Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 27 January 2009 14:16
Finally, the election is over. Hurray! Barak Obama is the 44th president of the United States of America. Dare we say, “Hurray!” too loudly?
No, I’m not “jumping up and down, acting crazy” and unapologetically elated to see Mr. Bush leave the White House. To be fair, he had his moments in the sun, like giving millions for AIDS relief work in Africa and elsewhere. Neither am I elated to see Mr. Obama take his place. I’m still waiting to see how his fiscal and social agenda impacts agriculture and America.
However, as evidenced by the vote, more seem to be happy with the new president than the former.
Let’s say the honeymoon is not over. The only mistakes, so far that we know of, is Obama not hearing and correctly repeating the oath of office. The Chief Justice shares the blame for that.
In time, after the recession recedes, when all financial woes cease and the war in Afghanistan is over—give or take a year or two, or three or more—then we can figure out whether we want to reelect President Obama for another four years.
There is more good news than meets the eye, however. Barak Obama is the first duly elected black president of the United States. His accomplishment of attaining this country’s highest office is something all citizens, regardless of race or political persuasion, can admire. From this time forward, history books will describe this special event, along with other notable firsts, like John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic to become president.
In one sense, the move toward racial equality took a giant leap forward. In another sense, all people of African-American descent can look to Obama’s unwavering dedication, sacrifice and hard work and admire these qualities, empowering people of color to rise up and take their places of prominence, not only in politics, but also in other facets of American society.
From now on, the “race card” may rarely be the right card to play, even if it appears to be justified. After all, is it not better to have won the right to a seat at the table, not because of race, but because you are the best in the field?
This is not to deny that racial discrimination will never occur in the future. I doubt that we will ever see an end of it. The cultural argument has changed, however. No longer can we ignore successful, outspoken people like comedian Bill Cosby, who embodied the same character traits admired in Barak Obama.
While addressing a student minority group many years ago, Cosby said, “Stop blaming someone else for your problems.” At the time, Cosby was ridiculed by people of color. Even so, his advice is worth heeding, regardless of the color of our skin.
Please note that I did not use “black” or “African-American” when I mentioned Bill Cosby’s name. His skill as a comedian ranks among the best in the world. He’s an American like the rest of us. Though Cosby has a cultural heritage different than mine, that’s what makes America a great place to live, where cultural and ethnic diversity is celebrated.
We see what we want to see, whether it’s a color of the skin, the quality of the clothes, or financial and social status. We discriminate, often without thinking of the implications. Even so, whatever the preference, it is only an important issue when we want it to be.
Perhaps the next step toward racial equality will be the moment we realize there are more ethnic classes of people than “whites” and African Americans. The time may be approaching sooner than we think. In much of California, the Caucasian race is already in the minority, and African Americans are not always in the majority as well.
Can you imagine a time when government affirmative action programs would be enacted to discriminate in favor of people with skin tones other than black? No, I cannot imagine that.
Even so, it would be nice to be thought of as an “ethnic” group once in a while, if only to appreciate how pluma mos and zwieback became a part of American cuisine.
* * *
Not forgetting that Valentine’s Day is but weeks away, a memory of an earlier time worked its way through the cobwebs of my mind. Daughter Jessica was a student in high school at the time. Prior to that moment, much of her time was filled with undergoing surgeries and painful rehabilitation.
Not one to feel sorry for herself, she was available to anyone who needed a friend. She even used her small income from baby-sitting and odd jobs to sponsor a child through a sponsoring agency, and writing letters to that individual.
I think of her example often. It’s easy to love someone who is able to give love in return and reward us for the effort. It’s another thing altogether to love someone who cannot return the favor. But the reward is still there. We do it because we chose to love someone else.