The recent passing of Nelson Mandela got me thinking. He was a man of great compassion and understanding and did what was right regardless of who he might alienate. He was the right man to lead South Africa (SA) as its first post apartheid president.
A couple of years ago I saw the movie Invictus which was about Mandela embracing the SA national rugby team (aka Springboks) in 1995, just one year after becoming president. Many people advised him not to do this for the Springboks were a symbol of white SA and all the repression, injustice and murder of the previous centuries.
In 1995 the Rugby World Cup came to SA, and Mandela saw an opportunity for reconciliation, a chance to bring black and white South Africans together, even if only for the duration of a single sporting event. It would be a start. SA won, beating the always strong team from New Zealand in overtime. At the awards ceremony, Mandela walked onto the field wearing a Springbok jersey and handed the world Cup trophy to the SA team captain. He was enthusiastically cheered by the almost 100% white crowd most of whom previously thought him a terrorist. They chanted "Nelson", "Nelson", "Nelson".
In 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. He ran on a platform of Hope and Change. He wanted to change the way politics worked in the USA, change it from the partisan wrangling and head butting to a more civil debate. He extended his hand to Republicans on the economy; he extended a hand to his opponent in 2008, John McCain. In short he was civil, decent, and role modeled the change he hoped to achieve, and of course Republicans did all they could to obstruct his goals and take advantage of his outreach.
So imagine this scenario - In 2009 as another part of his outreach to conservatives, Obama attempts something like Mandela did in 1995. He attends an event where thousands of uber-conservatives, tea partiers, Rush fans and Fox news watchers are gathered. It could be a sporting event or some kind of political convention. President Obama takes the stage or walks onto the field ... what response would he get? Yep, that's what I thought too. (That would be a crescendo of boos just in case you were wondering.)
How sad that a nation with very open racial wounds could, at least for the duration of a sporting event, come together as one nation and embrace a common goal when the USA, a supposed paragon of democracy, equality and fairness cannot, even for a hypothetical moment, as a nation show a modicum of respect for its elected leader.
Yes, it's speculation, but I really can't see it any other way.