Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Shining Example


I have trouble describing what it feels like to see this picture and to realize that this is the face of the future First Family, the Obama Administration, the likely captains of the free world as we Americans like to think of our presidents. Images matter. During Obama’s address in North Carolina, he referred to Michelle’s father and his work ethic. He said that her father worked hard because he had to and his work was important to him. His work was important because it was a component of his self-respect and self respect is the right hand of dignity. That message is something that every person knows, recognizes and can appreciate whether they experience it or not. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen, but without works it is dead. Hard work is the bedrock of honest living. Having that seminal principle delivered to the nation by a black man who is the future president of the United States was personally overwhelming. It signals the quiet contributions that a first family such as theirs might bring to our nation.

Black people have been climbing up the rough side of the mountain for some time. Our problems are studied and researched, our outbursts scrutinized and our allegiance to each other questioned. In the midst of all of that it is often forgotten that the ability to survive despite all of these social plagues requires an ardent belief in the non-negotiable standards of faith, hard work, honesty and decency. Whether those standards are met or missed is human probability. The survival and success of black people, however, is evidence that they do exist. This is one of the fantastic contributions the Obama Administration will make to our nation – a universal lesson learned from a lifetime of being black. The Obama family exemplifies this quiet feature of the black American experience. The beauty is that the circumstances that imposed this lesson on the Obama story are those that stand to be corrected by their example. We have finally reached a point where a black family can quietly exemplify the lessons learned from the American experience.

kamau


1 comment:

luvlife0702 said...

am i just hard to impress? have i tired of the pictures of happy straight couples with their kids smiling at me like that's supposed to say anything about their policies or their principles or their values? i suppose i have so all i see is a photo-op and the story behind it is always lost upon me because we never really know what it is.

it's funny how you don't think about your Americanness and yet your values reflect your American socialization. and how could it not? i'm very canadian in my thinking even though i was only there for 10 crucial years of my life.

"hard work is the bedrock of honest living". how horatio alger!

what about easy work like the three day a week, all summer off gig of my professorhood?

the US value of hard work is overrated. Liming is underrated. Liming keeps us sane. hard work has us in the doc's office, chasing time in traffic, and bringing our tech on our 2 week vacation. Give me the life of the French, Greeks or Italians.

I, in particular, work because i need to pay bills but i work much harder at my leisure than i do at my 'work'. It is argued that hard work makes for success but i dont see how a Wall Street banker works any harder than the Mexican in the field. Therefore, the luck of birth, the gift of an Ivy education (the sheer magnitude of candidates having been screened through the Ivy process is evidence), and the luck of health and the right connections is what is rewarded in our society.

As the dotcommers used to tell me, it's not about how hard you work but about how 'smart' you work. i once thought that very smug. but i get it now.

in teh meantime, none of the values you list are required for survival. it's simply what humans do. ask the mayans and the women of darfur and the jews and the armenians and the russians and the poles and the irish etc etc as the list of human sufferers is soo goddamn long. humans just get up in teh morning and do what must be done to get by. whether it's blowing up a bomb in front of harrods to prove a point (the irish) or running from a non-existent homeland to safety (long list).

at the end of the day, hope is all that keeps us going. nothing else. even when we dont work and are dishonest and are crooks. (just to get by). all that other stuff may as well be written on the flag for all i care cuz teh evidence don't hold up beyond the waving of the red, white and blue.

in the end, nice picture, lucky couple (harvard law school?! sorry don't relate). we've seen the pix before. because the color changes don't make it any more or less heartwarming nor me less cynical since i don't live in their house.

now, my cynical butt would be impressed with a Native American ruling his own damn country or even a state. but that's a whole nother discussion so i'll just leave it there.