Friday, January 23, 2009
Then and Now
Emotions during the past weeks have been on a level commensurate with those following a devastating event 40 years ago last April. From disbelieving anguish, horror and anger to immeasurable joy, pride and confidence -- diametrically different, but equal in their strength to move. Anticipating Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday, I could not help but reminisce on previous Presidential Inaugurations. None has ever been so joyously anticipated! And coming a day after a holiday that honors the memory of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- the timing and symbolism are amazing. Sitting quietly one afternoon, I started to wonder what this week's events might have looked like if Dr. King was still with us. Last Monday would have been just another workday. Tuesday would still have been a significant day because a new administration would be set in motion. I would hope that extra celebration would not have been required simply because an African-American was being sworn-in. Wouldn't it be something if, during the past 40 years Americans had already elected our first African-American president! Why did it take so long to reach this turning point? I think it required the fresh minds of a younger generation who grew up believing that: -- skin color is nothing more than pigmentation; -- intelligence is not dictated by race; -- it's OK and natural for people of differing race, ethnicity, culture, etc. to be attracted to one another. I remember the grave concerns about family values that arose when daycare became popular and, eventually, necessary. -- Mothers were supposed to take care of their own children! -- Strangers could not nurture one's children as well as blood relatives could! -- Exposing young children to others from different backgrounds and cultures would erode family standards established and maintained for generations! -- Children would feel estranged and insecure being separated from their siblings and parents for several hours a day! -- Self-esteem would bottom-out when children didn't get enough attention from (tsk!) paid care-givers! Instead of irreparably damaging children, they learned to cooperate and work in teams. They learned to entertain themselves. They bonded with and looked out for each other. Desegregation, affirmative action (flawed though it be), and equal rights have shaped the younger generation into more fair-minded, socially responsible, environmentally and politically aware people. They are the ones who, despite their gender or race have: -- been allowed and encouraged to partake in nontraditional sports; -- not been shoved in one career direction over another; -- not been stuck with esteem-sucking labels; -- been encouraged to try things formerly reserved for the other gender; -- not been shamed by sexual orientation. Every generation has come along with it's own baggage of ideals and standards. Each previous one worries about the next making a mess out of life as they know it. I think our chances of having a more egalitarian society rests in the hands of the younger generation. IF -- and that's a huge IF -- they can get beyond the wealth factor that continues to separate us. Barack and Michelle Obama have brought fresh air and intelligence back to the White House. Decency and compassion seem to be woven into their very fiber. I hope to see America's humanitarian nature come alive again through their actions and leadership. Tell me I'm not just a dreamer . . .