I have long been a supporter of Barack Obama. I first heard of him when he was making a run for the Senate in Illinois. After seeing him interviewed I went and purchased his book, Dreams From My Father. I was struck by the elegance of his writing and by his straightforward and honest approach to his life. I read his second book, Audacity of Hope, when it was published and I thought at that time that this guy was really going to go places.
And so he has.
He has reached the mountain top. He has achieved what only forty three other men in the history of our country have achieved. And he is an African-American.
The general consensus of the black community seems to be that they would never see this day come in their lifetimes. And here they are witnessing history…making history. My heart is full. I celebrate with them and for them.
They can now tell their children and grandchildren….and mean it….that they can achieve anything and that there are no limitations. The path to the mountain top has been paved.
I celebrate for our country too; for looking past the color of skin and into the contents of the heart. For clearly recognizing the need for change and exercising their Constitutional rights to make that change. For hearing the reverberating cry of, “Yes we can!” and believing it and allowing it to vibrate in their hearts and minds.
I celebrate. And, I hope.
I hope that President Obama will be safe. I know full well that there remain pockets of hatred and bitterness in this country. I know well that there are those who deny bigotry but yet speak hate behind closed doors. I know the maniacal acts that can be committed when one has so much conviction that they are ‘right’ and they are acting on behalf of a higher power. These things grip me with fear.
I keep President Obama and his beautiful wife and daughters in my daily thoughts and I will hope with all my might for his success and safety, because his success means success for this country and his safety will mean that this country actually has progressed past judging a person by the color of their skin.
The passage of anti-gay propositions in several states has brought me sadness. Just as we seem to be collectively moving past the issues of civil rights with regard to race, we are bogged down in the mire of civil rights with regard to sexual orientation.
It is heart wrenching to me that my fellow brothers and sisters cannot see past their biases and fears to reach a place of understanding; the understanding that all human beings deserve to love and be loved, and to enter into committed relationships which allow them certain legal rights.
At one point in our American history and not so very long ago, people were not allowed basic civil rights because of the color of their skin. Whites marrying ‘blacks’ was an aberration. White people didn’t want their children to sit in the same classroom as black children. White people wouldn’t use the same water fountains as blacks. It was not uncommon for blacks to be hung or lynched. The more tolerant whites who weren’t for actually physically harming someone merely used slurs and insults as their weapons. Blacks weren’t allowed to vote which is a Constitutional right given to all citizens of this country. For years and years and years they had to endure harm, embarrassment, hatred, fear and sometimes death.
Slowly but surely as those brave souls who stood up and peacefully protested and continually fought in ways large and small, the country began to change. America’s citizens began to see that these people they had been afraid of posed no threat. They too had beating hearts, hopes and dreams and children they loved.
Yesterday on Election Day, people of all races stood with arms entwined celebrating the broken barrier of racism as Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States.
Unfortunately, a majority of those people also voted to strip thousands of citizens of their basic civil rights. By denying citizens to marry whom they choose, we deny them the pursuit of happiness. Sure, they can live together, but they can never enjoy what we as “straight” Americans get to enjoy; the legal and public declaration that they are joined together as a committed loving married couple.
Just as blacks marrying whites didn’t create the downfall of the American family, neither will gay marriage. It is ridiculous to think otherwise. It is once again fear of the unknown that keeps us as a society from progressing.
I know firsthand what “gays” are like. They are exactly like you and me. They laugh and cry and hope and dream and long for children and for security for those they love. They donate kidneys to parents, care for partners with brain tumors, help their children through the brutal teenage years and support their parents in their twilight years. They also long to be in relationships that are recognized by society as legitimate and legal.
My heart aches for my friends who are gay. This election year was a setback in their quest for civil rights. I have sat in their homes and held their hands, sang with them, danced with them, laughed with them and cried with them. I love them dearly and long for them to feel as though they too are ‘real’ Americans; Americans who get the same rights and privileges as their countrymen.
So, today I feel both joy and sadness. But more than anything I feel full of hope. I hope for a better tomorrow and I dream of the day when I can stand shoulder to shoulder with all of my fellow men and know that we are all ‘free at last.’