Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A small epiphany

I spent yesterday evening with...hmm...let's just say with someone close to me (not a wyfe, or a bitch or a Purv).  We had planned a trip to a local casino as she had a comp night coming in their adjoining hotel.  We met early, gambled a little bit, ate a nice dinner, then returned to playing penny slots.  I got to where I was up about a hundred dollars, and decided to take the money and run.  I looked around for her, but couldn't find her so I went back to the hotel room by myself and turned on the election returns.  Despite my winnings, I was a little bit glum as it was obvious my candidate was not going to get nearly enough electoral votes to win.

However, as I watched those crowds all over the country cheering, tears streaming down faces and cheshire cat grins abounding, it was hard not to catch a little of their joy.  I got to thinking about just exactly what is it about this man, this new president, that means so much to so many people?  Thousands and thousands, virtual oceans of people of all shapes, sizes, colors and sexes.  What do they see that I missed?

My friend came in and I told her that the results were in and that Obama had won.  She shook her head and said "I'm just scared.  Not because he's black, mind you.  But all that talk about him being a Muslim?  What if he really is?"  I just looked at her and thought, "Oh, here we go."

A few minutes later, as Obama started his acceptance speech, my friend kept interrupting my watching this history in the making.  I thought my lack of response to her comments would make it obvious that I really wanted to listen to what he had to say, but evidently it took a while for it to sink in.  Among her comments "He sure talks good for a black man.  I mean, you can understand everything he says.  He talks real clear." and "Well, I guess all the blacks are happy." and "Can you imagine the conversations at the Shingle Mill?".  That last one definitely gave me pause.  I can imagine the absolute shitstorm of the 'n' word that had to have been flying around in there last night.  In any case, I tried to tune her out and concentrate on what he was saying and how he was saying it.  I mean, THIS IS HISTORY, dammit!  I want to hear it happen!

As I watched and listened, I couldn't help think back over all those emails I'd received about his pastor, his supposed connections with terrorists, the Muslim issue and also about the stupid racist ones I got mocking the potential new First Family and the watermelon under a box propped on a stick and so on and so on and so on.  I must have received hundreds of different "I looked it up on Snopes" emails that turned out to have been photoshopped with the Snopes logo on them (because I do check).  All I could think as I absorbed what he was saying and how he was saying it was "This man does not look like a baby eater to me."  Have I even once really listened to anything he's said, or considered the possibility that maybe, just maybe, I should come out of my little comfort zone long enough to see exactly what it is that he has that has moved this many people to invest this much hope in just one man?  Have I started to become what I am surrounded by?  I always prided myself on living by the credo "the only thing constant is change" (thank you Hereclitus) but I'm beginning to wonder if that is the one thing about Obama that I feared the most, the reason I supported McCain.  Change.  Fear of the unknown.  

I did not fall asleep until the wee hours of the morning.  I had to be home early to care for my sick bird, so I got up around 6 to get ready for the long drive home.  I thanked my friend for the fun we'd had the night before and for inviting me.  We chatted for a few minutes before I left, and one of the last things she said to me before I left was "I just don't think he'll be a good president.  Well, maybe he will be for the blacks."  I was stymied for an answer.  All I could think to keep my mouth shut was "You pick your friends, not your family." (Gawd-sometimes I am so subtle I just KEEL ME.)  I hugged her neck and I left.

On the way home, as I traveled down our struggling to get back to beautiful coastal highway, I thought about that.  I was raised by Yankees.  My daddy was in the Seabees when I was growing up so I was exposed to many different people and cultures early on, and believe it or not, my mama taught me manners.  Cursing was bad, but the impression I remember most was that the absolute worst, dirtiest word of them all was 'the n word'.  It just was not used in our home.  My children don't use it, and neither does my husband, at least in my presence.  The only even vaguely racist thing I can remember my mother ever saying in my formative years was one day as we were pulling into a parking lot her saying "I'd better never see you doing that," and she pointed.  I said "What?"  She pointed to a car with a white woman getting out one side and a black man getting out of the other and she said "I'd better never see you get out of a car with a black man."  I blew it off at the time because it was such a bizarre thing to hear coming from the mouth that had taught me that we were all equal in God's eyes.  But it stuck with me, and every time I've lusted in my heart for a dark complexioned man (oh, yes, you'd better believe it!) I'd think "Better not let yer mama see you get out of a car with that one!"  

So I got to wondering.  Is racism something that sneaks up on you?  Do you absorb it by osmosis or something?  Am I really more of a racist than I thought I was?  Has being down here for three quarters of my life just seeped in through my pores like so much poison to the soul?  I know my immediate family does a lot more mocking of accents and racial stereotypes than they ever did when I was growing up.  Is that racism, or an attempt at humor?  And was that racial pride I saw on that man, that president's face last night?  Maybe a little, if you are talking about color.  But what I really saw on that man's face, that president's face, was reflected over and over and over again in that crowd.  I saw it in mens' faces and womens' faces, on children and old people, black, white, asians...Hell, I even saw it in a couple of DOGS faces.  What I saw wasn't  just pride in how far blacks have come, I saw pride on that man's face, that president's face, in how far we, as humans, have come.  All of us.  Americans.  And I think every person in that crowd felt that racial pride, that hope that maybe, just maybe we can finally quit focusing on what makes us different and start working on what makes us alike.  Because therein lies our strength.  Our melting pot.  One race.  Human.

So I don't know about you, but I know this about me.  My candidate didn't win last night, but maybe I did a little.  I won a tiny bit respect for myself for examining myself and my motives so closely, and I won a lot of respect for that dignified, classy  presidential man.  Commander in Chief of my son, our president, Barack Obama.



Anonymous ag said...

What a really outstanding and inspiring post! It's so crazy to hear the comments and realize how...ridiculous people can be. I'm not sorry your candidate didn't win, but I am very happy that you did.

1:11 PM  
Blogger The Grandpa said...

Insightful and thought provoking. Great post, Derfina.

8:38 AM  

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