Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Varied Responses to a Historic Day

Yesterday, America's first African-American president was sworn into office. This represented an historic moment for people of all races, creeds, and nationalities, especially those who have been oppressed.

But you knew that already.

What you might not know is how those here in town reacted to this historic day. I spent a good portion of my day interacting with various people of all different *ahem* shall we say, opinions?

The day began at a local Episcopal school. I volunteered in the library, assisting the librarian with a special "Inauguration Day" schedule of activities. In between classes, she and another volunteer (a mother) began discussing the presidential election. Their conversation went something like this:

"I didn't think we could do it, but we really did!"
"I know; that moment when almost all the polls were in, and he was leading, didn't you just feel this great satisfaction. I mean, we did it! I just turned the tv off and went to bed, satisfied and happy."
"Oh yeah, when the last of the California polls reported and they announced the winner, I was like, 'Yes!'"

These two women seem to feel a kind of kinship with President Obama. They kept saying "we", as if they personally were responsible for the outcome of the election, as if they themselves had campaigned for him. And maybe they did; I don't know. I do know they were ecstatic. Slightly less ecstatic was a little girl who came in moments later, from a kindergarten class. She and her classmates were coloring pictures of Obama, and she began jamming her crayon down on his face as hard as she could, while muttering, "I hate him, I hate him, I hate him!" The librarian, who had not heard her diatribe, told her to "be careful with that crayon," so the girl put the crayon down and began using her fist, pounding our President's face as hard as she could, her little face contorted with rage.

Now, I don't know about you, but I didn't know what hate was when I was in kindergarten. I certainly didn't know this kind of hate, this blinding anger at someone I had never met. Dare I say that this kind of hate has to be "carefully taught" in order to exist in someone this young?

Then I went across town to a daycare that I used to work for and ran into the owner. When asked if his establishment was going to watch the inauguration, he said, "How?" (He had a good point; they don't get tv reception there.) He then said, "And why?" My jaw dropped as a thousand reasons why jostled in my head. "Because it's historic, because it's patriotic, because he's our President, for crying out loud . . ." Sadly, I was brave enough to say none of these. I merely smiled weakly as he continued, "I mean, I don't hate him; I just don't think he's our savior either." Well, neither do I. I have a Savior, and it's not President Obama. But I still found reasons to watch the inauguration of our first African-American President.

Whatever you think about our 44th President, his views, his skin color, his speeches, he is our President. God tells us to respect our leaders and our governments as long as they don't make us abandon our faith, and even then, He never tells us to hate them. I will be praying for you, little kindergarten girl, and for myself, that I would forgive and love my enemies the way Christ taught us to.

Happy Inauguration Day.

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