I was lucky to be able to attend the inauguration of President Obama at the beginning of his first term. Even though I was there as a bus driver for the Washington, DC police, I was present at a historic event which in turn allowed me to observe a great diversity of people who ventured out for this once-in-a-lifetime event. I witnessed tens of thousands of people of every color walking towards the inauguration, passing directly in front of my bus. They carried signs and wore decorated shirts expressing their excitement over the upcoming ceremony. The temperature was around 25, yet many of the walkers wore only t-shirts. I was bundled up in my tour bus with the heat on, as requested by the police I was carrying. They did not want to return to a cold bus during their lunch break. As I sat there watching the events unfold, I immersed myself in the grandeur of the moment. This was something I could tell my grandkids or anyone else who was willing to listen.
So now move to the present and think about the events that have transpired since the beginning of the president’s term. President Obama went on to win a second term, initiate universal healthcare, almost get us out of the middle east and reduce unemployment to historic levels. All this was done despite a hostile congress bent on blocking any legislation supported by the first black president. For most presidents this would have been considered a successful stay in office but for President Obama, according to his critics, it was a total failure and brought about the ruination of this country.
This morning I read an article which stated that our colleges may be cauldrons of racism. This is quite disturbing! I always felt that the college campus was a place where progressive ideas were nurtured, helping society move into a new and more humane direction. Now I hear of increasing numbers of racial incidents on our campuses that take me back to the 60’s. Just recently in Oklahoma college students were seen chanting racial slurs while riding on a bus. At Duke University students were faced with a hanging noose in a tree in a student area. This brings back memories from a difficult time in our history when racism was common place. One could claim that these are random occurrences by a few crazy individuals and that we as people are not returning to an age of hatred.
I need to approach this issue from a different direction. Societies are much like giant oil tankers that require large distances to change direction. The physics is simple: an object in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted upon by an opposing force. Societies as well tend to continue in the same direction unless acted upon by opposing forces. Maybe the gentle nudging of society towards a non-racist agenda would have been more effective, for some people, than the shock of having a person of color in the oval office. As with many others, I am afraid that there may be a backlash of resentment that will push us in the wrong direction. Hypothetically we may create a sub-culture of racism that, like a cancer, destroys the body from within. Somehow we must address this negative energy and reduce its effect!
As President Obama approaches the end of his time in office, we must reflect on where we are going as a nation. My hope is that we are heading into an age of enlightenment, but there are many troubling signs on our horizon. The degree of rancor, animosity and hate in this country has risen to levels unseen in recent history, and if it continues, there is no telling where we are going to end up. There are some who think that Christ will reappear and help us find our way out of all of this, but if he were to actually return, he would be greatly distraught over what the world has become at our hands and the misuse of his name and teachings.