Tuesday, November 18, 2008

11/18/2008 – Tuesday

It’s been two weeks since we’ve elected a new president. The forty-fourth President is working hard on a transition of power and busy selecting staff to support his work in governing the country. Early on there were a significant number of instances of words of encouragement and “bi-partisanship” from those who supported John McCain. In the past few days, McCain and Obama have met for conversation. On the surface there is an aura of the highlights of the American political process. We peacefully move from one administration to another. The 2000 election was not a speedy transition, but it was peaceful.

One of my colleagues in South Africa Brian Konkol has written about his experience in South Africa and the comments and questions he has received post election. [SEE Konkol’s in Blogs I view] There is much to affirm about what Brian is experiencing, but I have two different views of the world. The first is the most current. I see that there is an unsatisfied populace who sense that the election was not only the loss of political control, but they have a sense of personal and social control that is also lost. Why is it that the sale of guns has sky rocketed in the US? The verbal comments have focused on a belief that Obama will take away the right to bear arms. If the news reports are correct, the number of assault rifles that have been purchased “for hunting” puts every deer in North America in deep jeopardy.

The rush to blame Obama for our current economic recession and economic crisis is headlined by Rush Limbaugh, who didn’t wait 24 hours to continue the critique of the president-elect [see: http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-na-onthemedia9-2008nov09,0,4216330.story] Even a Director of a nonpolitical, nonpartisan foundation found that even the casual mention of a “sense of new beginnings” regardless of one’s personal politics received negative responses from many of his donors. [see: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1108/15509.html] In addition there have been reports that there are more specifically documented threats to the president-elect than have ever been reported by those agencies charged with his security. One wonders why the perceived loss of political power brings out some of the worse in humanity.

If you read Brian’s last posting, it notes that there seems to be an openness toward political discussion in his experience in South Africa. My second comment is a cumulative reflection of my six trips to Southern Africa. I must admit that my five months early in 2008 was much different than any previous visit to South Africa. I distinctly remember being told in 1992 not to wear any ANC paraphernalia when we traveled from Johannesburg to Durban. We had physically relocated from African National Congress [ANC] territory to Inkatha Freedom Party [IFP]. In 1996, while on the Umphumulu Seminary Campus, which was located in Natal Province, the political discussions for guarded since the majority population in the area was related to IFP. This year the open discussions of politics was unexpected by welcome. In fourteen years South Africa seems to have captured some essence of freedom of discussion that we have yet to capture here in the US.

Progress is interesting, but so is fear. Some fear the loss of power; I fear for the safety of our president-elect. Perhaps we can all learn from this challenging time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

11/4/2008 – Tuesday – ELECTION DAY

Almost every day I was in South Africa, someone asked me about the Presidential politics of the US. Tonight there is a party in Grant Park in Chicago. Two days ago I watched the park personnel put up the tent and fences for a celebration. Tonight in Philadelphia, I watch the citizens of the United States elect a 44th President of African Descent. My sons, my wife, my mother have voted and witnessed an election that we did not think would happen in our lifetime.

As we watch Senator John McCain concede, we reflect on the fact that 40 years ago Grant Park was the scene of another youth movement in the political process that did not end in celebration. How times have changed. Tonight we not only dream of hope, but we see the foundation laid in HOPE. Upon this foundation, we will build change for country that is truly in need of change. Yes we can. YES, WE CAN.