As I was reading an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times this morning by Roger Cohen, I was struck by both how far we’ve come and yet how far we have to go regarding race in our country.
Cohen tells of being in Elmina, Ghana and of seeing the castle there where slaves who had been forced marched from the African interior, were held in dungeons until their passage through the “Door of No Return” onto the ships that would carry them to the new world.
He reminds us that this trade was continued and overseen by pious Europeans who prayed to their God as they trafficked in black serfs for whom the Americas held no promise, only servitude.
Ghana is a long way from our shores, that time so long ago is hard for us to grasp and it is hard for us to relate to those departure points for millions of enslaved Africans to the plantations of Louisiana or to America’s original sin, slavery, as Obama has rightly called it.
Cohen says that a link between them must be made; that more “American kids should be wrested from their computers and ushered at an impressionable age to that faraway place, where they might gaze through that one-way exit at a heaving sea”.
Perhaps that would help them better understand acts and their consequences, not just a bloody civil war, but they might better see the world’s connectedness. They might be better able to grasp the distance between words and deeds, as in “how far the founding fathers were in 1787 from securing “the blessings of liberty” for one and all”.
And the spreading of those blessings has taken a bloody civil war, civil disobedience, court fights, death and injuries to so many, so it’s no wonder that people around the world are asking if America is really ready to elect a black man.
It has, indeed, already been a very long campaign and the ugliness is everywhere as Republicans, desperate to retain their strangle hold on our country, are willing to do and are doing whatever it takes to win and damn the means. An Italian once said that power wears out those who don’t have it. How true that is! But whatever uplifting moments there have been in this campaign have come from Obama.
Obama has painted a stark but clear picture of our country that is polarized by underperforming schools, health care of a rich-takes-it-all culture at odds with the country’s founding promise to “promote the general welfare”. I feel he spoke to black as well as white when, in a Father’s Day speech said, “that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child, it’s the courage to raise one”. I realize that more than half of black children live in single parent households, but I’d be curious these days to know what the statistics are in white households as well.
Obama said he had chosen to run “because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes”.
That is and has been the basic story of this country from the very beginning, I can only hope and, yes, pray that our country will choose to take the high road during this election, to move past the nasty politics, the lies, the outrageous behavior of radio commentators – and I’m sure you know of whom I speak. The uplifting moments of this campaign has come from Obama who offers us a new dream, a new hope for our future and for the future of our country, for the future of our children. Please, don’t let this opportunity be crushed; because if it is, I’m not sure how long or even if, we can recover, certainly not within my lifetime. More importantly, however, is bringing new hope, new dreams, new possibilities for all of our children and theirs.
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