It's always difficult to see the significance of the present moment and this one is no different. However, it's worth a try to say what this moment might mean. For the first time in the history of the United States we have elected a man of African descent. Barack Obama was born of a woman of European ancestry and a man of African parents. So, he is bi-racial. African Americans are cheering and European Americans are too. Not all for sure, but many, many people are elated. Here in Memphis, the newspapers are full of stories of people who can hardly believe the good news. Thousands of black and white children are cheering in the streets. Tears of joy, laughter, and celebrations characterize this southern city: the same city that 40 years ago snuffed out the life of perhaps the greatest leader of African American people in the 20th century- Martin Luther King. Now Memphis , the whole country and perhaps much of the world is celebrating a new African American leader and hopeful about a new direction for the country.
I think this is nothing other than a paradigm shift. As a country we have gone from one mindset to another. I believe the shift is from racism to inclusivity; from a politics of fear to one of hope. It is also a shift from the worn out ideas of a time past to the vigor and energy of a more youthful and more intelligent leadership. Furthermore, it seems to me that a deep healing is ocurring in this land. It is a healing of relationships between the races for sure but also it is a deep inner healing of both black and white people. People who have lived for years with feeling of inferiority, and sadness are feeling proud and joyous. People who have lived with hatred and fear are now letting it go and finding a trust within. The fact that Obama is bi-racial is significant at at deep level for both blacks and whites. He is not just one or the other . He is both. And as both he is a symbol of racial unity for both peoples. This huge step forward in the U.S. also opens greater hope for other people's in the country like Latinos and Asians. No little thing.
Overseas there are endless reports of rejoicing. When's the last time we heard that? Leaders of countries and local villages across the globe are expressing their gladness with the choice of the American people.
All this said, it remains to be seen what differences will be made in the policies of the U.S. both nationally and internationally. Will Obama repeal the Patriot Act which allows our government to spy on its own people? Will he renounce the use of torture once and for all? Will he stop the militaristic madness of the past eight years? Will resources formerly spent on bombs and killing now be spent on rebuilding American schools, creating local jobs, and funding universal health care? I hope so.
For now, we savour the moment and we hope that this is only a beginning where symbol is transformed into substance and promises made can be fulfilled in the days ahead.
An interesting endnote: Check out the last Tim Russert broadcast. In it he recalls the words of Robert Kennedy spoken in 1961. Kennedy predicted then that in 40 years we would have an African Amercian as president of the United States. No less than prophetic. Kennedy along with King were assasinated in 1968. Forty years later Obama is elected.
Celebrating the moment,