Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A New Crossing of the Potomac


It is hard not to get caught up in the moment of the current political climate. Spirits and hopes run high no matter who you may be pulling for in the recent political races. For the first time the American people have a viable woman and a black man as candidates, vying for the highest office in the land on the Democratic side. The Republicans are seeking to find their own forgotten voice that Nixon's presidency rested on and whom Bush as effectively alienated. For my efforts I cast my gaze to Barack Obama's wins tonight in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and in Maryland. I find that these victories are symbolic in myriad ways.

Many opponents of Obama find his rhetoric to be too idealistic. My answer to that argument is did Patrick Henry base his claims of "give me liberty or give me death" in the halls of idealism or did his patriotic cry for independence drown in the pessimistic waters of doubt? Of course not. This republic and its founding has been anything but perfect and it never will be. However despite the "lack of experience" that gets repeatedly thrown against Obama, or his sense of "hope", it is time to believe that something positive is possible. Did not that belief in this democracy and what it could and should be inspire and cause young people like Congressman John Lewis to put his life on the line for "freedom" during the Modern Civil Rights Movement?

I think he and many others have lost sight of the very lofty idealism that moved their minds, spirits, and hearts into action decades ago. I attended at lecture last night, by historian Nick Salvatore, who spoke about the inner connectedness of the Labor Movement with Dr. King. Salvatore spoke candidly about how important it is to view King as a complicated figure for justice not just simply a man with a "dream". He rightly pointed to the first part of his "I Have Dream Speech" (actually entitled "Normalcy Never Again") illustrated the sophistication and depth of King's thoughts and convictions about change. More importantly he keyed in on a phrase from King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail":

"We are all tied together in a single garment of destiny. An inescapable network of mutuality. I can never be what I ought to be until you are allowed to be what you ought to be."

Barack Obama is the very embodiment of that network of mutuality, and I believe that he understands how important it is for this nation to see itself and the rest of the world as part of glorious garment of destiny. No, it will not be easy, life is never that way. The great abolitionist and American, Frederick Douglass reminds us that "there is no progress without struggle," and Obama's road to the White House will be no different.

To those who still find Obama lacking a certificate of authenticity for his claims of being a black man I say that tonight, Barack is Peter Salem...he is Crispus Attucks, he is Paul Cuffe, and so too is he Prince Hall and the defiant David Walker. Just as important his wife, the brilliant and supportive Michelle Obama is our Maria Stewart and Phyllis Wheatley.

When George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Day 1776, he went against the odds armed with a deep sense of conviction and purpose. Noted colonial historian David Hackett Fisher argues that what emerged from the icy waters of the Delaware was a distinctively American way of war, based primarily on a single idea: civil and military leaders were accountable to a citizenry through their representatives. Similarly, on an equally cold February night in Virginia, Barack has crossed the Potomac, emboldened not only with the patriotic zeal of an abstract America, but he is a vessel that the ancestors, (especially Peter Salem who was with Washington) would indeed be proud of along the possibilities that this young senator from Illinois represents. May God Bless us All.

1 comment:

The Black Snob said...

I just wanted to say I like your blog. I recently added you to my links. I've enjoyed reading blogs by other blacks I can relate to. I especially like your title, "Nat Turner in Bryant Gumbel's Clothing." It really hits home how my parents raised me to be.

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