by Joe Shea
June 4, 2008
A NEW SONG FOR AMERICA
My hearts sings for my country today. It is a song that rises from the sea chants and shanty songs, from the sweat-drenched fields and forests, from the hymns of slaves and the poetry of anguished souls, from the ancient, irrepressible longing for freedom and a place for everyone in the sun of liberty.
That after a titanic struggle for survival, acceptance and equality a black American has finally ascended to the forefront of American power and prestige is so singular and stunning an achievement words can only vaguely point to its inestimable worth.
No editorial can do justice to the centuries of blood and struggle that have accompanied the African-American experience. As a 13-year-old in Georgia, the black kids like Roger Bray I worked with on a hog farm lived in a rough wooden shack and fed themselves with chickens that had escaped from a nearby processing plant and run into the woods. While the Harlem Renaissance had come and gone, the reality of black people in cities and towns throughout America remained unchanged.
At Dobbins AFB, where my dad worked in 1963, the water fountains still bore the White and Colored signs that had outlived the formal end of segregation. The Strand Theater downtown still reserved the balcony for black people, and the menial jobs they had never paid more than enough for a hand-to-mouth living. I knew one black preacher whose ramshackle home in the woods had no electricity or indoor plumbing. I didn't know any black people with a car. The maid that came to our home twice a week came in the back of the bus.
The liberating energy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and other great civil rights leaders, most of whose names have now faded from the front pages, met a fierce wall of resistance as they fought for basic rights in the legendary battles of Birmingham, Selma, and Memphis and dozens of other cities whose way of life was forever changed by their efforts.
I can only imagine the pride of the families of three white civil rights workers murdered in Mississippi as they saw Sen. Obama capture the Democratic nomination. But they sacrificed their lives in the context of a river of blood that flowed from one end of this nation to the other since this nation's founding. The pages of our history show the lynchings and massacres and most famous injustices, but they cannot encompass the millions upon millions of lives blighted by poverty, discrimination and the mean, bloody fist of racism. That is a task for God himself.
I predicted in these pages some time ago that the harsh voice of racial division would be aimed at Barack Obama before the primary campaign ended, and even said that it would come from an unimagined and unexpectedly close source. The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, in his wrong-headed though well-meant jeremiads at Obama's church in Chicago, were exactly that. They showed the face of black anger, nationalism and recrimination that had once been seen only on the shadowy edges of black extremism. That entire episode was a painful passage for the Democratic nominee, but it was a vital one because it moved him away from the parochial cloak of his church's pastor into the far greater mantle of his party's nomination.
In the days ahead, as the candidate continues to define his agenda for America and the world, racial hatred is likely to spur the Democrats' gallant champion again and again. That is unavoidable, and so is the sensationalism with which it will be received by those of us in the mainstream press who think it's still news; that may not include The American Reporter.
The real threat to Democrats lies in the continuing campaign for the presidency of Hillary Clinton, who is, as I write, beginning a televised speech to the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC immediately following one by Sen. Obama. Those who thought that she would lay down her shield and spear and take a well-deserved rest before joining Sen. Obama's supporters on the campaign trail have been profoundly disappointed; her campaign goes on.
But Sen. Clinton, whoever cynically, reads the tea leaves well. She knows the power of racism, having used it deftly during her campaign, with nuance and contempt, while innocently proclaiming her centricity. As her morbid hint recently revealed, she recalls the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Dr. King and others like him, and knows that Sen. Obama always stands at least some greater chance than she does of dying in his pursuit of the presidency; she seems determined to be available should that eventuality arise.
That is just another obstacle to what we will believe will be the ultimate achievement of Barack Obama: his election to the White House as a champion of change, a leader of integrity, intelligence and progressive energy that does indeed change the world we live in, making it a better and more just place for all people. With this new song in our hearts, and with all the hope we can muster, we salute Sen. Obama and wish him a safe, successful and uplifitng campaign for the presidency.
Joe Shea is Editor-in-Chief of The American Reporter.