There aren’t many words. I am an optimist, which means I’m disappointed a lot. But hearing the words, “I, Barack Hussein Obama, do solemnly swear that I will execute the office of President of the United States faithfully, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. So help me, God,” sent a shiver through my being that made my ancestors rejoice. It was “a new breath of freedom” to borrow a phrase.
There has been so much done wrong in my lifetime, there have been so many times that I left the work of changing the world, or making the world a better place, of putting myself on the line for something (or someone) that I believe in, that listening to the echoes of President Obama’s oath of office simply affirmed what I have said before and known in my head, but not in my heart – the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Or, as President Obama has put it, “the road may be long, but we will get there.”
Cross posted at reynaldomacias on January 20, 2009.
Eric Holder, the Attorney General-designate of the Obama Administration is drawing a lot of fire from Republicans. They are trying to bluff and bluster, in order not to appear patsies to the mandate of the President-elect and the Democratic majority in Congress. One of the “issues” they are going to try to get him on is his role in the Elian Gonzalez case.
Elian Gonzalez was a young Cuban boy who left Cuba with his mother in a boat trying to escape Fidel Castro’s regime. His mother, though, died on the journey, and he was picked up by the US Coast Guard, and brought to his mother’s family in Florida. When all this came to light, his father, still in Cuba, asked that he be returned. After months of very public grandstanding and pleas from entertainment and political figures, the US government raided his mother’s family’s home, and pulled the crying youngster from his mother’s family at gunpoint. The Senate Republicans want to know “exactly what Mr. Holder’s role in the affair was in his capacity as the Assistant Attorney General.”
I firmly believed then, as I do now, that Elian should have been returned to his father without any qualms, and that the United States government should not have been beholden to a group of wealthy ex-patriots who were trying to prove a political point instead of worrying about what was best for Elian. That being said, I began to wonder what else I would have blogged about, had blogging been around at the time.
Here’s my list:
1. The fall of apartheid in South Africa
2. The Tienamen Square Uprisings and suppression
3. The Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984
4. The election of Bill Clinton (my first presidential election as a voter)
5. The persecution of President Clinton
6. The real reason he should have been impeached
7. Tupac, Biggie and the real meaning of assassination
At this point, blogging was around, but I wasn’t doing it!
8. Bush v. Gore and the Supreme Court
10. The invasion of Iraq
11. John Kerry and John Edwards? Seriously?
12. The recall of Gray Davis in California
13. Barack Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention
14. Rodney King, OJ Simpson and Reginald Denny
This list was just off the top of my head, and I was staying in the frame of time I have been walking the earth and aware of the outside world. Otherwise, I would have blogged about Jefferson and Hemmings, Frederick Douglass, Lincoln’s “Show me the spot!” speech, and Plessy v. Ferguson, too.
Since you’re here, what would you have blogged about?
Roland Burris is now the junior Senator from the state of Illinois. For better or for worse, that’s what the Illinois Supreme Court and House of Representatives and Governor (and former junior Senator) have orchestrated in the last few weeks since the CHANGE was made real. That’s not what this post is about, though.
In the jim crow era, segregation was the law of the land in the south, and the law of life in the north. Black people and white people did not congregate in the same locations, with few exceptions. And poll taxes, literacy tests, and other impediments were used to insure that the franchise was exclusive property. The problem with this as a democratic political entity, though, is that it meant there were no black people in the halls of Congress, on the Supreme Court, or in the White House (unless they were serving dinner, or driving carriages).
In the last two weeks, we’ve seen the only black Senator resign his seat, to be filled with the only black Senator currently in the United States Senate. That’s one percent. That percentage indicates failure to me, both on the part of the dominant community, and on black folk.
Much is taken for granted in the MSM – that because President-elect Obama is black, systemic racism has been eradicated. This is an absolute falsehood. And despite Congressman Rush’s inappropriate language and assertions when Senator Burris was appointed, the nerves that he was dancing on were still raw because the underlying question is valid:
Are black folk still at the back of the bus?
My great grandmother was the daughter of a slave. My maternal grandparents were born in the segregated South before the Great Depression (the first one, that is.) My mother and father found each other while watching people their own age be beaten, murdered, lynched, sprayed, and while they were putting themselves in harm’s way for justice’s sake. I do take much for granted, that I can do whatever I want to do in this country and this world, regardless of the color of my skin. My children will be even more free, watching a black man take the oath of office before they hit the third and fourth grades.
But what of the young man “accidentally” shot by an Oakland police officer ringing in the new year? Update: The police officer has been charged with murder. What of the staggering number of black and brown youth failing out, dropping out, being pushed out of schools – from elementary through secondary and at the university level? Why is the struggle to find positive black role models off the field of play so difficult? Why do black people with an education lack authenticity in the public perception? Why is learning considered acting white?
And before the critics and the naysayers begin to howl, riddle me this, Batman – why was there considerable conversation, inside the black community with chagrin and outside the black community with relief, that Barack wasn’t “really black” or “black enough”?
Because we are still at the back of the bus.
We are voluntarily paying our fare, getting off, and reentering through the back door. For the second generation of integrated education, we have fallen off considerably. And there is a growing divide between the talented tenth and the rest. Ernest Green succeeded because he had to deal with the reality of Central High School. His education was valuable to him. As it was and is to Cornel West, Michael Eric Dyson, Colin Powell,Condoleeza Rice, Susan Rice and a host of others who grew up without the guarantee or assumption that they were going to be given anything for free, let alone an education.
This partial observation (there are many threads leading in and out of this train of thought) evokes a variety of questions, but chief among them are two: Who is responsible for this status? What can we do about it?
Different people are asking these questions in different ways in light of President-elect Obama’s victory in November, and his impending inauguration eleven days from now. And other communities are asking the question for themselves as well. Arianna Huffington asked it a few days ago on the HuffPost. Bill Cosby will be on Meet the Press Sunday morning asking it. And more than a few of us are asking it, answering it, and sharing our answers with the world.
I started this post with an observation that there is only one black Senator in a group of one hundred elected Senators representing the United States of America. That’s one percent. Literally. Since more than one out of every hundred people is black in this country, I think there’s a problem with that, both on the country’s part, and on black folk. The question is:
When are we going to move to the front of the bus?
As much as I don’t like president bush, his presence at the exit door is a testament to the greatness of the United States’ Constitution, and by extension the successful experiment in democracy that our country exemplifies. Since its inception, the framework for our government has facilitated the bloodless transfer of power between unrelated individuals. While this is a more commonplace occurrence at the beginning of the twenty-first century than it was at the beginning of the nineteenth, looking around the world it is important to realize that this is a rather impressive accomplishment.
Forty-three times this transfer has occurred (the transfer of power itself, though in some cases it was precipitated by violence). And while we have been growling, griping, snarling, snapping and screaming for CHANGE, this is one aspect of government that I’m glad remains the same.
Crispus Attucks was told, as he stood at the front of a crowd of unruly citizens harassing British soldiers in Boston Massachusetts, “this ain’t none of your affair.” When the soldiers opened fire, he was the first to die. Barack Obama, as President-elect of the United States of America, while dealing with Israel’s current air strikes against Hamas, is also being told, in musical verse, that he’s “a magic negro.”
Over the course of two hundred nineteen years, many gains have been made in terms of granting full equality to all citizens of the United States. Black folk have attained the right to vote. Women have attained the right to vote. Segregation by race is no longer legal. Japanese American citizens can live wherever they want. People from China are allowed to immigrate to the United States. Slavery has been outlawed. That none of these issues should really have been contested is moot. But the marginalization of numerical minority groups is rooted in the American landscape as surely as the ideals we aspire to. And full equality has yet to be achieved in some areas still.
So while I celebrate President-elect Barack Hussein Obama’s rise to the highest office in the land, I am also cognizant that Jim Clark’s spirit is alive and well today. I am cognizant that I had to send my young black, Chicano, Chilean children to school on November 5th armed against their second and third grade classmates’ “innocent ignorance” when they commented that “Obama won just because he’s black.” I am cognizant that Rush Limbaugh (who said Colin Powell’s endorsement of Barack Obama was “all about race”), Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and their ilk and followers who may or may not believe that black people are inferior use their rhetoric and their megaphones to continue the oppressive racism of Andrew Jackson and John Wilkes Booth, of George Wallace and Strom Thurmond. Kanye West’s statement that “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People,” in the wake of the President’s inaction when the levies broke, and my brother the teacher’s latest experience of being pulled over by the police after the officer watched three other (white) drivers make the same left turn, and the assassination plots and attempts constantly monitored against this President-elect remind me that much as things CHANGE, the more they stay the same.
Crispus Attucks was the first man to die in the struggle for American independence. The paradoxical nature of an enslaved/escaped black man dying for the freedom and creation of a country in which he was considered less than human by the legal framework that defined it should be lost on no one. The same way that the poetic justice of a man whose father was a black Kenyan and whose mother was a white Kansan, who is African American by nationality as well as visage and life experience being elected to lead that same country should be lost on no one.
In speaking with my sister-in-law and her parents on Christmas Eve, I asked, “do you realize what it means, to have him elected to be President of these United States?” Forty years ago, black people were being killed for wanting to register to vote. Forty years ago, one man was shot for encouraging black people to dream of equality. Forty years ago, Barack Obama was seven years old.
As we look forward to the changes President Obama will enact both inside and outside of our country, it is important that we take a look back as well to understand the moment that we are standing in, the moments others have worked for, and the legacy that we are heirs to and guardians of for the next generation.
Happy New Year!
President-elect Obama’s candidacy and campaign moved me. I’ve been inspired to write, donate, cajole, inform, argue and call because it is apparent that our country is in need of a change, and the only way to do that is to stop leaving the work to others, whether they are Barack Obama or Rod Blagoyevich, and start doing some of the heavy lifting myself. I have even had some acquaintances ask me when I was going to run for office, which I summarily brushed off and kept writing and working to get President-elect Obama elected.
Then I got an email from the chair of the Democratic Party in California that forced me to evaluate how much mouth I have to answer for:
In 2008 California grassroots activists changed the nation! California Democrats from up and down the state volunteered their time, made phone calls, donated money, and knocked on doors in California and across the county as part of our largest grassroots effort ever.
The California Democratic Party’s Assembly District Election Meetings will be held on January 10th & 11th, 2009. At these meetings, registered Democrats will elect 12 delegates from each Assembly District to be members of the California Democratic Party State Central Committee.
Now is your opportunity to help direct the future of Democrats in California! Delegates approve the platform of the Party, elect Party officers and endorse candidates for congress, state legislature, and executive office.
The question is, do I take the next step? While I was encouraged to run as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention this year, do I start working in the machinery of government? Is being a delegate to the party convention over the next couple of years a way to start working on fixing public education in California, cutting the horrendous waste in our state budget which has the Democratic representatives trying to raise taxes by calling the fees and the Republicans fighting them without offering solutions?
It’s easy to stay out of the fray, reading and offering analyses. I’m not as silly as Rick Warren to say that bloggers don’t serve a purpose, though. I think that we are, to paraphrase the Huffpost’s new book, “transforming the way that news and information are disseminated and ingested, how stories are determined and presented, and what is really going on!” And there’s no guarantee that I’ll stop blogging if I run . . .
Do I have the guts to put my money where my mouth is?
Barack Obama was the perfect candidate to win the 2008 election. But apparently, he’s not the same person we all voted for, because every time he opens his mouth, people are jumping on his back. It seems that although he’s appointed one of the most diverse cabinets in history, he’s making everyone angry. He started with the Republicans, because he slapped their hopes of victory into twenty-twelve with his landslide victory, and now he’s not being inclusive enough to appoint more than one or two to his cabinet. Then it was Latinos, who said that Bill Richardson wasn’t getting a fair shake, and there weren’t enough Spanish-speakers at the table in the first three appointments. Then it was the Gay and Lesbian community, with Rick Warren. Now it’s women. From Campbell Brown to NOW, he’s either not being forthcoming enough, or else he hasn’t done any better in appointing his cabinet than George Bush. And apparently, black lawmakers aren’t happy with him, either.
While I am disappointed that Rick Warren is getting such a prominent symbolic role in the inaugural festivities, I’ve already said that I trust the President-elect to do what needs to be done. And a friend of mine linked me to an article that tried to talk me down by pointing out Rev. Joseph Lowery’s role as a counterpoint to Warren. A couple of the comments struck me:
Has anyone noticed (3.50 / 4)
that Barack Obama does things that cause people to howl in protest, yet he does not respond. Then he completes the project, turns to his accusers and says “What is it you were upset about?”
It is his style. He did it during the debates – remember how we howled for him to land a knock-out punch, but he went deliberately along and won his own race, thank you very much?
This is more of the same. My gut says that this guy thinks and behaves longer-term than either the press or the American people are accustomed to. We respond/react instantaneously to each piece of the plan instead of waiting to see the whole plan and judging that.
Just my second-cup-of-coffee thoughts this morning.
you may be right (3.33 / 3)
I’m being forced to confront my own fantasies that he would do every single thing I would wish could happen… some kinda superman. There is absolutely no way he can make everyone happy. The Warren choice infuriates me (so does choosing Vilsack), while other choices delight me, and some are just blah.
I do feel it is literally impossible for a U.S. President to please anyone 100 percent of the time.
And it doesn’t matter your political persuasion – Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Independent, liberal, conservative, male, female, black, white, brown, mixed-up – President-elect Obama is not going to do everything that you or I want him to do. But he is going to do what is best for the United States, and he is going to do his best to help out the citizens of this country. So let’s all cut him some slack. The whining on the nightly news is getting old.
Every morning, my son and daughter watch the polling in the battleground states like the fourth quarter of a Lakers game. They cheer when the numbers show Barack Obama leading, and they boo when they don’t. I also got an email from my wife’s cousin recently, saying that my niece is having a little trouble defending her support of Obama, because she doesn’t have “the facts.” So I took it upon myself to write a little primer, for my children and yours, that outlines the election. It’s paraphrased from the LA Times elucidation of the issues last week:
In exactly seven days, the citizens of the United States of America – at least, those over eighteen years of age who haven’t been convicted of a major crime – will exercise their constitutional rights, voting about different laws, and different people who want to do different jobs in the government.
The one election that gets the most attention is the contest for President of the United States, and the people who are running to be Vice-President, too. Right now, there are six people on the ballot who can be elected President. They are:
1. Bob Barr. His vice president is Wayne Root.
2. John McCain. His vice president is Sarah Palin.
3. Cynthia McKinney. Her vice president is Rosa Clemente.
4. Alan Keyes. His vice president is Wiley Drake.
5. Ralph Nader. His vice president is Matt Gonzalez.
6. Barack Obama. His vice president is Joe Biden.
All of these men and women meet the requirements for the job of President of the United States. They are all 35 years old. They were all born citizens of the United States, and they have all lived in the United States for the last fourteen years.
Some kids may get the opportunity to go with your parents when they cast their vote. Some may not. It is important to know what the candidates for office believe, and where they stand on some of the issues. Unfortunately, only two of the candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain are known by enough people to get enough votes to become President. Here is where they stand on some of the issues:
a. Senator McCain – wants to keep and make tax cuts that would mainly help rich families and corporations, and wants to freeze government spending
b. Senator Obama – wants to cut taxes for middle class and working class families, and raise taxes on rich families and corporations.
a. Senator McCain – wants to give more money to pre-preschools and to preschools who have healthcare for kids, wants to allow families to choose schools by giving them vouchers for private schools, doesn’t have plans to help students with college
b. Senator Obama – wants to put $18 billion toward preschools and to paying good teachers more, wants to offer scholarships to college students who agree to teach in bad schools for two or four years, wants to give $4000 for college students who do 100 hours of community service
a. Senator McCain – voted to invade Iraq in 2002, a country that did not attack the United States, was a major supporter of troop increase, opposes any timeline for withdrawal, wants some more troops in Afghanistan
b. Senator Obama – opposed invasion from beginning and opposed troop increase, would withdraw troops from Iraq in 16 months (after election), would transfer 7000 troops from Iraq to Afghanistan
a. Senator McCain – supports more drilling in the ocean for oil, wants to build nuclear reactors, and wants to cut taxes for car companies that build “zero greenhouse gas” cars which are good for the environment
b. Senator Obama – doesn’t really want more drilling in the ocean for oil because it hurts the animals, wants to cut taxes for wind and solar energy companies, and wants to cut taxes for people who drive hybrid cars
These are just a few of the issues that voters have to think about before they go vote next Tuesday.
Just one thing, though. Between now and next week, there’s going to be a lot of conversation about the election. But, no matter who you end up supporting, everyone is trying to do what they think is best. And just because someone chooses the other candidate doesn’t make them a bad person. So, think before you speak – is it true? is it nice? is it helpful? It’s okay to disagree. It’s not okay to be disagreeable.