Another Chance At Camelot
Wednesday - June 11, 2008
My son graduated the other day. Not from high school - from eighth grade. I don’t remember if I had an eighth-grade graduation. I doubt it. We had an assembly where awards were given out, but that was it, I think. It was so long ago, my memory is fuzzy.
Zach has a better memory than I, so maybe when he looks back on this year - the year he stood on the threshold of high school - he’ll understand just how profoundly the change in his life was tied with the change sweeping across his country.
We watched Barack Obama’s victory speech together. He thought it was interesting, but he knew it was historic only because I told him so - he didn’t get the thrill I got watching the first African American nominee for president of the United States. I have to admit I cried. I was proud of Obama and of our country. I wanted my son to realize just how much this will mean to him as a person of mixed race in a nation that has struggled - and struggles still - to mesh reality with ideals.
This isn’t the end of racism in America. It’s certainly not the end of misogyny. What the campaign has made very clear is that they are there, hiding, insidious and easily exposed if you look a little closer, like gunk on your shoe or mold behind your bathroom wall. What I didn’t like about the campaign was seeing so clearly and having to accept that there are a lot of people in this country who still won’t vote for a man simply because of the color of his skin. And there are people who won’t vote for a woman because she’s “uppity,” “bitchy” or reminds them of their nagging mothers. Sheesh. Do us all a favor - grow up, wise up or shut up.
I’m on the tail end of the boomer generation (which tells you both how young and how old I am), which means I basically missed out on Camelot. Instead, I got Watergate and Vietnam. Hippiedom made way for Yuppiedom, and there was no real outlet for the idealists among us until Bill Clinton popped up out of nowhere to win the presidency. He made us feel invigorated and hopeful and young. But even that was tainted in the end.
Call me naïve, but I think we have another chance at Camelot. I’ve had friends who hesitated to support Obama, not because they are prejudiced, but because they are afraid the rest of the country is not ready to elect a black president. I understand their viewpoint but don’t agree with it. You can’t let fear of failure stop you from trying. Isn’t that what you tell your kids? Well, it isn’t just a platitude. It’s true.
It’s OK that my son isn’t as thrilled as I am by this political watershed. I really, fervently hope he can grow up in a world in which it’s no big deal to see a black or Hispanic or Asian or woman (of any color) running a corporation or a state or our country. Once it becomes commonplace, we’ve won. But for that to happen there has to be a first. There has to be that one person who benefits from the accumulated blood, sweat and tears of those who tried and failed before. The one who finally breaks through - and soars.
I feel like America has just graduated to the next level, just like my son.
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