Obama shows America is growing up
If America were a person, how old would he or she be? I think this mental exercise helps put into context Hawaii's Barack Obama becoming the Democratic nominee for president of the United States.
A lot of people are acting like this is the end of a process. That finally, after all of American history, a black man has been nominated by a major political party as candidate for president. And that a woman, Hillary Clinton, came within striking distance of becoming president.
To look at it that way, if America were a person, he'd be an old man who finally "got it." A geezer who, in his dotage, at last figured out the concepts of diversity, fairness and true equality.
But I don't see America as an old man. Despite the rampant pessimism so pervasive today, I don't see this country as being on its last legs. I think, with all of its past faults, including the really bad parts like slavery, disco and Richard Nixon, America is basically young and changing for the better.
No matter who becomes president this election cycle, the apparent nomination of Obama shows how young America is, not how old. The fact that an African American with a non-European name could become the presidential nominee of a major political party should be viewed as not the culmination of cultural momentum since the birth of this country, but an amazing affirmation of how far this country can go as it "grows up." That an African American and a Female American and a Really Old American actually are vying for the presidency is, not to get too sappy about it, incredibly uplifting.
Now, some people are unwilling to concede that America is growing up. Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, seems to relish wallowing in the country's past misdeeds. For some reason, it is important for people like Wright to view America as a stagnant, festering pool of evil. In his eyes, slavery never ended. Women didn't get the right to vote. Disco still rules. Not only did America commit atrocities in the past, it continues to do so today, for example, as Wright believes, intentionally creating the AIDS virus and unleashing it on black Americans.
People like Wright will not let even the emergence of a black man such as Obama to the highest political levels disrupt their dark view. In fact, it seems like Wright went out of his way to sabotage Obama's political ascension. Obama's success threatens Wright's grim franchise. People like Wright see the country as the evil old white bigot, Eric Endicott, in the movie "In the Heat of the Night," instead of culturally transcendent hero Virgil Tibbs. In Wright's world, Sidney Poitier would have been strung up by Rod Steiger.
If America were a person, I'd choose to think of him or her as about 40 years old. A person who has made some mistakes but has a good heart, is striving to improve and IS improving with age; a person facing a long life with dignity, optimism, courage, basic goodness and grace.
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