I’m afraid W.E.B. DuBois missed the two point conversion. The fundamental challenge of the 21st Century is not color but religion. The State of the Union Address is holding auditions during the clash of civilizations. Unless we undertake an expansion of focus we will fail all attempts at reaching a level of understanding and transcendence. Yesterday does not prepare us for tomorrow only today does. The State of the Union address is being presented as we reach the bend in the river of history.
The celebrated Address is presidential storytelling at its best. It’s a contrived narrative to make us every year feel comfortable. The Nation we are told is always doing well. The oatmeal is warm and the toast is crispy. But is the butter melting slowly on the plate? Some stomachs are empty while others are full. The President talks to those citizens still courageous enough to listen. But each year there are fewer believers and more gunslingers on the horizon.
By now we have heard the many stories of America. What we wrestle with today is how to listen. How do we finally sit down and engage in the process of reaching the stranger and our neighbor’s heart. Where is the path to intimacy? Which is more difficult to redistribute, power or love?
It’s sad when a speech becomes another detour. Don’t we know where we must go? There comes a time when we must imagine the weightlessness of freedom and know how fragile it is. It seems each year our hands suffer the scars of amnesia and the deep wounds from the shape of things unknown.
The State of our Union is an answer in progress. It has always been a troubling question for all of us.