Monday, January 21, 2013

President Obama--Who would Have Believed it?

“On the morning of February 12, A Sunday, the granny woman was at the cabin. And she and Tom Lincoln and the moaning Nancy Hanks welcomed into the world of battle and blood, of whispering dreams and wistful dust, a new child, a boy...’What you  goin’ to name him, Nancy?’ a little boy asked. ‘Abraham,’ was the answer, ‘after his grandfather.’”

“Whatever the particulars, the definite event on that 12th of February, 1809, was the birth of a boy they named Abraham after his grandfather who had been killed by Indians—born in silence and pain from a wilderness mother on  a bed of perhaps cornhusks and perhaps hen feathers—with perhaps a laughing child prophecy later that he would ‘never amount to much.’”
      --Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln

“ 7:24 on the evening of August 4 at Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Stanley Ann Durham Obama gave birth to a baby boy....a mixed-race complexion of Ann Obama’s baby, who was not illegitimate, if any baby could be called such, his parents having married six months before his birth. Barack Hussain Obama ...”
       --David Maraniss, Barack Obama

Who could have believed that on Monday, January 21, 2013 on the day we celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. that some 800,000 people would have gathered to participate in the Presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. A black man, born to a Caucasian mother and a Kenyan father who already had another wife in Kenya. A boy who would be raised, without father or mother, by his white grandparents in Hawaii.

There was a lump in my throat all through today’s moving ceremony. I looked at the faces of America. All colors. People from around the world. A gay poet. A Jewish minister. A rock star. The widow of a civil rights’ worker murdered in Mississippi. Republicans and Democrats and independents. Old and young. Rich and poor and the not-so-rich. People hungry and some desperate for work. Supreme Court Justices--some gritting their teeth. Widows whose husbands died somewhere  in Iraq or Afghanistan.Some Congressional leaders wishing they were anywhere else.  As the President intoned again and again as if a litany: “We the People...We the people...We the people."

What we need now in this country is togetherness and the one-ness that the poet just hours ago longed for. We have enormous issues in America. We celebrate the ending of two wars really. We celebrate a President who had the courage to say gay people were first class citizens. A President who, for the first time in our history, has given us health care for all. A President much beloved all over the world. A President who led the charge on Osama bin Laden. A President who is such a good model not only for black families but for any family. A president who has weathered terrible hatred and lies and opposition determined that this black man in our white house would do nothing of consequence.

I took the picture at the top of this page in Philadelphia in a row house of a very mixed neighborhood. I never saw the tenants. But they probably were black. And they wanted all who passed by to know that they had a President they believed in and a President who they prayed would have a second term.

Who would have believed it? Unfortunately racism still runs like a river through every town in this country. And yet we are slowly, ever so slowly getting there. It took us a long time to begin to get over slavery. Let us hope that it will not take us that long to begin to realize that that the richness and diversity of this country is here to stay.

Who would have believed it? And yet it is true. God bless America--God knows, even more than we, how much we need it.


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