Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

We Stand On The Brink....



5th November 2008: Adelaide, South Australia

And so it came to pass.

As I watched the excitement, the elation, the relief, the emotion,
I was overtaken by something completely different.

*************************

'I have a dream.'

I was 7 years old when I lived in New Haven Connecticut in 1968. I was an Australian kid on sabbatical with her family in the midst of one of the most turbulent times in American history. We arrived in the country in the week that Martin Luther King was assassinated. He was 39 years old.

From my childish perspective I remember only a few vivid things. We were staying in a hotel until we could find a house and because of this, when my father was scheduled to attend a conference in Washington we all went, as a family, on a Greyhound bus. We arrived late afternoon and were taken directly to another hotel at around 5pm. My mother recalls that there was a 4pm curfew (I thought it was 6pm but I was only seven at the time so we'll trust her recollections) and there was no food in the hotel so my father had to negotiate with a shop or something a few doors up the street and wrangle some bread rolls for us, as the military police were patrolling the streets.

I vividly remember the army jeeps and the soldiers with machine guns on their hips. I think it was vaguely exciting and certainly there was a sense of being in the middle of something 'big'. My mother's recollections include the fear inherent in walking the streets as a white woman with two little girls. Everything was within walking distance from the hotel and so we walked to the Smithsonian Institute and other typical tourist spots during the day when my father was at the conference. Mum remembers the black Americans sitting in doorways and on steps, glaring at her as she walked past. Washington was in the grip of the race riots.

I remember the funeral of Martin Luther King on television; I remember his perfect dark face framed by the soft gathered silk of the coffin lining; I remember my mother explaining why he was important and why he was dead; I remember her pointing out a young, sharp faced man in the front rows of the pews and exclaiming 'That's President Kennedy's brother.'

Speaking about it now, she doesn't have a clear memory of the time that she told me these things, things which would shape my thinking for years to come. She explained how painful the funeral must have been for Senator Kennedy as his brother had also been shot dead some five years before. How did my seven year old mind take in so much violence? At seven does the US become 'that place where great men are shot dead'?

Certainly this idea was to be reinforced months later as an assassin's bullet also found Bobby Kennedy. I remember watching it on TV; I remember walking to school and seeing a large chalk heart drawn on the pavement with the words 'Pray for Bobby' scrawled within. Another 'people's champion' fell. What kind of country does that? I don't think anyone told me about Abraham Lincoln at that stage. I think that came later.

So when I see Barack Obama and his family emerge triumphantly onto the walkway as President and First Family-elect, my heart is filled with foreboding. I can't help it; I am a child of the sixties.

God Bless you America for actually doing it. God Bless all of you who got up off your backsides and made a difference. It is time for a change. Is it a coincidence that this year is the 40th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King? Could he ever have imagined that 40 years hence there would be an African American waiting in the White House wings?

All I can pray is that the Security service is on its toes.

8 comments:

Stacy said...

The unfortunate part of this is that race still does matter. There are people voted for him solely because he was black and against him soley because he was black.

I share your sense of foreboding, too.

I don't agree with his politics. I tend to look at his voting record rather than what he has said - there's no doubt he's a good orator. Since the foreign press was overwhelming pro-Obama I doubt you heard much negative about him.

Notwithstanding my disagreement there, I fear that there are still ignornant people out there that hate him because of the color of his skin. I don't understand it myself.

I would rather he is judged by history for what he does to this country. I really hope it won't be because he was assasinated.

Arizaphale said...

Well said Stacy. I don't know the details of Obama's plans for the US but I do like the sound of his health care plans and like many I believe it is time to plan for withdrawal from Iraq. I have heard the complaint of some that they don't wish to be taxed to prop up the health care of those who 'freeload' on the system but I feel, as a Christian, that I have a responsibility to share my blessings with those who are struggling, whether that be from poverty, addictive diseases or simply inertia. I have had the privilege of living in two countries where health care was a basic right for all and I find it hard to get my head around the fact that the USA does not operate in this fashion. Still, I am sure there are some Obama policies I would think twice about. Like you however, I hope he gets a chance to make a positive difference in the world.

justjessie said...

I am not thrilled about our choice of President this go round, not because of race, but because of his stand on... well, on everything. I am, however, of the opinion that once a ruler is elected, no matter who I voted for, it is my duty as a Christian and an American to honor him and show him respect. I have been appalled (though sadly not surprised) at the reaction of some people I know. It's true I live in the DEEP South, and rednecks abound, but the remarks and jokes being told... I thought we were all a little more mature than that. With the people I know it stops at "harmless" remarks, but with someone who truly harbors hate toward a race of people... Yikes. I think the Secret Service will have the hardest job they've had in a LONG time.

Arizaphale said...

Sadly Jessie, I think you're right. Thanks for your input.

Anonymous said...

I do pray that the Security forces on on high alert at all times. This is such an incredible milestone for our counrty. Yet, I fear that if some malicious individual does get to him, this country will have a bigger mess than anything that has happened before. Race relations will be set sooo far back.

Yes, Stacy is right that some voted for him because he was black and others voted against him for that very same reason. But do you not think that some voted for McCain because Sarah Palin is a woman? Sadly, people vote for all sorts of superficial reasons - this election is really no different than any others.

My son's teacher was up in arms the next day that kids were even discussion the election - told them it was rude to discuss politics in class. Safe to guess for whom she cast her vote. She said that many were happy with the results and others were horrified. (those words are so balanced out - NOT). And she mentioned that poll showed many voted for Obama because he is black. It was very clear, without her having said a word, who had her support.

Anyway - I think that given the current climate of the world - no candidate is going to have an easy time of it. I just hope that everyone gives him a fair chance.

As for his policies - for those that do not like them - keep in mind that he does not make unilateral decisions - he does not have sole authority. And even though there is a democratic majority across the board, they are all elected officials who want to be re-elected. So, they are all going to think long and hard before they pass anything remotely controversial. While this makes the wheels of our country move soooo slowly sometimes, it also is a safety net of sorts that keeps things from wildly changing moment by moment.

Elisa
Sorry to take up so much space! :)

SSG said...

great post Arizaphale, you have some interesting experiences, ay? Must have been fun living abroad for a period when young though, jealous!

Arizaphale said...

Elisa: thanks for your thoughtful comments too. I am fascinated to know how the teacher thought the polls 'showed' that people voted for him because he was black. Is there a box they tick ? (hahaha)

ssg: yes, I've been pretty privileged to have had some amazing experiences in my life. Hats off to my parents who provided me with so many opportunities.

Stacy said...

While I understand the Christian way in helping those that need it, and there are many that need health care. I think purely nationalizing our health care is a mistake, though. We need to find a program that doesn't harm the private sector. Here are my concerns:

- We have a large untaxed group in our population that won't be giving anything into the system, yet will be using it - illegal aliens and those on public assistance/welfare. There is only so much the rest of us can afford.

-We already pay a Medicare/Medicaid tax on top of Social Security, which my generation will never get to use since the politicians have been using it as a piggy bank for decades. They are not good caretakers of our money.

- If the politicians disincentive the medical establishment in creating innovations in health care through price controls they will stop doing them. Research is not purely government subsidized in this country. There is a huge private sector that brings innovations in pharmaceutical and medical device care. They also don't always make money on every company and need to make a good return on the successes in order to payback their investors on the failures. This is what most people don't understand when they look at healthcare costs. I work in this sector of the economy. The things private, non-government funded, companies are trying to do in helping people is inspiring. If investors can't make a decent return on their money, though, it will be very hard for these companies to get funding.

- Until the sue happy trial lawyers and people in the US stop suing the doctors every chance they get we will continue to have high health care costs. If the government tries to bring in price controls some doctors will stop practicing because they can't afford the insurance to practice. It is bad in this country, and the trial lawyers lobbyists give huge amounts to the Democrats every election. I used to work for trial lawyers so I know how benevolent they are in helping the downtrodden. They have several Mercedes in their driveways.

Just a few of my thoughts on the subject... ;)