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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is America Ready For A Black President?


My first reaction to such a question is, looking back over the last 16 years.....can we afford any more white ones? The political system has become so institutionally corrupt that those who control events in the now smoke-free rooms have no concept of how transparent their hubris is.

For the first time in American history, a man stands forth as a candidate for the presidency who is black. Barack Obama is not exactly a child of privilege, but his success in education and politics puts him firmly in the elite class.

Senator Joe Biden got blasted for commenting on the fact that Senator Obama is "clean, educated, etc." Poor choice of words maybe, but another way of putting it is that Obama is unique in that he is addressing ALL Americans, not just one particular ethnic group. With all due respect, the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton cannot do this without "betraying" their traditional base.

Obama may be that fluke, that rarity that Jackson and Sharpton will tell us happens despite the ingrained racism of American society. Franklin Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were flukes also in that they carried certain convictions about the wealth of a nation being more than Wall Street and its boosters. In fact, FDR was castigated as a "traitor to his class."

Perhaps Obama may be cast as a "traitor to his race" since that is how he is supposed to run for office. Not as an American, but as a victim. But this man is not. He is an inspiration in many ways, and God only knows how his abilities and accomplishments might make his ego swell to planet-sized proportions. We always pray that no matter how far a person goes in life, they maintain a sense of equilibrium.....that they remember where they came from.

This is not an endorsement of Senator Obama. There are some points upon which I am uncomfortable such as immigration policy and gun control. The title of his book, "The Audacity of Hope" bothers me. It seems to me that if in the America we now live the word "hope" can be tied to "audacity" then we've lost something as a people.

Of course, we already feel that way. No matter one's political persuasion, there seems to be much out of kilter in how the nation's business is done. It is way past time for someone to offer the people as a whole something beyond platitudes. Platitudes, by the way, is a fancy way of saying "bald-faced lies."

Be prepared, however, for some racial slandering if Senator Obama attains success in Iowa. It will be subtle, of course, with enough innuendo to protect the slinger from charges of outright racism while at the same time doing just that. And, ironically, the first such use of such tactics will not come from Republicans, but Democrats. I won't say who, but if it takes a village (whatever that means) then said village should not be walled and gated.

Before George W. Bush, I always felt that Lyndon Johnson was the worst president in my lifetime. But he wasn't all bad...I do admire Johnson appealing to a Southern audience in the 60's with a plea for a "real" election, one that wasn't the usual chant of "nigra, nigra, nigra." It brought applause and in truth was a gutsy thing to say. Racism in the South was the most easily discernable in those days, although it wasn't until his march on Marquette Park in Chicago that Martin Luther King got belted with a thrown rock.

Racism exists everywhere, and is such a useful catalyst for the selling of fear and hatred. I grew up in Florida during the Jim Crow days; my parents hated it and were rather radical for their time in refusing to acknowledge the inherent goodness of segregation. It didn't make them many friends, but my Old Man always said that people liking you was nice but respecting you was necessary first.

Agree with Barack Obama or not, try to ignore the clouds of racial chaff that will be thrown into the wind. Even if just for the novelty of the experience, try to judge him by the content of his character.

If any candidate in 2008 appeals to the better Angels of our nature rather than the poisonous veins of suspicion and resentment, then we might actually be getting a little slice of our nation back.

And I don't think it matters a damn what his skin color is.
Cross-posted at Michael Linn

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