I don't really like it either when I get political, but hell, 2008 was an election year! If these matters were not occupying your mind, you were squandering the gift of living in a democracy. In my humble opinion.
Thank God election year is behind us. And I'm stoked that an intelligent, ethical man will finally hold presidential office. I pray he is as intelligent and ethical as I think he is.
And I pray that the evil of white supremacy will not bring about any ugliness that will sets us back. There is nothing uglier or more dangerous than threatened white supremacy.
I'm annoyed by people who grinch about the fanfare of Obama's inauguration. It's a big damn deal!
People who have never been disenfranchised can never really understand what disenfranchisement feels like. I've only had a relatively tiny taste of it myself, but I can tell it's a soul-killer.
At one point, many white people considered black people to be livestock! As recently as 1955, it was perfectly acceptable to treat people of color as if they weren't good enough to share a water fountain, to share a bus seat, to share a front door, to share a school or even a graveyard with a white person. A 14-year-old boy was lynched in 1955. Even today, young black men and boys are often 'guilty until proven innocent.' Fear and loathing of black people is alive and well in Humboldt County; I have seen and heard it myself.
So for an intelligent, ethical man who is also Black to get elected is a big damn deal.
My dear intelligent reader Anonymous recommended the film Places in the Heart to me. He or she thought I would find interesting the themes of the Great Depression and a woman struggling to hold her home and family together. I did.
But the part that moved me most intensely was the theme of deep-seated, Southern white supremacy and the implacability of its social order.
The film was set in Waxahachie, Texas, where I lived for the first three years of my life and where I still have relatives. A sheriff is accidentally killed by a drunken black kid who is shooting at bottles.
It seems almost the 'natural' consequence in that place and time, that before the sheriff's body is cold, some ordinary, well-respected dudes from town drag the boy to death behind their truck then string him up in a tree.
While the white people gather at a wake, the black people cut down the boy and his skinny body falls into their arms. No law enforcement and no courtroom involved. No one even comments.
The widow would then have lost her farm, and her children would have been farmed out to relatives, if not for the ingenuity and hard work of a black homeless guy who helps her plant and harvest cotton.
Yet Moses has to sleep in the barn, never in the house. He has to hang back and let the woman negotiate prices even though it is he who knows the score. When she strikes a good bargain, threatened white supremacy in the form of the cotton gin owner, plus all his friends, the well-respected dudes from town, show up in sheets and pointy hoods to kill Moses.
The most powerful scene in the film is the final one, where all the ghosts of what should have been show up to take holy communion together, singing my favorite hymn of all time, "I Come to the Garden Alone." Some viewers saw that scene as sweet and moving, as if in heaven all these differences and tragedies will be behind us. But I see it as deeply ironic, a scene that could never, ever have happened there in the house of God in Waxahachie in 1931, demonstrating the incredible hypocrisy that allows these injustices to occur.
So people are as excited by Obama's skin color as they are about his political abilities. The fact that his skin color did not keep him from being elected is a big damn deal. We are a nation in need of hope. We're surrounded by evidence of our deterioration into a giant ugly commercial. We need a sign of progress, and we want this to be a sign of progress.
It's a mistake to think we can ever relax our vigilance for freedom, equality and justice.
Here is a quote worth reading, which I read today on the wall of the Student Services Center:
Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will. -- Frederick Douglass (former slave and the first African-American to be nominated for vice-president -- in 1872)Watching Places in the Heart was the perfect kick-off for the class I am about to take starting next week, The Law and Literature of Slavery.
I signed up for the class only because I am required to take an American Lit class and because the time slot fit my preferred schedule.
However, like all parts of life, synchronicity (for lack of a better word) was hard at work.
Thank you for the film recommendation, Anonymous.