Thursday, November 06, 2008

Don’t Screw This Up

I've been rolling this around in my head since Wednesday morning, and I need to write it down, but I don't want it to sound bad, so that's why I'm just posting this now.


As long as Barack Obama is the first African American president of the United States, we as a nation will have achieved nothing. WAIT, KEEP READING!


George Washington was the first president of the United States. That's all you have to say. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president. Some presidents are not well known, like John Tyler or Franklin Pierce. Some are well known for what they did before or after they were president, like Theodore Roosevelt. Some are known for what they had done to them while they were in office, like James Carter (I just can't call a president Jimmy. It sounds like something you put on ice cream) or William Clinton.


So what's my point? As long as we refer to a person by their genetic heritage, we cheapen that person's accomplishments by putting them into a box with everyone else who has the same genetic heritage. Let me give you an example from my life (please don't think I'm comparing my experiences with anyone else, this is just my experience.)


I am from a large family; five brothers and two sisters, to be precise. Our dad is very well known in the small town and surrounding small towns where I grew up. Having worked in the paper mill, the main source of income for most people in that area, my dad had the opportunity to meet many people (plus the paper mill was in the town he grew up in, and people had much more stable living and working arrangements back then). Because of the strong genetic traits my dad passed on, we all pretty much look like him to a great extent. Because of that, my brothers and I were easily recognizable by everyone in town. I would often hear "that's one of Ralphie's boys", or "You're one of Raplhie's boys, aren't you?" I don't mind being referred to as being one of Ralphie's boys, because it's true. However, I have accomplishments of my own that exceed that of the "random chance" of one in a few million sperm meeting up with an egg one night when my dad's jeans were hanging over the end of the bed (there's a story behind that, but it's longer than this). I am more than the sum of my genetic makeup.


I'm quite sure that Barack Obama is more than the sum of his genetic makeup as well.


I'm also sure that by now most of the people who know me well as the conservative republican evangelical Christian that I am are scratching their head wondering why I'm not upset that Obama won the election. After spending more than 20 years in the military, I'm used to experiencing leadership changes that I was not particularly keen on. I've had many bad examples for bosses, and bosses' bosses, etc. But just because changes didn't go the way you (or I) wanted, doesn't mean that everyone shouldn't be given every opportunity to fail or succeed on their own.


I saw a front page of the Chicago Reader on the Fox News today. It had a drawing of Barack Obama on it with a banner underneath that said "Don't screw this up". I think that's the best one yet. If Barack Obama screws this up, he'll be relegated to the position of being the first African American president, and nothing will have changed. However, if he does amazing things (and he'll have many opportunities to do just that) everything will have changed. And he will be the 44th president of the United States. His being an African American will be a footnote in history.