Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sympathy for Jesse Jackson

I've agreed with very little of what Jesse Jackson has said or done the last twenty years. Like the generals of the old bromide, he was fighting the last war- his language and tactics, I thought, being wrong, even counterproductive for this day and age. Like a still-touring 60s rock band, he had become a parody of himself.

Then came the flap over the live-mike, unguarded comments about Barack Obama. I don't need to repeat what he said; everyone has heard it. Heck, there are undiscovered Neolithic peoples in the rain forests of Indonesia who could quote it. It was a Nine Day Wonder, endlessly deconstructed on both TV and radio talk shows. Then came Gaffe Part II, when it was revealed that he had used the "N" word during the diatribe, setting off another round of clucking.

I feel genuine sympathy for Rev. Jackson for the first time in decades. What must he feel when he looks at Obama? Here is proof that he could have been a candidate- perhaps President- if the Democratic Party had ever truly been behind him. He now knows that he had been nothing but a token, a bit of affirmative action to the party, a means to an end- not respected for what he was, but merely for the votes he could deliver. He sees an interloper in his chair, a kid who hasn't been there, hasn't done that; someone who was in diapers while Jesse was putting his life on the line. Someone with great potential replacing someone with great accomplishments.

Isaac Newton said "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." Never before have I wondered what it must have felt like to be one of those giants.

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