President Obama

It could happen. I don’t know whether it actually will, but the important thing right now- today- is that the real possibility to have an African-American president of the United States does exist.

We’ve come part of the way, baby.

The candidacy of Barack Obama has already affected some very important changes in our American collective consciousness (it seems to me). And changes in consciousness always grow. Once doors open in our individual and communal awareness, they never close- they only open wider over time. That is true in both our evolution as a human species and within our national consciousness.

To be sure, changes in consciousness are always accompanied by cultural, religious, and political reactions to those changes. Just as fundamentalism within Islam is growing in reaction to the larger international movements for democracy and equal rights, so are we seeing evidence of some fundamentalist reactions against the idea of a black person being president here in the United States. We’ve all overheard comments the like of which have not been heard openly in many years: “I don’t believe we’re ready for a black man to be president” and “If he gets in, the n—–s will be lined up in front of the White House with their hands out.” (I heard both of those at our local Democratic precinct caucus in March.)

But we’ve also seen those sentiments expressed in voting demographics and heard them through various disguised comments from the other Democratic candidate and that candidate’s family. And as ugly as those realities are, that they are being expressed- that Obama’s candidacy is causing them to be expressed- is a good thing. Here’s why:

When Light shines on darkness, Light always wins. A good way to get rid of mold, is to expose it to sunshine.

Overt racism has lain dormant in America for several decades. Actually, “dormant” is a misleading word- lethally hidden would be a better description of it’s state of being.  That Obama has been a catalyst for its being expressed more openly has been a good thing. Racism is being acknowledged and talked about honestly today in ways that will eventually spread to local morning gatherings for coffee  and to corporate boards of directors.

And, also eventually, that consciousness-raising kind of talk will move from heads to hearts. That’s how awareness works: it always makes things better than they were. To be sure, there will be reactive and ugly bumps along the way. But the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings among us are driving road graders that are leveling out the ditchy and pot-holey messes us older folks have been benignly and denyingly walking around for far too long.

No matter what else is happening, in other words, hope is happening.

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Truth- Obama, Rev.Wright, and Fox News

 

Truth.

It’s nebulous, for sure. And so easily manipulated for the 30-second sound bite crowd by the peddlers of fear.

Watch the whole sermon by Rev. Jeremiah Wright- especially beginning at 3:00, ending at 6:24. He’s reading an opinion by a white former Ambassador- Ambassador Edward Peck– made days after 9/11/01. Fox News (surprise!) did not choose to reveal those parameter’s in its presentation of “what Sen. Obama’s pastor believes and what Obama himself must, therefore, slavishly believe as well.”

Truth.

Listen to whole sermon, and see if you can’t hear a lot of it.

Ready for a little more now? Try this next one. If you choose to miss what Rev. Wright is saying here, go back to Sean Hannity on Fox News, he’ll tell you what you want to know.

But if your ears are open, even if you disagree with what he says about George W. Bush (and you might, that’s OK),  you’ll hear a perspective on the Bible that we must all hear.

America’s Open Wound

For those with open ears, open eyes, and open hearts, the bleeding wounds of racism in America are evident everyday- every hour and every minute for many. It is a complex, jagged, and deep wound which, because of neglect or intentional denial, has spread throughout the entire body of our country, and has been bending us for so long that few of us recognize the extent of deformation it has caused not only in our corporate body and mind, but within our American soul.

I am racist. I say that in the same way that I am honest about the fact that I have arthritis, or that I want- at some point everyday- to salve my ravenous emotions with the balm of Jim Beam. Those are just facts, realities about myself with which I must live and compensate for with the best of my awareness and abilities. I don’t know specifically where and when arthritis first began to grip my spine; nor do I know when the diseased defaults to racist attitudes began that I still am so easily able to display from time to time. Both of those things (along with the continuing desire- after fifteen years of abstinence- for an alcoholic fog to soften the day) are infestations I had no control over at the time they entered my being.

I’ve managed all of them, to an extent. I intentionally do not not drink and do what I can, with others, to keep Jim Beam and his sidekick, Bud, at bay. I swallow pills daily to keep my over-active anti-inflammatory systems in check. Racism, however, is probably the most difficult infection to deal with because of the daily reinforcements and affirmations that pour onto it, like gasoline on a fire. It flares at times, it sizzles often, and is always a (usually benign) ember that burns within me.

I don’t want it to be there. It is much, much smaller than it once was. And if I try to justify its presence based on a comparison of it to the hot coal which burns in others then, indeed, it was never very large. But it is there, and I hate that it is there. I want it gone.

I know the hope for its complete eradication is still generations away, for myself (i.e., my children and their children) and my country. I am not able to say I will die one day with nothing but a cold ash of racism within me. But I do hope, and will act on the possibilities of seeing that hope manifested as soon as possible in all the ways I can, whenever I can, wherever and however I can. My children are already less burdened (not only because of me, by any means!) of my various afflictions than I will ever be, thank God.

And I do thank God for that, and a whole long and glorious line of my fellow Americans who have been courageous enough to reveal the wounds of racism to be no mere reality which are harmful to some, but that are crippling, festering, killing wounds that are endemic to all of us. The blessing of being 58 years old in America is to have been alive in the same place, breathing the same air, as some of these past and present healers.

Two of them, of course, as they have been, are, and will be for so many Americans (and wounded people everywhere) are Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. In fact, the first piece of American literature that I would recommend to anyone- even above The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Grapes of Wrath– is King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Soon after that, I would urge anyone to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley. Many people my age or older will remember Malcolm X in the fiery contexts of the early 60s, a time of frightening cultural change. Read him again, in the light of the forty years of history we have lived through since his death, and you will find yourself mourning his murder.

As of yesterday- and, yes, it is the reason I’m writing all of this in the first place- we heard a a speech by Senator Obama that may one day find itself in the same heady categories as the two pieces of literature mentioned above. Because of his unique cultural stance, he was able to elaborate on racism in America in a way that no one before him has personally been able to do. In black and white, African and American terms, his genetic voice and his intellectual honesty and wisdom have provided content for years of discussion and action and- most importantly- real social and soulful change. Whether a person is a supporter of his candidacy for president or not, this speech deserves to be read, studied, and pondered. In fact, I would urge those who are most opposed to that candidacy to read it most contemplatively.

And I say that not because it might change your vote, but because it might change you. I’ve overheard too many conversations about why someone is a Clinton or McCain supporter to not also have heard heart-breakingly racist statements being made in the guise of political or ideological language. Not all of those supportive statements for other candidates are racist, by any means, but enough are for anyone to know, if their eyes, ears, and hearts are open, that the blood and pus of racist wounds are still running fresh.

Read Senator Obama’s speech here.