The Myth in the Race for the Presidency

“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.”  —  Niccolo Machiavelli The Prince (1532)

News Flash: In a little village in Kenya called Nyangoma-Kogelo, people gather around the radio listening to the latest update on the voting in Iowa, United States of America. According to the radio, one of their own, who has blood kin still living in the village, is winning in the first step of an election leading up to choosing the new president of that faraway country. Before the year is out, Barack Hussein Obama could be the leader of the strongest nation in the world.

It is of such things that myths are made, and herein lies proof that beneath the horrible events in America during 1963 and 1968 the tattered dreams of liberty survived. In spite of the rampant corporate greed and dirty politics that has besmirched the face of America its heart still beats to the drums of the promise of liberty and justice for all. This election year is proving to us that the bright and shining future we once envisioned for America, although hard to see beyond the recent carnage of war, still waits if only we have the courage it will take to reach it.

We must, above all, have a strong leader, one whose fortitude is proven. Although wonderful speeches gladden our hearts, we need a leader who can take on the fiercest dragons and withstand their fire. As worthy as he is in many ways, this is not Obama. Although he has it in him to be a great statesman, his moment is not yet. When he is more seasoned his time will come, and then his relatives in West Kenya will once again gather around their radios or televisions — and listen with pride.

So far, this election year has revealed that, on the Democrat side, a black man can run for president and win the primary vote in Iowa, a state where less than 3% of the population is black. That a woman can reach third place in the same contest and leave a few male candidates in the dust. The second place winner, an all white male, is not gay or we would have a third category attesting to our progress in keeping America’s promise of liberty and justice for all. But this man is a great fighter for justice.

We also have another party from which to choose. On the Republican side the winner in Iowa is a former Baptist minister, and the second place winner is a candidate of the Mormon religion. Winning third place is a former actor, politician and lobbyist. The fourth place, won by the last of the most viable candidates, is a man with a calm countenance that belies his myth, the old warrier who fought the dragons of olden times and offers his aging wisdom to his country and its young warriors.

A new world order is on the horizon whether we seek it or not, and we must choose our agent of change carefully in order to make the right choices in the future while not sacrificing our integrity as a nation. Only in preserving the good from the past can we hope to stay on the right course in the future.

And even if we stray from our course, we should do as Washington Irving did when traveling in a stagecoach, find comfort in shifting our position and being bruised in a new place. 

Update: January 8th, New Hampshire, the second battle: After a tight race the First Woman wins on the Democrat side and the Old Warrior wins on the Republican side.  The arena will move to the state of Michigan for the next Republican battle, where the *First Mormon will attempt to wrest the scepter from the hands of the Old Warrior. In the next Democrat battle, in South Carolina, the First Black will try to regain his earlier lead over the First Woman.

*Although the First Morman’s father competed for the nomination in 1968 but lost, as will he who is trying to fulfill his father’s dream.  In the past other candidates have vied to be the “First” of their kind but this year marks a turning point in history.  Whether they win or not, the Firsts have broken down the barriers of the old order in preparation for the new. 

King, Kennedy and the American Revolution

All of us, from the wealthiest and most powerful of men, to the weakest and hungriest of children, share one precious possession; the name American. — Robert F. Kennedy

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bobby lately. In watching still another year end as I go further into my dotage, I’m reminded of other years from the past that cry out to be remembered, the year 1968 being among the most poignant. When the announcement came over the television set that Bobby Kennedy had died from the assassin’s bullet, I called my husband at work, tears streaming down my face. “Now they’ve killed Bobby,” I cried.

Who were “they”? I didn’t know, but like many Americans I felt the presence of evil. A black miasma skulked amongst us as if waiting to see what we held most dear as a people so “they” could take it away. The feeling had lingered since that shocking day four and a half years before, on November 22, 1963, when our beloved president was taken down by an assassin’s bullet. As a nation we had never recovered, the shock still reverberating throughout our psyche like a terrible wound that would not heal.

Then another wound, the assassination of our great Civil Rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, younger brother of our fallen president was on his way to a planned campaign rally in his bid to get the 1968 Democratic nomination for President. Just after he arrived in Indianapolis, he was told of King’s death and advised by police not to make the campaign stop. It was in a part of the city considered to be a dangerous ghetto. But Kennedy insisted on going. He found the people in an upbeat mood and realized they didn’t know. In breaking the news of King’s death he referred to his own loss of his older brother and quoted from memory the Greek Poet, Aeschylus. “He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”

Just two months later, on June 5, 1968, while celebrating his victory in the California primary Bobby said to his supporters only minutes before he, too, was gunned down by an assassin’s bullet. “I think we can end the divisions within the United States. (W)e can work together in the last analysis. . . We are a great country, an unselfish country and a compassionate country.”

Some say that in 1968 America came close to political disintegration. Millions of people opposed the war and the military announced in early 1968 that it would draft 300,000 more troops. Americans were dying in Vietnam by the hundreds and young people lost confidence in our leaders and in the official version of reality. There was a movement afloat, a revolution at hand before our beloved leaders who had brought hope to the country were cut down. Although the war was later ended and the troops brought home, after 1968 many of us detached ourselves from the painful public square and turned our attention on matters closer to home.

Surprisingly, though, we ended up rearing children who became educated, sensitized and responsive to their natural and political environments. Adult children who were able to agree or disagree without rioting in the streets, who also have inculcated and are passing down the dreams that King and Kennedy inspired in their lasting contribution to the ongoing American revolution.

God, the American Dream and the Select Few

It’s not enough that the rich have co-opted the American Dream. Now they are trying to co-opt God. Forget all that stuff about the poor inheriting the earth, it being easier for a rich man to go through the eye of a needle than to get into Heaven, or that Christ tossed the usurers out of the temple–the rich are not worried.

Because they don’t believe it. They believe God is on their side. After all, He made them rich, didn’t he? And He lets the poor live in poverty, doesn’t he? Which obviously means He finds the poor undeserving. Old Rockefeller said “God gave me my money!” and it is more obvious than ever before that this is what the rich believe.

Until recently I had not realized how pervasive the idea of the deserving rich is in our society. I mean, I knew money bestowed power, but I had no idea it also created and supported such a belief system. For the very rich, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the after-tax income of the top one percent rose 228 percent from 1979 through 2005, while the earnings of men in their thirties, based on a study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts, have remained flat over the past four decades. Improvement in family incomes during that time has been mostly due to the increase of wives and mothers in the work force.

I guess you could blame my naivete on my birth as a member of the undeserving poor. I was born into coal, on the excavating side. My father was a coal miner for twenty-five years before he pursued the American Dream by getting out of coal to become a barber, upward mobility to much cleaner and less dangerous work. Meanwhile, families who had never seen a coal mine lived wealthy lives provided by royalties from coal while romping beneath the golden Sun on the French Riviera.

This belief system of the rich that God gave them their money works as well as it does because it is supported by other belief systems that are working in tandem. One, built around the theme of entitlement, inclines the believer to acept the rich’s approbation of themselves as deserving of their immense wealth because they think that with time and chance, they too can belong to the select few. Although the second group hasn’t yet arrived at the very top, they, like the rich, feel entitled to the best of everything. Based on what? Their looks, talent, intelligence, education? Culture? Their sparkling personality?

When my father died, my family was thrown into poverty. Despite how hard my older siblings worked to keep us together–warm, fed and clothed, I remember one day at school having nothing to eat for lunch and I hid from the other children until lunchtime was over so they wouldn’t know. I was ashamed of being hungry.

Except for a small group who provide much ammunition to the welfare critics, most of the poor do not feel entitled to anything, and even blame themselves for not doing better than they are. After all, this is America, land of opportunity and the American Dream. Or was. But even though the Dream has died for many, God cannot be co-opted. He lives within the heart of His people. His love shines on us all.

Bah Humbug Revisited

Well, yippee! The release of my built-up negative emotions lurking behind my feel-good front has cleared the air once again and I’m ready to take on Father Christmas, the presidential candidates and the winter storm coming in for the weekend. I mailed my last Christmas card yesterday, giggled about Romney fudging his facts, watched Huckabee trying to walk on water (and drowning) and stocked up on groceries. I’m cozy in my little house and have parked my guilty conscience in the back of my ingratitude journal until it’s time to call it out again. Gee, I can’t do everything at once.

When I was a child my baby brother and I decided we no longer believed in Santa Claus. Of course this was in July. I think we had first begun to doubt the Christmas before, but as December drew closer our disbelief began to waver. Maybe there really was a Santa after all (and if we didn’t believe in him he wouldn’t bring us any presents). That turned out to be the happiest Christmas of our childhood. The following March our Daddy died. And the Christmas after that, we no longer doubted, but knew. There was no Santa.

Except that we learned the true meaning of Christmas through our older siblings. They cared for us, saw that we did not go hungry, and shared their loving spirit with us. If there were few gifts at Christmastime, they were lovingly made and although the tree they found in the woods was so tall it had to be topped, and took up far too much space in the tiny house, we created room for it.

As I enter my second childhood and romp with my wonderful grandchildren, I try to balance my good memories with the harsh ones, for the world requires a balance. Between what I perceive as the good and the bad I hope to see the truth. I’ve watched goodness take on the badness of self-righteousness. I watch the future leader of America and the free world, one of those people on the stump who are making asses of themselves, and I feel discouraged. I watch them attempting to usurp the glory of the birth of the Christ child and claim God’s sponsorship, and I know that He will not be persuaded but will only give us the one we deserve. And that scares me most of all.

So let’s try to be deserving of a strong leader who will truly lead the American people, who will not force his/her own personal beliefs on us but will help us to live up to the ideals of America and the American Creed. And let’s celebrate, each in our own way, the beauty of God’s earth and His gift of the Christ Spirit.

Good Morning, World

And a beautiful world it is, with the streetlight still shining on the new snow covering the old snow’s dirty tracks. As I watch from the window of my warm and cozy house the below-freezing temperature outside bothers me not at all. A friend of mine complains that her heat bill is rising, and I say “But aren’t we lucky. We have heat, and enough money to pay the bill. Some don’t.”

My friend naturally has to agree. How can she not? But, instead of dropping this banality on her head I should’ve written it in my gratitude journal and forgotten about it. After all, that’s what a gratitude journal is for. To fill with stupid remarks that I would otherwise drop on my unsuspecting friends.

Positive thinking is well and good. I’ve practiced it long enough to know. But it’s given negative thinking a bad name. What am I supposed to do with all the negative stuff that is piling up back there, waiting for the dam to break? We need to create balance in our lives and let’s face it, how often does positive thinking keep us from taking appropriate action or lead us into compromising all that we hold dear?

Perhaps that is what’s wrong with America these days. Positive thinking and gratitude journals and all that pablum having led us down the path of unreal thinking. In order to face the truth, an antique expression, visualize an instrument formerly known as the scales of justice before it went out of fashion. Positive thinking lies on one side, negative thinking on the other. Weigh them carefully. If you can get them to balance you just might be on to something.

The Sun has risen and the street light has gone off. I see rabbit tracks across the new fallen snow and wonder if they were made by the same rabbit whose silhouette I saw before dawn yesterday. I wonder, as I often have, whether the spirit of the animals is amused by the human race and our naive assumption that we are the crowning glory of God’s creation.