Historic inauguration

inauguration.jpgI was fortunate enough to attend the inauguration along with my grandson and one of my daughters.

It truly was an uplifting event and one I am even more gratified I was able to share with my grandson.

 

Enough!

My heart has been so full that words have failed me, which is saying quite a lot for someone known to be quite opinionated.  It has in fact, taken me this long to get my thoughts together, to the point where I can attempt to write something coherent.  The week has been surreal, spiritual, inspirational and overwhelming, as I have absorbed the enormity of Barack Obama sweeping into office on the hopes, prayers and collective exhale of a people who refused to be denied for one more day. 

 

One could almost hear the crackling and crumbling of some old long established social edifices, carefully constructed over the past 8 years and designed to rob people of their dignity.  For 8 years we cautiously challenged, questioned and voiced discontent under our breath, for fear of being spied on, vilified, rendered or labeled unpatriotic through rumors and innuendos.  When Senator Obama in his acceptance speech at the Democratic convention declared firmly “Enough!” My blood surged, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I too felt feisty.  After all what had I done to deserve this feeling of disenfranchisement in a country that I have given the better part of my life to.  Enough! 

 

So I went out and registered voters and attended meetings and talked to neighbors and challenged those who would have me believe that voting for Senator Obama was somehow passing the mantle of power on to the shoulders of a faithless someone, who would lead us all down the path to destruction; as if somehow the madness of the past 8 years had been some idyllic sojourn in a far away and undisturbed nirvana.  Beg your pardon, not when I was paying $40 to put half a tank of gas in my Honda. Enough!

 

On November 4th, 2008 America came of age.  Fundamentalists and Liberals both of whom had negated the ability of the common man to think for himself and who tend to paint with a wide brush of generalization, have learned a hard lesson, that there is no monolithic voting block and since we never had a chance to check their credentials, we really couldn’t care less for their expert advice or analysis. The time had come for those who once held sway to learn a few lessons, that people are as diverse as their own life experiences and as the vote in California clearly showed, are able to dissect the issues and vote for what they feel is important to their lives and against the rest.

 

And while the pundits tried to contain their cool exterior as the election approached, their growing sense that something incredible was unfolding in front of their eyes was palpable. When the day arrived it left the Republicans stunned and questioning their long held tenets, in an attempt to try to make sense of the tsunami that rolled over them.   Enough!  Church going people who had once clung to the Republican party as the “party of God” now openly questioned the hypocrisy of the “do as I say, but not as I do” theology and finally started asking the hard questions about how a party that purports to represent the will of God, could be so callous in its treatment of the poor.  Why is it that when we work hard and complain when our money buys less and less, all of a sudden we are a “nation of whiners.”  Why the faces of the crowds at their rallies did not represent the reality of the diversity in the United States and why if they lay claim to being the earthly representatives for the Prince of Peace, can they also be in bed with the National Rifle Association and other extremist groups that so readily identify with their mandates. 

 

In short we looked at all the rhetoric and none of it added up, not Joe the Plumber, not the Pit-bull with lipstick, not the tired old lines, and not the “he wants to spread our wealth around” argument made any sense, even as we looked at our own resources and wondered what wealth he was talking about.   And so we voted collectively, for an imperfect man who looked like us and empathized with us, and said things that made sense.

 

On the most basic levels, we understood what Senator Obama meant when he spoke, even if the media, always anxious for some sensational story, didn’t.  We voted for him because while he was like us, he was so much smarter than us, so we made him our champion and on January 20th, 2009 the transformation will be complete.   And if prayers and goodwill still go up to God as a sweet smelling savor, then Senator Obama as he assumes the mantle of power to work on our behalf, will be in good stead because I am sure the blessings will come down on him.

 

Guilt by Association

This is a country that revels in great oratorical homage and introspection, usually after something tragic or unseemly has occurred.  Tributes can go on for what seems an eternity, as if a superfluity of words can make up for the fact that many times the ones paying homage, are the very ones who savaged the character and good name of injured person while they were hail and hearty.  At the end of all the sanctimonious posturing I am usually left hoping that someone will have the courage to rip the façade off the false platitudes and deliver the type of brutally honest message like Princess Diana’s brother gave in her eulogy.

 

I say all that because I am shocked and alarmed at the level of the attacks both Palin and McCain have launched at Senator Obama.  I have lived in the United States for almost 40 years, having arrived shortly after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.  I remember distinctly my father taking me to Newark to show me the buildings that had been burned to the ground in the outpouring of grief and anger after that fateful time in history.  And while I’m not sure what his point was in taking me there, it was an eye opening experience that I have never forgotten. 

 

Forty years later, I can say times have changed, I live in Alabama and while I exercise caution in going out at night, it is nothing more than the prudence I would practice if I lived in any city, in any country.  I am, however, aware as I drive by homes with rebel flags displayed, that there are still areas where resentment still simmers and that not everyone wishes me well.  I am sure Sarah Palin and John McCain are also fully aware of this fact, which is why I find their behavior over the past few days totally reprehensible and even more so because members of their own party who should be speaking up have chosen not to.

 

The United States is a country of laws where people are allowed to agree and disagree on a variety of issues, without the type of vitriol being spouted at these campaign events.  When is it ever acceptable in a civilized society for anyone to yell “Off with his head!” or “Kill him” or “Traitor!” without being called out by the speaker.  Is this the level to which this country has sunk?  And what about those “decent” people who espouse such “conservative Christian” values, why have they not spoken out and distanced themselves from this type of onslaught.  Are they not aware of the quote by English philosopher Edmund Burke, ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’  Is this what the Republican Party has become, are they once again reverting to their once shameful history, as a haven for perpetrators of this type of evil.  Is this what is meant by “appealing to the base.” Are those code words for the type of incendiary violence Palin and McCain hope will resurrect itself, while they wait passively, speech at the ready for something disastrous to happen, so they can pay homage in dubious tributes and expressions of grief.  Yes I’m saying it!  And I’m saying it now! Because I’m angry, I’m not running for office and I don’t feel the need to be diplomatic, or mince my words.

 

God forbid anything untoward should befall the Senator from Illinois and God forbid any of these unrighteous, vile perpetrators of this type of malevolence should be allowed to grace the front door of the White House, because it would indeed send the strongest message to the world that we have sold our souls and that we are indeed a nation of violent men, who will use whatever method is at hand in order to secure victory, no matter what the cost. 

 

A shame and a disgrace

Remember when you were in school and you had that big test and you crammed and crammed and crammed and then the day of the test you rushed into the classroom full of short term answers that you couldn’t wait to get on paper, because you knew as soon as the test was over those answers were gone and as long as you passed you would be satisfied.  If that scenario sounds like Thursday night’s debate you would be correct because it is quite evident that after being sequestered for 4 days Sarah Palin came on stage “chock full” of short term answers that she could deliver with her smiles, winks and hockey colloquialisms without the slightest indication that she even understood the subjects, or could engage in any meaningful dialogue.

 

My God does John McCain have no shame, does he not realize that this is a technological age, that people from all over the globe tuned in to watch the “gosh golly darn, betcha” repartee of a woman so completely out of her element that she is a total embarrassment.  I have known several Ambassadors from small island states in the Caribbean who could run circles around this woman on many fronts including foreign policy and economics. Am I to understand that in this the richest country in the world, this is the best McCain could find to present to the rest of the world.  Does he not realize we’ve all seen this movie before.

 

I am grateful Joe Biden stood his ground and used the 90 minutes to educate the American people on McCain’s history in the senate, which it was evident Palin knew very little about.  I couldn’t, however,  help feeling a level of sympathy for Joe, in that after all his years of service to this country, he was asked to take part in this ridiculous charade.  Sad too that McCain will continue putting the country through this embarrassment, instead of admitting what we all know, that she is in fact his exit strategy and the only way he can lose this election while saving face.

 

 

No More Deja vu

There is a new trend among Evangelicals in the US that is most interesting.  It seems all at once all, realizing that the demographics of the United States is changing, many of the churches have now started including the word “International” in their names.  This is most interesting and I must admit I have actually visited a couple.  What is most apparent, when visiting these churches, however, is that there is little new or “International” for that matter.  The hierarchy of the church is not representational of the congregation, in fact the only time you really see an “international” face is in the choir, taking the offering or guiding visitors to their seats.  Other than that the old guard is still very much in place.

 

My friend in Florida attends one of these churches and I remember when she came home after services the Sunday before the 2004 elections with a very forlorn look, to announce that we had just lost the election.  As you recall the movie “The Passion of The Christ” had been released that year and church members had flocked in droves to see it.  Turns out that on this particular day, her church and many others had received a video from a conservative group that was to be played on the precise Sunday before elections.  The video featured Jim Caviezel who played the role of Christ, basically telling people how to vote, because to do otherwise meant voting against their families and would be outside the “will of God.”  In short, for those who could not separate an actor from his role, “Jesus” was in effect telling them to vote for George Bush. 

 

This type of Republican strategy is nothing new and is in fact what you expect from a group whose target is always the emotional appeal and who thinks that being an “intellectual” is somehow a bad thing.  What is mind boggling is the fact that many Jamaicans have bought into this type of madness.  Even today in 2008, after all that has transpired and the fact that we know unequivocally that Bush took this country to war and destroyed thousands of lives based on a lie, these folks still cling to him as if their life depends on him.  My family member in Atlanta told me just a few weeks ago that the church they attend in Atlanta is still espousing the Republican worldview.  These people still clearly believe George Bush was put in office “for a time such as this” and that the Republicans are on a crusade to save the world. 

 

After many heated discussions I have pretty much given up on them because the Republicans clearly have the perfect scam going.  Yell abortion! or gay marriage! and watch otherwise rational people flock to the polls to vote against their own best interests, while the “good old boys” laugh all the way to victory.  I have not met one of these conservatives, Jamaican or otherwise, who has yet been able to address the hypocrisy of a party that claims to be so moral, yet would ridicule Barack Obama for working as a community organizer to make people’s lives better. 

 

None have been able to show me one former Republican President who has done anything for anyone since leaving office, even as examples abound for Democrats such as Jimmy Carter who works tirelessly for Habitat for Humanity and Bill Clinton whose work in Africa is well known.  Who’s kidding whom here?  I thought Christians were identified by their works not words. And while we’re on the subject of abortion, no one has been able to explain what makes one life sacred and another not.  I am pro life except in instances of rape, incest or when the mother’s life is in danger, yet no one can tell me why we fight to protect the unborn, yet treat the lives lost in Iraq as if they have no value, are they just “collateral damage.” Are Iraqis not also made in God’s image?  And why does being a card carrying member of the National Rifle Association make me a better Christian, am I not called to be salt and light to the world.  While we’re talking inconsistencies,  let’s not forget Cheney’s daughter, a lesbian who along with her partner have adopted a child, why is that discussion off limits, even as papers Michelle wrote in college are being scoured for anything incendiary.  I wonder had it been Chelsea Clinton or Amy Carter instead of Palin’s daughter who got pregnant, would they too have been defended by Focus on the Family and other members of the religious right, or would it have been chalked up to “well after all they are Democrats and one really can’t expect any better.”

 Personally I think we’re in a dangerous place when we think we understand the mind of God so well that we can appoint ourselves arbiters of his will.  The God I serve has many times used imperfect humans like David, or even Rahab the harlot, who found her place in the lineage of Christ, not because they were touting their own self righteousness, but because they were willing to surrender themselves in total humility and be used for God’s glory. This Republican God who wields power with arrogance, I can say without a doubt, I have never met.  There are things you learn while growing up in Jamaica, including a strong sense of self and a large dose of common sense.  No one ever wants to be asked “you fool, fool.”   To see my people fall time and again for what amounts to nothing more than a ruse is truly disappointing. 

 

The day after

I remember distinctly waking up the morning after George Bush had been reelected. It was not a good day. The enthusiasm and hope had been replaced by a type of deep, dark, profound sadness made even more so by shocked phone calls from family members in other countries who asked simply “what have you all done?” I don’t ever want to feel that way again and it really doesn’t matter how much of a spin the media, the GOP, or any pundits put on this story, they can never fathom the depth of despair I felt on that day which is why I am doing my utmost best to ensure I never do again.

I am not necessarily someone who will approach someone on the street, that’s typically out of my comfort zone. Over the past few days, however, I have been canvassing my neighborhood and asking my neighbors if they are registered to vote and signing up the ones who are not. At my office they have actually asked me if I am on the Obama payroll, I’m not. My passion to see a change fuels this fire and when I look at the Democratic convention and see a sea of faces representing the diversity in this country, that somehow is not represented among the Republicans, then that is all the incentive I need to do what ever I can to see a change in Washington next year.

This country is larger than its individual parts. There is no room here for the divide and conquer tactics of the past. The world is changing and the pistol packing, “America love it or leave” it paranoia that has made this country the laughing stock of the world, even as China owns us lock stock and barrel, must also change. It is time for reasonable people to sit down and talk to each other if we are to survive. The Republicans do not have the market cornered on religion; in fact if they did they would remember the verse in Proverbs that reminds us that “When a man’s way pleases the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Where is the peace and how does one justify being pro life, yet bombing villages to shambles. Is it only American lives that matter, did not the same God we worship on Sunday create these people. And if we call ourselves a Christian country, why don’t we care about them.

My religion and belief system simply does not fit into a convenient Republican paradigm and in fact as people who profess to follow the example of Christ might I challenge them how their beliefs relate to what Jesus had to say: Matthew 25. 35-40

35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,

36 naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

37 Then the righteous 16 will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?

38 When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?

39 When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

40 And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

This sounds more like marching orders for a community organizer to me.

Where in those words is justification for the total disregard of human lives and treating our neighbors on the planet as collateral damage. It is this type of parochial, internalized religious zealotry that has propelled Sarah Palin into the GOP’s darling where titles like “McCain’s Pit Bull is an acceptable description. I for one choose not to be sucked in by hyperbole, nor will I abdicate my right to being an intelligent, probing, questioning member of the human race, simply because someone is coming at me with bells and whistles. I would rather be known as someone who understands that maintaining mutual respect with other countries does not equate to mutually assured destruction, that there is much more we can do to uplift each other than spew some ridiculous “slapdown” rhetoric and that the time is now to decide if what worked in the past is how we really want to be defined in the 21st century. That and the fact that I don’t want to wake up November 5th with the sinking feeling that the zealots are once again in charge, is why I support Barack Obama a reasonable, thinking man who is truly the person for this moment.

 

McCain’s Exit Strategy

Presumably the Republican strategists have been reading the tea leaves and daily poll results notwithstanding, understand now more than ever that Barack Obama will win the presidential election this November.  I think the lights went on for them during Senator Obama’s acceptance speech, when he reminded us all that this election was never about him; that it was in fact about something in the hearts and minds of the American people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired and want a government that respects them and is more responsive to their needs.  The words resonated and left many people in the audience and at home nodding in agreement.  It is indeed about us, the hardworking, decent people who have been the backbone of this country, but increasingly have been made to feel as if we have to come hat in hand to beg for some fairness and equity from the companies, corporations and even our own government with whom we have invested our time, talent and even our trust.  Senator Obama was purely the medium by which the change that we have all been yearning for will come to fruition.

 

Having accepted this fact, the next step was to lay out the reality to John McCain.  Mitt Romney did not want to job of VP because he has his own agenda and does not want to be linked to a failed campaign, the same goes for Governor Pawlenty.  The only option left then was a cynical one, to select a running mate who would send shockwaves around the country and especially through the media, which it did and in so doing also provided John McCain with an exit strategy for when disaster comes knocking in November. 

 

The choice of Saran Palin gives John McCain enough cover with the pundits who will attempt to provide every explanation known to man, as to why he lost the election, with the inevitable conclusion being the inexperience and relative anonymity of his running mate.  Conversely, this will also provide McCain with the ability to still claim his “maverick” title because he will have sacrificed his campaign by having taken the bold step of choosing a woman for his running mate.  A very clever move if I do say so myself and one the Republican party is more than willing to accept, while they give themselves time to come up with a candidate who more closely adheres to the tenets of their party.

 

What this means is that once elected, Senator Obama will have to hit the ground running from day one if he is to put some of his proposals into play.  He simply does not have the luxury of a honeymoon period because the Republicans will be doing their level best to box him in. It is not a coincidence that the date set to begin troop withdrawal from Iraq is 2012, which pretty much covers the first 4 years of an Obama presidency and continues the $11 billion per month payout, much of which Senator Obama plans to pull from to implement some of his plans stateside. 

 

By stalling the process, Senator Obama’s programs will also be stalled, which will set him up for a bold attack in 2012 from a regrouped Republican party, as they field new challengers using his own words and promises against him.  No one will remember that George Bush ran the country into the ground and any arguments to that end will be seen as whining.  With that in mind we the people have a mandate this election, it is to see that the House of Representatives is securely in the hands of the Democrats who can help Senator Obama begin to implement the changes he has spoken about once he is elected.  It is in fact the only way to ensure John McCain and the Republicans exit strategy fails, while setting us on the path toward a two-term presidency for the Senator from Illinois.

 

 

Lighting a candle

I have become increasingly disgusted with the power the US media has to distort, manipulate and otherwise manage their version of truth that they present to the public, regarding the campaign of Senator Obama.

Several years ago I read a comment that said “The 100% American is 99% an idiot.” Regardless of how you feel about that comment, it is clear through their actions that the media believes this to be true.

So from now until the election, I will be surfing for articles in the foreign press that present a more balanced view of Senator Obama’s campaign and when I find them I will be posting them on my blog because if as they say “Knowledge is Power” then we can’t afford to allow others to force feed us with their version of facts.

Before Senator Obama went on his overseas trip the discussion that consumed the talking heads was what would happen if he made a mistake. Given the tremendous success of his trip, to include the 200,000 plus who saw him speak in Berlin, the discussion now is that he is presumptuous and arrogant. The following is from another perspective the Jerusalem Post.

Obama on Iran, Syria and Jerusalem

Two months ago in the Oval Office, President George W. Bush, coming to the end of a two-term presidency and presumably as expert on Israeli-Palestinian policy as he is ever going to be, was accompanied by a team of no fewer than five advisers and spokespeople during a 40-minute interview with this writer and three other Israeli journalists.

Obama interviewed by <I...

Obama interviewed by Jerusalem Post Editor-in-Chief David Horovitz.
Photo: Ariel Jerozolimski

In March, on his whirlwind visit to Israel, Republican presidential nominee John McCain, one of whose primary strengths is said to be his intimate grasp of foreign affairs, chose to bring along Sen. Joe Lieberman to the interview our diplomatic correspondent Herb Keinon and I conducted with him, looked to Lieberman several times for reassurance on his answers and seemed a little flummoxed by a question relating to the nuances of settlement construction.

On Wednesday evening, toward the end of his packed one-day visit here, Barack Obama, the Democratic senator who is leading the race for the White House and who lacks long years of foreign policy involvement, spoke to The Jerusalem Post with only a single aide in his King David Hotel room, and that aide’s sole contribution to the conversation was to suggest that the candidate and I switch seats so that our photographer would get better lighting for his pictures.

Several of Obama’s Middle East advisers – including former Clinton special envoy Dennis Ross and ex-ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer – were hovering in the vicinity. But Obama, who was making only his second visit to Israel, knew precisely what he wanted to say about the most intricate issues confronting and concerning Israel, and expressed himself clearly, even stridently on key subjects.

Read the entire article here:

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1215331099249&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

 

What Michelle Is Made Of.

Several years ago  my middle child came home from school one day and informed me that her teacher had taken her into a storage closet in the classroom and dressed her down for being disrespectful.  All this came about because my daughter had interrupted the teacher in an attempt to inform her that a classmate was having difficult seeing the board.  My daughter of course is black, her classmate was white.  It was the teachers’ contention that this was not my daughter’s business to which my daughter shot back “it is my business, she is my friend.”

 

Naturally I had to pay a visit to the school and to that specific teacher; because I wanted to help her to understand that the defiance she had met in my daughter was a survival skill I had put there for moments such as these.  As it turned out , during the exchange the teacher, meaning to press her point and share hew wisdom had counseled my daughter about how important it was that people thought well of her, culminating with a question “don’t you care what people think about you?” to which, to her complete shock my daughter calmly replied “no.”

 

What I had to help that teacher understand, was that my daughter had learned from me, that as long as she was not breaking any laws, infringing on anyone’s rights, or disgracing herself;  she had no time to worry about what people thought about her, because by doing so she was actually deferring her own power to someone else, who might define her in ways that might be unrecognizable even to her. And lord knows, black women have been defined.

 

Black women have been wet nurses, housemaids, nappy headed hos, bed warmers, thrills for those seeking an “exotic” experience; we’ve been abused physically and verbally, ridiculed, unloved, discarded baby mamas, sexless, invisible, neutralized, objects of ridicule and dare I say it, the “butt” of  crude jokes.  We’re the most likely to die from breast cancer, the recipient of inferior health care and delayed diagnoses.  In our struggle to find acceptance and achieve that acceptable western standard of beauty so we too will find love and acceptance, or until we find that place where we learn to love ourselves, we dye, fry, bleach all traces of our natural beauty, our hair and skin sometimes leading to permanent damage.

 

Our communities are littered with beauty supply stores selling the latest nails and horse hair extensions so we too can have flowing tresses, even as the merchants look on in thinly veiled amusement, as we wrestle with our own psychic trauma.  Just what makes these pundits think their words can hurt us when everyday we walk through hell and back, with our eyes wide open is beyond me.

 

It is all these things and more that Michelle understand as she steps out on to a world stage to face the hatred of those who would hide their racism and vile behind the banner of  GOP while hurling their fiery epithets at her.  She understands that Geraldine Ferraro will not come to her defense, that the National Organization of Women will remain as silent as the grave and that the only people she can truly count on are the nameless faces, black, white, Latino, Asian and people like me who put my outrage into words; who say silent prayers for her because we are deeply ashamed of what we see taking place.

Imagine this Princeton educated mother of two outstanding young girls, who by all standards is a living embodiment of the American dream, being referred to as “Obama’s baby mama” by a sorry pile of excrement hiding behind the moniker of commentator and you will understand the grace that it takes for someone like Michelle to stand.  I have to think that somewhere inside of her is that 9 year old girl who has learned, that as long as she is not breaking any laws, infringing on anyone’s rights or disgracing herself, she has no time to worry about what these lesser life forms think of her, because the cause she believe is so much greater than they will ever understand and she is completely focused on helping the only person who truly sees her, to fulfill his destiny and hers.