A striking image from this weekend offers some symbolic hope for Americans troubled by the country’s stark division along ethnic, political, economic, and gender lines.
At the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture yesterday, photographers including Pulitzer-winner David Hume Kennerly captured a warm embrace between first lady Michelle Obama and former president George W. Bush, who first signed the bill to build the museum in 2003.
The photo clearly resonates with a country grappling with its own history of racism and slavery, one that quite literally built the White House we know today. And as the US anticipates a combative first presidential debate…it’s all the more striking to see leaders reaching across the proverbial aisle in a moment of genuine warmth.
After that there are two divergent currents I wish to address. First, the predictable backlash from the overtly racist chunk of America. Pretty good size as we all know. Tweet comments everywhere these photos have appeared automagically fire up the alt/right/racist nutballs. No rational reason to repeat their commentary.
I was surprised – and shouldn’t have been – at the response from sectarian portions of the Left. Including lots of folks who I know would be standing side-by-side with the exploited and oppressed of this nation at any point of confrontation.
I am guilty as any of my comrades, peers in the class struggle, of treating our enemies as cardboard cutouts. Easy to forget that individuals who live and die in service to exploitation and profiteering are individuals, capable of the range of humane feelings about the lives of others that we on the Left sometimes think we own. Not so, my sisters and brothers.
Those feelings are enough to change an individual’s course in life. Witness Ted Olson, a conservative lawyer, represented George W in beating back appeals of the 2000 election — and later led the fight to overturn California’s Prop 8 ban on gay marriage. And even if they don’t change their ways – they are part of the lives of those we battle every waking day.
Perhaps, someday, we’d see George W publicly recant the official Republican line on the lies used to invade Iraq, condemn the scumbags [yes] like Dick Cheney who deserves most of the credit for misleading a whole nation as much as he misled his boss in the Oval Office. Perhaps not.
The photo comes from an important day in American history. Recognize it with as much emotion and feeling as George W Bush and Michelle Obama.