Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"Hope Over Fear"

Yesterday, like most of us, I watched the inauguration. It was an amazing, victorious day for our country. I say this not as a Democrat. In fact I say it as a Republican voter who strongly disagrees with many of Obama's policies. But yesterday I put politics aside and celebrated. It wasn't a day for political parties. It was a day for America.

As I watched I thought of the African Americans my age and older, who lived through the Civil Rights era. Of others who recite family legends about their slave ancestors. I thought about Rosa Parks. Martin Luther King, Jr. The teenagers who braved the gauntlet of snarl and spit as they dared cross the threshold of a white high school. Those adults brave enough to cast their first vote when the pressure to "just stay home" was strong. I thought of all those people, and their children who now hear their stories, and knew that even with my strong feelings about this historical moment, I couldn't begin to understand the depth of their emotion.

Most of all I thought of a "Negro" mother from the sixties, a woman whose name I do not know. But I have never forgotten her. For her tragic story was my introduction to injustice.

I grew up in a Wilmore, Kentucky, a small town with a worldwide reach through its Christian institutions, Asbury College and Seminary. Students from many countries attended those schools. Church bishops from all over the world came to meetings there, and many of them stayed in our home. My own parents were missionaries in India for twenty years. I was born there, and we returned to the states when I was nearly three. In Wilmore my parents continued their ministry by opening their house to international visitors. I never knew who would be at our table or in a guestroom. All colors of skin were equal to me because of my parents' graciousness toward everyone. I simply didn't know any differently.

That changed one day when I was about ten years old. The Vietnam War was raging. On TV came a story from a deep southern state. A young "Negro" soldier had been killed on the battlefield, and his body had been shipped home. His mother was grieving. Then her nightmare took an unthinkable twist. The town in which she lived wouldn't allow her son to be buried in its cemetery--the son who'd died fighting for his country. That cemetery was "whites only."

I remember hearing the story, first thinking I must have heard wrong. No one could be that mean. A reporter asked the mother, "How do you feel about the situation?" She lowered her head, looking so weary. "Just ... sad."

Sad? As a child, I felt that too. But I felt so much more. A new feeling twisted my gut, an anger, a rage wrapped around that sorrow. How could anyone treat the soldier and his mother like that? How could anyone not see how unfair this was, after that young man had died for our country? Somehow, amid my youth and inexperience, I looked at that mother and knew she felt these things too. Yet all that rose from her was weariness, as if she'd borne the burden of injustice for a long, long time.

I don't know if that mother is still alive. I hope she is. Yesterday was for her.

I happen to be back in Wilmore at the moment, visiting my own mother. We watched the inauguration together. Mom's 92 now and a widow. She's a staunch Republican, never voted Democrat in her life. But she was as glued to the TV as I. That morning she'd been to the doctor because of a swollen leg. We were concerned it might be a blood clot. It wasn't, but the doctor told her to stay off her feet and keep them elevated. During the ceremony she sat in her armchair with the pop-up footrest, her leg on a pillow. I'd put two blankets over her because she was cold. But at the end of the inauguration, when the national anthem was sung, Mom swept aside her blankets and pushed to her feet. "I cannot sit while this song is being sung," she declared. And she stood, back straight, watching the TV screen and listening until the last note died away.

Yesterday was for my mom, too. For the mother who taught me that all people are created equal.

In his address President Obama said we now choose "hope over fear." That phrase links old memory and new in my mind. The stricken face of that "Negro" mother of the sixties who was denied justice--and the picture of my own mom, standing straight and proud as the national anthem was sung on an African American's inauguration day.

Tomorrow, this nation faces its future. Politics return. I will raise my voice against certain policies of President Obama, such as extending abortion. Even as I oppose other injustices, I can still rejoice that this country has come a long way in shedding its past sin of slavery and oppression against an entire race.

Yesterday was a day for all of us.


Elaina M. Avalos said...

Amen! It was a day for all of us. Thank you for sharing that!

Ty said...

I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I continue to believe this moment in time is about "healing." We can't move forward as a nation and keep pushing aside the past. All of it, good and the ugly, forms our foundation. I praise God for the opportunity for dialogue and a shift in thinking to take place.

Pam Halter said...

Thank you for this balanced look at the day. I've read several opinions and many are very ugly.

Of course, Barack Obama is not black. He is bi-racial ... it's a shame that wasn't played up because it is an approriate symbol of what our country is, a melting pot. But most people are celebrating the victory of a black man.

And I agree, Brandilyn, that his policies are not particularly good for our country but I wait to see what will happen. I'm praying for mercy for our country. Only God in truly in control ... so we wait on His good pleasure.

I am thankful He loves me and His hand is with me, no matter where our country goes.

My 15-year-old daughter, Mary, attended the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. She's been in Washington since Saturday. It's been quite an experience for her. I hoped to get a glimpse of her in the crowd, but they didn't show the conference kids. :( That's okay. She was there. Cold and tired, yes, but still there.

Well, now we can all go back to our writing. :)

Patricia W. said...

Thank you for your comments. I've been so saddened by some of the comments I've seen and heard, both before and after the election from God-fearing, Christ-loving people.

As to Pam's comment, let us not forget the days when "one drop" made a child a Negro and even worse, a slave. No one cared to acknowledge the white side of that child's heritage then. But now, it's fashionable to be "bi-racial". Perhaps this is growth and also a move toward healing in our society. On the otherhand, no one should be surprised when African-Americans, who were shunned no matter what their heritage as long as it was perceived "tainted" by that one drop, bristle or choose to embrace their Black roots.

Technically, I'm bi-racial, half African-American and half-Hispanic. Today it's fashionable to consider me bi-racial too. But when I was growing up in the '60s and '70s, there was no question that I was perceived as and treated as if I were 100% Black so I considered myself Black, although I wrestled with it constantly. Obama's only a year older than me so we have a common reference in history. I don't mean to incite. I just hope my comments help people to understand.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Thank you all for your comments. I hope to hear many more throughout the day.

Kelli said...

I felt much the same as you yesterday. While I did not vote for this president, I was moved by the significance of how far our country has come.

I pray with all my heart, "God, Bless our new president with wisdom and discernment."

Anonymous said...

I also pray that too, Kelli; and I pray for his safety and that of his family.

Nicole said...

You've written an eloquent post, BC.
Neither did I vote for this man--call me crazy, but I didn't see him as a "black" man or a "biracial" man. I saw him as a man with whom his policies and agendas I disagree. Totally. That's why I voted against him.
Prejudice makes me almost physically ill. I'm half-Italian and my immigrant grandparents felt the sting of prejudice--not suggesting here to the degree of black Americans--as did some of the Irish, Asians, and Hispanics today. It's ugly and sinful.
But my prayers will be for this man to fall on his knees before the Living God and find Truth in order to govern well.
I can't support his policies, but I can pray he will find God's will.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

God bless you my friend.

I pray that yesterday is the beginning of a new era in our country, when a man or woman is not measured by the color of their skin, but by the quality of their mind.

I too, have heard some very hateful remarks in the last few days. It's a sad thing to say, but it's not the first time, and it surely won't be the last...but we endure. Racism dies a hard death.

The election of a black man to the highset office in this land was not accomplished by black people alone but by a whole new generation that don't see the color of ones skin as a deterent to their abilities.

Praise God! America has done herself proud.

And on a lighter note...I can now point my finger and say to a whole generation of young black men, "Pull up your d**n pants, you could be President one day!" :-)

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Oh, haha. Love your final thought, Bonnie. Yeah, to ALL teenagers: pull up those pants!

Sherrie Ashcraft said...

I loved your post, Brandilyn, as it captured a lot of my emotion. I didn't vote for Obama because I oppose several things he stands for. But watching the inauguration on TV was a beautiful experience for me. I was moved to tears several times. I guess it's the writer in me, but I kept imagining how he and his wife and those precious little girls must be feeling. (I have grandkids the same ages as his kids, and it blew my mind to think of them moving into the White House!)I thought of what the Bushes must have felt as they flew off in that helicopter. I'm getting long winded (it's nearly 2 am and my brain is fritzing!) but I just want to express my pride as an American. I was a missionary in Nigeria in the 1980s, and in the 3 years we were there we experienced two coups. Quite different from the American exchange of power!

Oh, and I loved where you wrote about you dear mother rising to her feet for the national anthem. Having seen her at ACFW it was easy to picture her doing that.

I'll end with the verse we just happened to be at in our Bible study tonight--I Peter 2:17. "Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king."

Barbara Scott said...

Brandilyn, thanks for expressing what most Republicans felt on Inauguration Day. First and foremost we’re Americans, and I was just as proud of the first African-American president as anyone else on the Mall or watching on TV. It was an historic event. Martin Luther King's dream has come true.

Let’s hope the character bashing that clouds our politics is over. Like you I disagree with many of Obama’s policies, but I respect the office and the man. I hope the media can separate the two because our disagreements have nothing to do with color.

May God bless President Obama, and may His hand be upon him to guide and counsel him, and may our new President listen to God's still small voice when he makes decisions that affect us all.

Robert Parrish said...

So well-written, Brandilyn. Your post brought tears to my eyes. No wonder you're a best-selling, world-renown author. And Mother Ruth is a wonderful icon in our industry.

Leslie said...

Your post made me cry. As did watching the Inaguration. I'm another Republican who cannot stand Obama's policies, but was crying like a baby when Aretha Franklin was singing. It was a beautiful moment in history.

Bonnie - your last line had me cracking up!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, Brandilyn. You spoke for many.

Tonya said...

I've never read your blog before, but Robin Lee Hatcher had posted a note about it on Facebook, so hopped over to see what it was. All I can say is "Perfectly Put". Thank you.

Sandy Cathcart said...

Thanks for sharing Brandilyn. Beautiful words so aptly feelings exactly! And I love the above comments as well...good discussion. Loved the verse from I Peter.

Life is certainly difficult in our country right now, and I'm certainly feeling the effects, BUT I am so full of hope because we have such a FAITHFUL Creator who loves us. The fact that He allowed such a healing to take place in our country gives me even more hope, though, like you, I will stand up against policies that not only do not celebrate life, but take it.