I Get It

February, 19, 2009

The day before the Inauguration, I was in my car driving home from the gym. As I turned down one street, I noticed a little house on my left; it was festooned with US flags, garlands, and twinkle lights. An African-American woman was on the porch excitedly chatting on her cellphone while continuing to adorn her home. Her countenance radiated enthusiasm, pride, patriotism and joy.

I realized that this lady’s happiness was in sharp contrast to my own disappointment and bewilderment over the man who won the vote for President.

As I watched this woman for a moment while waiting for the light to change, I remembered an email I received from a former client a few months earlier; he and his family were endorsing Obama and encouraging all of their friends to vote for him.

I met my former client during my first professional career as an entertainment publicist in Los Angeles. He is an African-American comedian/radio personality who retained my services for almost 10 years. During the decade that we worked together, I became well acquainted with him and his family.

Before I was retained by this client, my knowledge and association with African-Americans was limited. I was raised in a predominantly white neighborhood and had few friends of different ethnicities. There were racial tensions in the early days of high school, but those difficult days eventually subsided during the early – mid 1970s. Still, there was tension within the student body that occasionally created a divisive feeling between whites and blacks. It wasn’t until I started working my former client that I became a little more enlightened about the ethnic and cultural lives of African-Americans.

During the years of our association, I became good friends with my client’s wife. When I was diagnosed with a serious illness, Joan was by my side throughout the entire ordeal. I will never forget and will always be grateful for her calm, spiritual presence when I was frightened and ill.

Joan gave me a little window into her life, the racial climate in which she was raised (Atlanta, Georgia) and challenges she faced growing up in that area. Joan is a dignified individual – there is no anger, sense of entitlement or resentment. However, as she told me about her life and experiences, she revealed a world that was a bit different from mine. I knew, of course, that there is a chasm between races, perhaps less now than in the past, but Joan helped me see it from her perspective – a valuable gift to me.

I’m not pleased with the outcome of the election – that is my most polite statement on the subject. However, as I watched that woman preparing her home for a celebration, a day of symbolism and significance, I got it. A man was elected who represented many things to people of color: acceptance, success and recognition of not only their heritage, but of their dreams, too. I get that and I can respect those feelings.

One of my greatest regrets is that I would have loved to join in her jubilation and celebrate with her the fulfillment of the American promise of equality and fairness to all. Our nation witnessed an historic event and I am saddened that I couldn’t share the joy that millions felt on January 20th.

Prior to the election, I came to have very grave reservations about the qualifications, integrity and preparedness of Mr. Obama. I disagreed with his proposed agendas and policies before the election and I’m alarmed at the precipitous and ill-prepared actions of the new administration’s first days and weeks; it doesn’t portend well for the next four years.

As a former publicist, I know that he is a political construct of the far left. Behind the smoke, mirrors, flags, pseudo-presidential seals and Styrofoam Greek columns, I could see the image-makers and the media manipulation that influenced the opinions and votes of a hopeful country.

The president of the United States is often referred to as the most powerful man in the world (perhaps, someday soon, woman?). This nation needs a strong and learned leader to shepherd us through a complex and dangerous time in our history; the Oval Office is not the place for affirmative action or social experiments.

It’s wonderful to know that Americans can look beyond race and gender and consider a variety of candidates for high office. It speaks well of our tolerance and maturity. Nevertheless, we need, now more than ever, the best and most qualified individual to lead our nation. I don’t think the new inhabitant of the White House is ready or competent for the job, certainly his actions, words and deeds are proving my sentiments to be on target.

I have goodwill toward the lady with the patriotically-decorated porch. I’m happy for her happiness. Still, I will pray for our country and the man whose victory she proudly celebrated.

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