Glad to see our newly-elected agent of change is surrounding himself with non Washington insiders like Rahm Emanuel, John Kerry, and Robert F. and Caroline Kennedy.
Way to flip that new leaf, Mr. President. How about that unknown junior senator from New York… what’s her name? Heidi… Helen… Hillary…that’s it, Hillary.
I sure hope Madeline Albright and Donna Shalayla haven’t retired.
Anyway, I’ve always felt that one wastes most of their life wishing. Wishing it were Christmas, wishing it were vacation, wishing you won the lottery.
As mom used to say, ‘you’re wishing your life away, boy.’
Dad used to say something about wishing in one hand and well, poopin’ in the other and seeing which hand was first to be filled.
I took him at his word, never opting to practically apply the theorem.
But in this instance, I find myself wishing my grandson were a few years older. Of course, that would also make me a few years closer to dead, and mom’s prophecy would indeed be realized.
But I’d like for the grand gnome to be about eight – it would be a pretty good age to at least understand the significance of Barack Obama’s election.
It would be pretty cool during his visit this Sunday to share some of the historical moments I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.
I had just turned four when John F. Kennedy was murdered. Today, I can’t discern if the imagery I see is that from a recessed corner of my brain or if I’ve been exposed to a myriad of photos and films about the event throughout my life.
The line between real and imagined has become a tad skeletal. Kind of like the spindly lower half of my legs.
I was eight when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were abruptly taken away and daily witnessed the horrors of the Vietnam War on the evening news. There wasn’t the media filter we have today – in 1968, dead and dying soldiers were as much a part of the evening meal as meat loaf.
I can add the fight for civil rights to that list. I lived just over the city line in a majority white suburb of Baltimore when I was growing up. And in the spring that King was killed, we witnessed first hand the rage that brought the battle for racial equality right to our door.
Baltimore, just like Washington, Chicago and even Trenton were among the 110 cities that rioted in the wake of Dr. King’s assassination. Thirty-nine people were killed in the explosion of America’s urban areas, and 34 of them were black.
By the time it was over, cities and neighborhoods were burned – in some cases – out of existence, and more than 34,000 National Guard troops were used to quell the violence. Damages topped 50 million dollars.
My parents – as I recall to this day – were considering keeping me out of school, fearful that the rioting urban blacks would target white neighborhoods such as our own.
There would be no more trips to the downtown shopping areas or the Baltimore Civic Center, and I was forbidden from leaving my neighborhood - on foot, bike or even with family friends.
The evening news showed us police dogs attacking black women, police beating black men, and people of all colors being burned out of homes and businesses – and it was happening less than eight miles from my elementary school.
It was arguably one of the darkest pre-9/11 chapters in American history.
So, while not quite being three, our little Justin is a tad too young to understand the significance, and the only memory of this presidential election will be the one shaped by history books and media retrospectives.
In fact, I’d hazard to guess that anyone under 40 doesn’t fully grasp the significance, either.
Not the significance of this country electing a mixed-race president, but the magnitude of the journey that enabled Obama to even just be in a position to win.
But as the network cameras panned the various crowds assembled to celebrate Obama’s victory, you could pick out the ones who truly understood the meaning just by watching the reaction.
The young people were joyous – high-fiving, waving signs, and generally dancing in the streets.
The revelers with a touch of gray hair and a few wrinkles around the eyes were the ones who stood stoic and reflective. They didn’t just hear about the days of black America’s fight for civil rights – they lived them. And bled for them. And died for them. And cried for them.
And those tears they were shedding while watching the new president were ones for every American – black, white, brown or otherwise – who witnessed the strides this country has made in just 40 years.
And that’s something that no three year-old grandson, 25 or 26 year-old daughter, 29 year-old son, or even a 30-year-old son-in-law could ever understand.
I did not vote for our new president. And while I can feel the joy of his supporters, his party, his community and his ancestry, I cannot find agreement with many of his policy proposals.
I didn’t vote for John McCain, either – his policies worried me just as much as Obama’s.
So while we all ‘hope’ that this ‘change’ will actually be for the better, keep in mind that pretty much the same roster of 535 halfwits still occupy the halls of Congress.
Maybe my grandson is too young to understand, but by the time the next election rolls around millions of children his age will realize that the only president they’ve ever known is a man of color.
And that is Barack Obama’s greatest legacy thus far.
By J. Doug Gill