Thursday, August 28, 2008

History, Pride, and America


Barack Obama has just begun to speak to an audience of 75,000 Americans in Denver. Some spinners, sheisters, and hucksters like to claim that this is the coronation of the Messiah by his thousands of adoring worshipers. I beg to differ. Those people are nothing more than empty cynics. When Americans come together, when we coalesce, when we seek a better future, and when we respond to a politician who believes in those same ideals, we are not establishing a new religion; we are following in the footsteps of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, John Jay,and George Washington. We are looking to a better future, and we are coming together and, as one nation, indivisible, we are making it happen.

The facts are these. Fifty years ago, a black man in America could not eat in the same diners as a white man - he had to walk around back and pick up his dinner by the dumpster. He could not use the same clean restrooms and water fountains - he had to seek out the dirty, roach-infested stalls and broken plumbing. He could not send his daughter to the same public schools; he had to make her walk three miles across town to the shack with outdated text books and untrained teachers. He could not walk down the street and admire the clouds; he had to walk down the street and look behind every corner, afraid of a lynching. This was not the occasional inconvenience: It. Was. Life. Every moment, of every day.

As a white man in 2008, I cannot even begin to pretend that I am capable of imagining what that life is like. But I have seen what it’s like to rebuild your house and your life after nature rips it all away from you and the government turns its back. I have seen what it’s like to lose your home because of failed economic policies, and strike out everywhere you try to find a new loan. Close friends of mine have had to raise their own siblings in an environment of crippling poverty where, as Obama is now saying, the government tells them, “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, even if you don’t own boots. You are on your own.” I have lived through a government that has broken laws and shown no respect for its Constitution, and thus no respect for its citiztayens.

And I know exactly what it’s like to sit in a hospital ICU, watching helplessly as a loved one, the one you love more than anyone else, seemingly slips away. I know exactly what it’s like, as that person finally begins to heal and find renewal, to think, dear Lord, if you didn’t have health insurance, I wouldn’t have you. I know what it is like to cry, and to sob.

There is a better than even chance that America is about to elect another man President who understands these problems. And more importantly, there is a better than even chance that America is about to turn its back on its sordid past. Two years ago, I thought we were still at least twenty years away from electing a black man President – but now it would seem that that man may very well take the oath of office in less than five months. Five months, folks, five months.

I’ve never believed in Barack Obama the way I have in Joe Biden, Howard Dean, the Kennedys, or even Al Gore. But I’ll tell you this: none of those men made me believe in America the way Obama has done. What he is trying to do for us, and what we have done for him, was not possible even on the day that I, a lad of just 21, was born.

We have seen powerful speeches this week from Ted Kennedy, Michelle Obama, Beau Biden, and more. But it is tonight that I am moved, not by words, but by deeds, and by the weight of history. It is tonight that my tears are not those of the ICU, but those of pride. America, you’ve come further than I thought. And if you stay on the path that you have set yourself on over the past four days and the past few months, then you will go much farther much faster than I thought you had the will to do. Prove me wrong, America.

For never have I been prouder. This isn't about Barack Obama; it is about the values and the change - not the political change, but the seismic historical shift - that we have chosen him to represent. God love ya, America. God love ya.

2 comments:

Jordan said...

So in the chance that the Senator loses, will you still consider it as large a stepping stone for these United States?

Nathan Empsall said...

You mean now that McCain has a female VP? No, of course not. Electing a woman to the Vice Presidency would be a wonderful thing, but the VICE Presidency is not the same thing as the Presidency, and she was chosen only by McCain, not by the primary process. It will certainly be a wonderful thing, as I said in my post about her, but it won't be the same thing.