President Obama: Reasons to Celebrate
For those who came of age in segregationist America, while Jim Crow laws still littered the South and neighborhoods in the North observed pernicious unwritten boundaries, Barack Obama’s victory feels like a hot shower after an interminable day spent toiling in a filthy, disease-ridden swamp. Even for people of my generation, who grew up post-Martin Luther King, post-Vietnam, the prospect of a person of color leading the United States has only recently become imaginable, let alone feasible. But, thanks to our “better angels,” we did it.
Racists may take some consolation that Obama is only half black. They can imagine that the good half will govern the populace and suppress the bad half from doing awful stuff, like changing our beloved national anthem — the one about the rockets and perilous fights — to something by Public Enemy.
The rest of us can celebrate. Because what reasonable people have been saying all along, what our hippie parents taught us as children, turns out to be true: it’s not skin color that makes a human being, it’s the content of his character. Obama is brown; that’s obvious. What’s even more obvious is that he is a man who doesn’t define himself, his politics, his revolutionary populist campaign, or his culturally diverse constituents by the amount of melanin in one’s epidermis. Stunningly, astonishingly, gloriously, the majority of our country didn’t see him as “colored,” part this, part that. They saw a leader.
Despite the best efforts of hate mongers and disseminators of reactionary propaganda, the majority of our nation rejected the idea that a top marginal tax rate of 35% is acceptable but a 39.5% rate on the richest of us translates as “socialism.”
Despite repeated attempts to sate our peculiar appetite for violence and bullying, the majority of our republic rejected the idea that a police action that has frittered away our treasury and more than 4,000 of our brothers and sisters (and tens-of-thousands of Iraqis) can continue to be passed off as a “war on terror.”
Despite cynicism that encourages xenophobia and fear of those who think and pray and hope differently than us, the majority of the United States of America decided that we could live with a Muslim president who refuses to salute the Flag and wear an appropriate lapel pin.
Who knew the Antichrist could seem so reasonable, so unflappable, and so darn inclusive?
Many of our most vile prejudices still infect our society — note California’s passage of Proposition 8, which prevents homosexuals from marrying and being just as miserable as their heterosexual neighbors. We still allow religious intolerance, rampant sexism, and a general narrow-mindedness to disenfranchise those who are not like us, to prevent our fellow citizens from realizing every aspect of the American dream. But history will show that in 2008, the United States of America finally emerged from a long adolescence and willed itself to grow up.
Let’s acknowledge our accomplishment. But let us not waste time in deedless self-congratulation. This is our chance to celebrate all that we can improve about the greatest nation on Earth, together.