Monday, January 19, 2009

I am Now Looking So Forward to Tomorrow

It is hard to explain why. And I apologize, but I can really care about this too. All is written in the terms of me recalling the King speech. This is surely best read playing it over and over in the background.
A Canadian kid from rural Ontario, oppressively Christian (not me! the region) in ways, but tolerant in ways I do know that I have much seen in other religions - child of I suspect religiously indifferent multicultural parents, one of a well-established Irish immigrant family to Canada, and a mother who was a first-generation immigrant.
I remember TWO mighty lessons they seared in to me (I am listening as I write to King's "I Have a Dream") - you must never discriminate against Jews, lesson 1, or Blacks. By example they extended that lesson to many other groups. In a way this was all easy - the Jews like me wanted exception from all the required Christian ritual in the schools and daily social life, and on the other side there were no blacks.
But in the end they were both everywhere, and especially in our television.
Some of it in the form of History television, and some in the form of television being made. And it was all in a way so remote in the small-town Canada I knew.
But my God (and as an atheist I say this not casually) it was also clear as my teens progressed through the early 1960s. Israel protected itself and Martin Luther King built a movement I thought to be in his right mind could progress.
I will skip many of the years - that a Kennedy elected to be a conservative missile-building 'madman' became the President who started to break Southern segregation with the help of a brother, neither of whom started out so committed. That his brother's funeral train would produce a procession the likes of which I could never have imagined, and this was after Martin Luther King had been assassinated, with blacks all across the rail line paying tribute, and maybe it is more right to say Negroes paying tribute (this was about the time of the change in language).
Much has gone in between.
But what stuns me about what I look so forward to tomorrow is how natural I think it will feel. It will not seem the same, surely, for the black population, but it will feel in no way odd for me.
In fact it is an analogy I hate because it is so false in some ways, but I do recall what I sensed my parents felt as John Kennedy was inaugurated, that THEIR generation was being installed, that these ever so attractive people would now be OUR representatives, and I fully understand how all the people I think of as naive will feel tomorrow as this beautiful people come to lead our world.
I am not analogous to my parents in terms of relative age for this transition, and maybe Bill Clinton should have felt like the generation I welcomed, but this is the one I most feel I welcome since my parents almost thoughtlessly welcomed the Kennedys. That is where I am for Barack Obama - yes, please, and I am not sure.
And in the end all of the people whose emotions I have described are or were Canadian. Well, that matters a little but we live so close that the values matter (which is not to say the current generation includes people who could NEVER feel any of this - nobody in my family I know public on the Web is in that state).
I have called Obama a windbag, and he is one, and even worse he manages to make a lot of his listeners take it perhaps seriously, but he will make some of it true, and I have never thought he can control outcomes.
As for me, I think he is a Chicago politician, maybe a bit more careful. But had he NOT been a Chicago politician we would not wake up with the tomorrow even I welcome.
"Yes black men as well as white men would be guaranteed the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".
And maybe even become President.
I feel privileged to be living in a country that continues to support the United States of America. I am ashamed of our citizens I know that childishly and reflexively oppose what is manifestly so great there. What is there argument tomorrow?


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