I'm jubilant that, come January 20, we'll once again have a president whose brain waves are dancing, who can bring an English sentence to completion, and who understands that America consists of much more than the Bushian roster of Fortune 500 executives, evangelicals, know-nothings, high school dropouts, gay-bashers, neocon imperialists, dittoheads, gun nuts, military contractors, upward redistributionists, fetus-worshipers and health insurance profiteers. The new president will abandon the present system of government (trust the market -- capitalism is always right!) and return us to the world of evidence and reason. Quite the revolution, isn't it? And speaking of revolutions, the new president, if you haven't heard, is black (or to be more accurate, black-and-white, which is this country still means, in defiance of all logic, black). How splendid to bury a long-standing racial taboo. Nothing makes me prouder than that we've elected an African-American, Kenyan-Kansan president. With a brain.
The election of Barack Obama brought me back to hometown Brooklyn of sixty-one years ago. I was eight years old on April 15, 1947, when Jackie Robinson "broke the color barrier." It was Jackie on first base or Jackie running the bases that alerted me to the idea that I lived in a conflict-riven society. We (family, friends, neighbors, writers for the Brooklyn Eagle) were enthusiastic about Jackie, but there were those reactionaries and bigots in other cities who were convinced that their world had just come to an end. No question but that the advent of Jackie Robinson was the major formative political experience of my early childhood -- even though it was decades before I could fully appreciate its cosmic significance.
In my mind, and I think in the minds of others of my generation, there's a direct line from Jack Roosevelt Robinson to Barack Hussein Obama. Two smart, skilled performers; two ferocious but very cool competitors. Two very courageous gentlemen. Two barriers busted all to smithereens. Two milestones in American history. Never the latter if hadn't hadn't been for the former.
Jackie's fabulously athletic body fell apart early and he died young of diabetes. He was born in 1918, and if he had been blessed with longevity, he would have been ninety years old today.
Wouldn't that have been a pretty picture -- Jackie Robinson, frail, gray, stooped, leaning on his cane, but still in possession of that marvelous knowing glint in his coal black eyes, sitting right there on the platform in front of the United States Capitol, a tear on his cheek while Barack Obama holds up his hand and swears to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America. I see it oh so clearly in my mind's eye. It gladdens my fond old heart.