Thursday, November 6, 2008

And The Winner Is…That One

It is now officially over. The name calling, the fear mongering, the divisive tactics, the shopping sprees and most importantly Joe the plumber’s fifteen minutes of fame. If McCain had won could you imagine the exposure this guy would have received? He would have been credited with McCain’s victory and maybe would have been offered a cabinet level position. He would have written a book about nothing, he would have made a record about nothing. Let’s face it the guy himself was fond of saying that he knew nothing. America has spoken and the winner is…That One! And the loser is the politics of the past still fighting the cultural wars of that past.

The true winner though is not Barack Obama. The true winners are too numerous to name, but I will name a few. The true winners were Ann Nixon Cooper; the oldest black voter and Sister Cecilia Gaudette; who hadn’t voted since Eisenhower both of whom are 106 years old and both stated that Obama’s win would begin the process of change that both have been waiting for. The true winners are the billions of people throughout the world who along with millions of Americans who all held their collective breaths on November 4th to see if America would fulfill its own promises of freedom and equality. The true winners are our children both black and white who can now dream of a better world no longer shackled to the past by generations of missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.

The election of Barack Obama will not magically eliminate the centuries of pain and fear that was America before November 4th, but what it has done is to provide hope that we as a nation have made progress toward the ideals that this nation was founded on. As we celebrate though I am reminded of a quote by Kate Caro; President of the Liberal Women’s Network. She stated at their inaugural dinner that “Women will only have achieved true equality when there are as many mediocre women in positions of power as there are mediocre men.” You can fill in the word women for any number of groups seeking equality in America. I found this quote interesting in the context of this election where we have the President-elect completing his undergraduate work at Columbia and then going on to earn his law degree from Harvard where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law review replacing a President who by his own account was an average student at best while attending Yale undergraduate school and earning an MBA from Harvard. By all accounts George W. Bush was not a particularly ambitious man and prior to becoming Governor of Texas was not a very successful businessman. George W. Bush is the definition of mediocre.

So while we have made some progress does anyone doubt that if Barack Obama had had the same educational and personal background of George W. Bush that he would have even been considered for the nomination? I seriously doubt it. So until we have the day when a mediocre black or female is elected to the highest office in the land as so many white men have been based on some other criteria than qualifications then we have a ways to go. Remember that even Senator John McCain was no intellectual giant. The true winner in this election was intellectual curiosity. The thing that troubled me the most about the McCain/Palin ticket was not that they didn’t know anything, it was their contention that knowing in itself was bad. That somehow true virtue laid in ignorance and based on all the red on the election map we have some work to do in that area. With so much of the world exceeding us in educational standards the last thing we need to be promoting to our children is ignorance is bliss.

The true winners are all of those black Americans who fought alongside their white counterparts for the right of self determination in this new world from the old. The real winners are all of those Americans who recognized the injustice of enslaving one another and fought to conclude the practice and preserve a nation. The true winners are all of those Americans who witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow America and left their families and homes to protest the exclusion of a whole race of people from daily American life. The true winners are all of those men and women who died for the freedoms that so many of us take for granted. The true winner is the Constitution and all of those who seek a more perfect union. The true winners are all of those who were not able to live to see this day when all of their hard work and sacrifice culminated in that bright shining moment of the election of Barack Obama.

Many people have asked me as a black man what significance does this election play in how I see the country. I am always torn in my answer because while this was a day of immense pride for me as a black man, it also made me proud to be an American. It allowed me to feel vindicated for the hope that I held on to despite all of the naysayers and cries of foolishness. For the past eight years I think for many Americans it was hard to be proud of our nation, I think some of the pride is being restored as we see the world celebrate with us in this historic moment. We must not forget that this is just that; a moment. I think men like Jeremiah Wright and his white counterparts weren’t afraid that America would not be able to elect a black man President their biggest fear was that America could and then what? To those who have become embittered and enraged hope is like kryptonite. America has spoken and the winner is…That One!

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