I was going to share this yesterday, but I was busy running to the Apple store on 5th Ave to buy an emergency replacement power cord, having been without my computer for almost 12 hours – the torture. And this after I lectured my students about how true creativity required the ability for extended focus, a skill their generation needed to practice – at least while I’m lecturing, haha. Today of course, two heads bowed over their Macbooks, no doubt much better versions than I have.
But back to the point, which is history, and the way its constantly being rewritten (something else I hammer home). Last week’s New York magazine, which I’m reading through now, is devoted to speculation, by 53 historians, on Obama’s legacy. Will history regard him as an FDR or a Kennedy or forget him, or worse, malign him. I think he will be remembered well, and dare I say, as someone who embodies that quality of focus I speak of, which is equally important to achieving goals.
People on the left and right have been so hard on Obama IMHO, and though I understand some of the criticism (Cornell West speaks esp. well to disappointments I also share), I find the expectations baffling and extraordinary. And frankly rather naive. Just what do people think presidents can do given they’re largely figureheads, and that corporations run the government? I mean, maybe I’ve become biased, as I think I’ve acknowledged before, because I’ve grown to like and admire the man a lot. But anyone smart enough to pick a partner like Michelle, and capable enough to remain calm in the face of an 8 year shit storm, all while still getting things done – Obamacare, immigrant rights advances, that eco-agreement with China, to name a few accomplishments worthy of historical record – is worthy of remembrance. And while I loathed most the bailout of the banks, had he not done so, they would’ve dragged this country into another Depression (yes, we got close, and the poor were, as usual, most fucked, but what president could’ve avoided that decision – one in which acting swiftly was key). Maybe I’m naive, but Obama has earned my loyalty. I hope history treats him well. I look forward to hearing him give his State of the Union address tonite.
Regardless, this lost speech by Martin Luther King from 1964, perfectly encapsulates how unreliable history is, and its potential to radically change, when what has been lost or omitted, is redressed or discovered. And as this interesting article also conveys, by discussing MLK’s more radical socialist leanings, which have been repressed to suit another idea of him, even his legacy is open to change. Yes we can.