By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 11/09/08
Watching Barack Obama’s Chicago speech Tuesday night brought me to a realization of how much his election has meant to so many people. Up until that time, everything to me was policy, statements of belief, background, and the political alliances that had brought him to that point in history.
Tuesday, however, I started to see what his election means, especially to Blacks. To see the tears of joy shed at that seminal moment was a touching experience. And the next day when Sherri Shepherd from The View said, “To look at my baby and go, you don't have to have limitations...” as she broke down in tears. Another Black commentator made reference to always feeling like an American but feeling like they never totally belonged, and that now, for the first time, she feels she can unpack her bags.
I was a youngster when John Kennedy was in the White House, and so my memories, in large part, are shaped by the imagery around his “Camelot” created by photographs and recollections of others. Some of my most poignant images are those of young children growing up in the White House, and of John and Caroline playing in the Oval Office with President Jack reading or on the telephone. I can’t help but imagine the endearing images of two more adorable children growing up in the White House again, and the timelessness those images will capture for generations to come. But many of this generation lived through those ugly racially charged years when social conventions were stereotyped and societal roles precast based on skin color. To those, especially, I can only imagine the sweetness of this moment for them. I think Sherri Shepherd’s comments capture the breadth of this moment in history, “You don’t have to have limitations.”
The powerful imagery in my mind of future pictures of the Presidents, with a President Obama pictured amongst that select crowd of white men moves me. It truly makes me proud to live in a country where it does not matter what your skin color is for you to realize that there are no limitations to what is possible with hard work, tenacity, and conviction.
In short, it’s been a powerful time for me emotionally since Tuesday as these thoughts have flooded my mind. But alas, our leadership should not be selected based on emotion, even though I’ve indulged after the fact. I would much rather have someone in that post whom I didn’t fear to be antithetical to my belief system and perception of America, regardless of color.
Logically, my apprehensions of an Obama Presidency are many. Those concerns were raised even further last week when he announced to a crowd in Columbia, Missouri, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” It finally dawned on me what kind of change he was talking about. I had presumed he wanted to change the government, to change the climate of discord, acrimony, incrimination, and extreme partisanship in D.C. If he genuinely wants to transform America, he will have a revolution of sorts brewing before he gets his first wealth redistribution plan or Freedom of Choice Act passed through Congress.
Call me old fashioned, or anachronistic in this “progressive” age, but there are certain principles and values that were incorporated into this country at our most insipient stages that have created of our original thirteen British Colonies the greatest country in the world. If anything, those principles and values should be reaffirmed, strengthened, and reinvigorated in order to ensure our perpetuity and continued growth and success. I don’t think the nation needs to be fundamentally transformed.
More evidence surfaced this past week that provides even more concern, from an interview a few years ago when he disparaged the Constitution, saying that the country “has suffered from a fundamentally flawed Constitution that does not mandate or allow for the redistribution of wealth.” The only flaw of the Constitution, that I can think of, was the handling of the slavery issue, but that was necessary to have all thirteen colonies ratify the founding document. To me, the Constitution was a divinely inspired document which created a new nation based on the fundamental principles of life, liberty, and the individual pursuit of happiness, which is inextricably linked with individual property. It is not “fundamentally flawed.”
I have mused over the election commentary this last week claiming we’re all now “united.” Remember the headlines in 2004? “Bush 51%, Kerry, 49%: A Nation Divided.” Fast forward to 2008, the headlines were: “Obama 52%: Obama Unites the Nation.” I didn’t know 1% made the difference between a nation divided and a nation united.
My emotions are full of anticipation at the prospects of a Black man in the White House, but logically the signs are omnipresent that the next four years may indeed represent an effort to “fundamentally transform America.” Even with my apprehensions, I’m proud to say, differences aside, that he is my President, for I am an American first and foremost.