Friday, March 28, 2008

The Second Coming?

During the New Hampshire 2008 primary, I felt compelled to travel to Columbia, S.C. to support my presidential candidate of choice, Senator Barack Obama. Upon arriving at the campaign office, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many young people working there. It was a rainbow of humanity in that building. The Latino giving me instructions could have been my youngest son. After returning home, I talked to others who had volunteered in Obama’s campaign offices throughout the country and it was unanimous: all agreed that it was an exhilarating and inspirational experience that we wanted to share with others.

I left South Carolina feeling that those young people won’t be strapped with the luggage that my generation and previous generations have been carrying around for so many years and that the future of the country seemed brighter.

After Obama’s speech on race, I needed a few days to decompress because I was quite aware that I had just witnessed history in the making. The junior senator from Illinois’ speech will be recorded in the annals as one of the boldest speeches ever delivered during a presidential campaign.

We all know that thirty-two minutes is not enough time to exhaust this sensitive issue, but I think the senator used his time wisely. As a black baby boomer, it is easy for me to understand the importance of the black pastor in my life and to respect liberation theology that brought us from whence we come. Yes, this theology can be brutally honest and compassionate, providing the sustenance for our survival as people. Black preachers are famous for telling it like it is. You can experience every emotion humanly possible during a two-hour service. A black preacher can make you laugh. A black preacher can make you cry. A black preacher can make you question why you even came to church that Sunday morning because you left feeling abused. Typically, you weren’t personally being abused. It just so happened that you were guilty and felt the sting! Regardless of the range of emotions you experienced, there was one thing you were guaranteed….you were given basic instructions that you needed before leaving this earth….you were given love. Just like a parent, uh?

My father was my pastor and I did not agree with everything he said as my pastor and as my father. What person accepts everything anyone says? But, I would be damned to denounce him under pressure from those who neither understand my pastor’s theology, character nor the goodness of his heart. What I find so ironic about this effort by the anti-Obamanians is that the Clintons' pastor supports Pastor Wright.
Doesn't that beat all!

I can remember one day, many years ago, a white coworker shared her unsolicited opinion of Minister Louis Farrahkan with me. I soon realized that she did not think very highly of him. I remember thinking that I was not surprised by her sentiments. My coworker, immediately after sharing her thoughts on the minister, asked what I thought of him. I was taken aback because I was in an office environment and her voice carried far. Suddenly, the silence became deafening. All of the office chatter had ceased. All of the clicking of keyboards came to a halt. Being one of a few black folks there, everyone waited with bated breath to hear my reply. This was my “E.F. Hutton” moment. This was my day of reckoning! Never a member of the Nation of Islam, I did draw strength from the charismatic and fiery leader’s words. I felt compelled to defend the minister against this attack or, at least, express another side of his popularity with young black men like me.

There were only two options I could take:

1. denounce the minister as some wild-eyed bigot that had no place in civilized society and reside in my tiny office cubicle free of white backlash, but guilt ridden for the rest of my life, or….

2. tell that woman that the minister is a proud black man that embodies the backbone of strength, integrity and intelligence that I only wished I could claim

Well, I chose the latter. From that day on, I felt so isolated and uncomfortable in my place of work. For this reason, I sat on the edge of my seat and watched Senator Obama talk about his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, with tears in my eyes because I know the courage it takes to speak the truth about your feelings and convictions. I felt the same way when Mohammed Ali refused to be drafted into the army. I’m sure that both men knew the risk that they were taking, but they “man-up” in spite of the potential cost to their hopes, aspirations and careers. To open a discussion on race in a highly contested political campaign in America can be suicidal. But, Obama did. You may not like how he did it, but he did it. And he did it with such clarity and honesty that no one in the deepest recess of their hearts can say that the senator was wrong.

You know, all my life, I heard the good folks in church talk about “the second coming”.
This is the time when Jesus Christ is supposed to return to earth. Like everyone else, I thought, “sure, but not in my life time”. I’m sure that this may be a stretch to most, but I’m going to go out on a limb, today: Could Barack Obama be the embodiment of the second coming? Let’s think about this for a moment: if you were God and you see the state of this world you created and you wanted to lead this country in straightening out the mess that man has created, AGAIN. How would you present the second coming?

As God, you would know that the world is in a position to self-destruct at any moment. You would know that the world’s wealth is in the hands of a few. You would also know that the children you created equal are not being treated equally. So, how would your children recognize the second coming? Would you want the second coming to have the best education that can be offered? Would you want him to have impeccable intelligence, strength, courage, compassion and patience, laced with a bit of human flaw to demonstrate his humility? Would you want the second coming be a peacemaker of good counsel? Would you want your emissary of love to have the ability to bring your children of different hues and persuasions together, promoting brotherly love for one another and to be better stewards of the earth you created? I trust as God, you would want all of these things.

It remains, what would the second coming look like? Would this person be black or white, brown or yellow or would this person be a mixture of all of us, engendering collegiality among warring groups? What would your representative sound like? Perhaps his voice would be soothing and reassuring to the ear and his words uplifting to the spirit. Should he be short or tall? Perhaps tall so that he could be a beacon for your lost children? Would the second coming be old or young? Not too young because you would want him to be taken seriously. Not too old because it will take so much stamina to do your will.

What religion would God’s emissary profess? O.k., that’s easy, but he must be knowledgeable and respectful of all beliefs.

The American political process has been thrown a curve ball by Obama. Never before has this system been confronted with such issues and is being forced to contend with them. Our state of the union is in need of a strong dose of Castor oil. As a nation, we can not go down the same road wishing that we can continue to enjoy all the benefits and privileges of the past at the expense of the least of us. I believe the “Obama Movement – The People’s Movement” is blazing a new path for us that is considering all that is important to America and the world community for our common survival.

I envision a successful President Barack Obama commissioning an elite delegation of well respected individuals from various communities in American life, e.g. educators, medical professionals, scientists, scholars, labor, agriculture, clergies and youth with the mission of visiting different countries where relations have been strained. This “Goodwill Tour” would be about the business of making amends with those countries that we have slighted and disrespected over the last decade. This group can visit not only those countries that have our national interest, but those countries that have no national interest to us. I envisioned this because I am reminded of a lesson my mother taught me when I was very young. She said, “Son, you should speak to everyone, regardless of their station in life, because the same people you see on the way up can be the same people you see on your way down”.

Who is to say that America will maintain its world-power status forever? History says otherwise. I can remember when anything that had “made in Japan” or “made in China” was considered inferior and undesirable. I dare say we can find ten things in our home that boast “made in America”, today. This country has become a debtor nation. It stands to reason that we do not have a monopoly on wanting to be the biggest and the best in the world, earning the exclusive right of claiming to be the only super power on the planet. Our neighbors in the world community have aspirations of a better life, as well. Just imagine how much could be accomplished on behalf of this planet we live on and its citizens if we could respect our international neighbors and treat them as we would want to be treated.

I have lived long enough to realize that if people can sit down to talk and just keep talking, that most of our problems can be solved. No matter what we do, we can not bring back lives lost in war. For those bellicose politicians and members of the military/industrial complex who are hell-bent on making money and war at every opportunity, I am curious to know if these hawks have ever been involved in armed struggle. Have they ever had some blood-spattered soldier die in their arms or explained to grief-stricken parents that their only child was killed by an I.E.D.? Some years ago, there was a commercial on television showing two old men in a valley with fists flailing, slugging it out while the people they represented stood on opposite hills observing the disgusting spectacle. If our leaders feel that strongly about making war, I would like to invite them or their children into the valley to have at it.

Just keep talking, there is an answer!

Barack Obama is by no means, singularly, the end-all solution to all of today’s problems. I see him as the spark plug to initiate structural change in the way government policies are developed, practiced and carried out. Politics is, by nature, a rough and tough game. Given this fact, one would think that it is necessary to portray a veneer of steel and possess the ability to crush your enemies like killing insects with Sherman tanks. I can’t imagine the hatred and resentment I would feel toward Americans/American policy if my loved-one was abused the way those Iraqi men were treated at Abu Ghraib.

Today, we have an opportunity to make, perhaps, the biggest difference in world history since the formation of the United Nations. John F. Kennedy implored us, some forty-seven years ago, to ask not what our country can do for us, but what can we do for our country. I’ll take it one step further by asking, “What can we do for the world?” We need to seize this opportunity with this young man’s, Barack Obama, vision to become the next President of the United States of America to begin the process of ensuring the survival of us all!

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