First, I’d like to thank everyone for your kind wishes and prayers. We laid Aunt Betty to rest in a little country church cemetery Tuesday amidst an explosion of fall color and sunshine. She always loved Elvis, so we buried her with her favorite picture of him and played his recording of “How Great Thou Art” at the end of the ceremony. I think she’d have been pleased.
Now to business. I don’t comment much on politics because I am most determinately apolitical. Republican or Democrat, man or woman, North, South, East, or West makes no difference to me. I am apolitical for one reason . . . no one POTUS, Senator, Congressman, or Supreme Court Justice is going to fix what’s wrong with this country by himself or herself.
So, to all you McCain zealots who are weeping, wailing, and gnashing your teeth, GET OVER IT. He lost and he was a lot more gracious in losing than many of his supporters can claim to be. If you are so disgusted with the election results, do what I see so many cute buttons and bumper stickers suggest — move to Canada. Just make sure you stay there. Also, in the spirit of egalatarianism, to all you Obama zealots who are holding parties and dancing in the streets, GET OVER IT. He won and that means exactly nothing. The economy is still in the tank, our boys and girls are still dying across the sea for nothing, and I don’t have one dime more in my pocket today than I did Tuesday morning.
I will bow before the weight and majesty of the history made Tuesday; however, and give my heartfelt congratulations to President-Elect Obama for finally reaching one of those mountaintops that Dr. King spoke of so eloquently so many years ago. When it comes to the ugliness of race relations in America, I view Barack Obama’s election as POTUS by such a healthy and unquestionable margin the same way Sir Winston Churchill viewed what would be called World War II when he heard of the German defeat at El Alamein in North Africa, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” The scourge of chattel slavery persisted on these enlightened shores for 246 years and the stain of Jim Crow bled through another 102. While the election of the first man of color to arguably the highest office in the world is an admirable step, one step cannot — will not — erase 348 years of shackles and nooses, blood and bondage, segregation and degradation.
Now, despite the history involved in this election, I can’t help but feel that, once again, I and those I serve in my position as librarian are still not being represented. We have yet to see “our guy (or gal)” mount the podium to give an acceptance speech after winning the Presidency. I firmly believe that I nor any of my descendents, will ever see that day. In order for me to feel like the person in the Oval Office represents me, a poor man or woman would have to get elected and that is never going to happen.
I want a President who knows what it feels like to be hungry because the month outlasted the money. I want a President who knows what it is to sit in the dark and swelter in the Southern summer night heat because Mama had to choose between the light bill and antibiotics for an illness. I want a President who knows deprivation in his or her bones . . . natural-born deprivation. Certainly Senator McCain knew the horrors of deprivation deeper than most of us ever will as he sat in the Hanoi Hilton all those years, and I do not dare make light of his suffering, but the fact remains that he left a silver spoon on the table to enter the military and he picked up that silver spoon as soon as he finally returned to America and even though he was defeated for the Presidency, he’ll still eat his soup with that silver spoon until the day he dies.
Just a casual glance down the list of Presidents will reveal precious little in the way of poverty. Instead, the list reads like a litany of properous farmers, lawyers, and businessmen. Basically, with no disrespect intended to any who hold, have held, or will hold the office of POTUS, I want a President who doesn’t take a pay cut when he or she takes office.
I want a President who, in this technologically advanced 21st Century, still has to use an outhouse when he returns to his Appalachian home. I’d like a President who has two children by two different “baby daddies” and Air Force One is the first plane she’s been able to ride in. I want a President who went to public schools K4-12 preferably somewhere along the I-95 Corridor in South Carolina or on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota then went to a community college for two years to save up for a STATE university. I want a President who knows by experience and not pollsters what it’s like to be a common person.
Of course, people in Hell want ice water; so as Daddy always said, “Want in one hand and spit in the other and see which one gets full fastest.” (Actually, Daddy didn’t quite put it that way, but it’s a family friendly blog, I hope)
None of those hypothetical people will ever be President, however. The third biggest lie in the world, right after number two’s “I promise I turned that book in already” and number one’s “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction” is “Even YOU can grow up to be President.” No you can’t because if you are reading this blog, you are most likely in the wrong class of people to be President, and in this case, class has little to do with race, religion, or politics. It’s about educational birthrights.
Two books that every person who works with children should read tell the story of those birthrights. The first is Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol and the second is Literacy with an Attitude by Patrick J. Finn. Kozol strips bare the differences in education that students receive based solely on the luck of the draw and in this case, the draw is where they happen to have been born. Meanwhile, Finn, in his book’s preface, powerfully enumerates the reasons for the inequality. Simply put, we live in a dualistic society of the governors and the governed. I’m willing to bet my paycheck for a year that if you are reading this blog, you are not only one of the governed but you are training (notice I didn’t say “teaching”) the next generation of the governed.
Please understand, this isn’t about some conspiracy theory dreamed up by the tinfoil hat crowd where the whole world is “really” ruled by the Illuminati, Tri-Lateral Commission, Skulls&Bones, or the Bilderburgers. This is real life where millions of students are withering on the vine and all the time people are jumping for joy because another rich, impeccably well educated globetrotter has been elected President. The only difference this time is skin color (an important difference, to be sure, but still).
I’ve seen several blogs with “Dear Obama” messages about what their authors want the new President to do. My request is simple and I’d make it of any new President — black, white, pink, or green. Leave the press corp, leave the entourage, leave the glitz and glamour of DC, leave all but a couple of the Secret Service folks and go on the road incognito. Meet some people who aren’t at a rally. Sit in classrooms in schools with holes in the ceilings. Spend a week in some inner city projects talking with crack dealers and gang lords. Go up in the hills and spend some time with people whose way of life hasn’t changed in a hundred years (but, um, you might want to take a few extra Secret Service guys when you make that trip).
The long and the short of it is I’m jaded and cynical when it comes to politicians. I’ve seen so many promises made to get someone elected that were broken as soon as the hand came off the Bible that I don’t know if I’ll ever believe in anyone anymore. I’ve endured Presidents who were Paris Hilton celebrities with IQs to match. Maybe the wind is finally changing. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to play wait and see. My political heart has been broken too many time by people who said they represented me and mine, but who have no idea what it’s like to live in a trailer. Here’s hoping it’s not all hype.
Now take the signs down, put your copy of Wednesday’s newspaper up on eBay for the kids’ college funds, but most of all . . . don’t forget to wash your feel y’all 🙂