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Devil His Due

For all his many faults, Obama still does as good a job as anyone at explaining and communicating important ideas. On the hate crimes law, he makes a helluva lot more sense than the detractors – not just the silliness about “they’re going to round up all the Preachers!” He doesn’t address the libertarian argument against hate crimes laws, but the strength of his explanation makes the libertarian argument sound weak by comparison. Well said – now if he’ll follow through on repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, he’ll have a couple of much needed plus marks in legacy ledger. Partial remarks:

In the most recent year for which we have data, the FBI reported roughly 7,600 hate crimes in this country. Over the past 10 years, there were more than 12,000 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation alone. And we will never know how many incidents were never reported at all.

And that’s why, through this law, we will strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth. We will finally add federal protections against crimes based on gender, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. (Applause.) And prosecutors will have new tools to work with states in order to prosecute to the fullest those who would perpetrate such crimes. Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love. No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.

At root, this isn’t just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people. This is about whether we value one another — whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus. It’s hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead. It’s hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who’d offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died.

But we sense where such cruelty begins: the moment we fail to see in another our common humanity — the very moment when we fail to recognize in a person the same fears and hopes, the same passions and imperfections, the same dreams that we all share.

We have for centuries strived to live up to our founding ideal, of a nation where all are free and equal and able to pursue their own version of happiness. Through conflict and tumult, through the morass of hatred and prejudice, through periods of division and discord we have endured and grown stronger and fairer and freer. And at every turn, we’ve made progress not only by changing laws but by changing hearts, by our willingness to walk in another’s shoes, by our capacity to love and accept even in the face of rage and bigotry.

In April of 1968, just one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, as our nation mourned in grief and shuddered in anger, President Lyndon Johnson signed landmark civil rights legislation. This was the first time we enshrined into law federal protections against crimes motivated by religious or racial hatred — the law on which we build today.

As he signed his name, at a difficult moment for our country, President Johnson said that through this law “the bells of freedom ring out a little louder.” That is the promise of America. Over the sounds of hatred and chaos, over the din of grief and anger, we can still hear those ideals — even when they are faint, even when some would try to drown them out. At our best we seek to make sure those ideals can be heard and felt by Americans everywhere. And that work did not end in 1968. It certainly does not end today. But because of the efforts of the folks in this room — particularly those family members who are standing behind me — we can be proud that that bell rings even louder now and each day grows louder still.

I cribbed those from here.

8 comments to Devil His Due

  • He does have a talent for putting things into a proper (and refreshing) perspective.

  • I got a real kick out of the title.

    But seriously. Obama does do a fantastic job delivering a speech.

    I wonder who writes the bulk of his stuff. Bill Ayers? :-)

  • RW

    Favorite part: “And at every turn, we’ve made progress not only by changing laws but by changing hearts…”

    Made while changing law. Truth to power while making liberals feel better about themselves…..awesome!

  • RW

    Don’t want to seem too negative, so I’ll salute the Prez for signing a bill that, this time, does NOT cost a trillion dollars. So, we’re heading in the right direction.

  • I learned not to worry too much about money during the last administration. A trillion here and a trillion there. Meh.

    The folks I take less seriously than any other folks on the planet are conservatives who are suddenly so concerned about money.

    As I told one of ‘em this morning, I wish I made so much money that I had to pay one million dollars per year in taxes.

  • I learned not to worry too much about money

    Teach me!!!!!!

  • RW

    The folks I take less seriously than any other folks on the planet are conservatives who are suddenly so concerned about money.

    Interesting, I don’t take people who thought Bush didn’t spend enough (I’m talking specifically to all you Obama voters) very seriously, nor do I take people who were outraged at Bush’s sending but not-so-much about Obama’s proposals seriously. So, I figure that means there are about seventeen people on the planet that are taken seriously. :)

    I wish I made so much money that I had to pay one million dollars per year in taxes.
    An old Steve Martin bit from my youth: “I can teach you how to make one million dollars and never pay taxes! Okay, first, get a million dollars…”

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