this level of it. You say he's 'ambitious.' This is precisely why it is he and why it is now. He has made that journey, from white to black. He's mounting that cross gladly. His is the suffering of the nation."
"I get it. He is us."
"Exactly. You're almost there."
"Where, damn it, where?"
"To the mountaintop, finally. Barack Obama is the ultimate gesture, the act of penitence, the laying down of arms, the ritual abasement, the apology, all embodied in one man. Imagine that guilt-free future. Can you see it? The mountaintop. This man alone is uniquely positioned to simultaneously absolve white shame and restore the dignity of black America. And it has to be embodied in one man, one, yes, Christ-like figure who contains multitudes within and is endowed with the transcendence of celebrity. He is us, yes! And we owe it to ourselves. But he can't do it if for us if we don't raise him up to the heights from which he will need to operate. No one will now doubt the word of America. But we must act; we must make that gesture. One cannot stand by when he's called upon to atone for the greatest sin, the original sin, of his nation."
"Hallelujah! I see! How could I have been so blind? Thanks Alex, but I won't be having that drink after all. I've found religion."