Saturday, November 1, 2008

On the home stretch (2)

Published: Saturday, 1 Nov 2008

We are almost there and the excitement is palpable. Unfortunately, there is something else in the air, and it is equally strong. It is called fear. At least that is what many of us are feeling since the news broke about the arrest of two neo-Nazi skin heads on Monday for an alleged plot to assassinate Senator Barack Obama and at least 100 other African-Americans.

They reportedly also planned to supplement their mayhem with a shooting spree at a high school located in a predominantly black neighbourhood.

A colleague, an eternal pessimist, told me that as a black person, I need to be vigilant in the days leading up to the election. In his opinion, as the possibility of an Obama victory grows, so does the angst of white supremacists who never imagined that they would see a black man come this far in American politics.

I thought of my family members who go about different activities during the day and some of them do not get home until quite late. Suddenly, a heavy cloak of fear wrapped itself around me.

Incidentally, during the week, I was “chatting” with someone on Yahoo Messenger about the insecurity in Nigeria. This person lives in Lagos and I asked, “How do you folks survive?” Well, my own bubble of safety and comfort has burst as the countdown to Tuesday begins. Senator Obama himself was asked during the week if he was scared. He said he wasn’t because he has the “best guys in the world – the Secret Service.”

Not that it would be politically correct for a candidate to the most powerful office in the world to confess to fear of assassination by some rednecks, who would rather face the consequences of killing than see a black man in the big White House on Pennsylvania Avenue, DC. The fact is that the police have admitted to investigating at least 500 death threats against the man who might possibly be the first African-American president in a country where the scars of slavery and racism are still visible.

While Senator Obama may not be afraid – and indeed he should not be – quite a number of people are afraid for him. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has been on the minds of many people in recent days. It is symbolic that Senator Obama accepted his party’s nomination on the 45th anniversary of the famous “I have a dream” speech given by Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial monument in the country’s capital.

John F. Kennedy was the president when Dr. King gave the historic speech. JFK’s daughter, Caroline, has compared Senator Obama to her father because of the way he inspires hope in Americans. She describes him as a “president like my father.” Both King and Kennedy were assassinated.

Tomorrow is the last Sunday before the elections. As a Christian, I would feel content that sufficient prayers will be offered for peace and security during these final hours. The problem is that Sunday is the most segregated day in this country, as someone else observed. Black folks go to black churches and white folks go to white churches.

Given this segregation, the prayers offered in churches tomorrow will be to different Gods and for different agendas. Ninety-eight percent of black folks will pray for an Obama/Biden victory. Many do not know if they will be better off in an Obama Administration. However, they will be able to say, “Free, we are free at last!”

White folks will pray for Senator McCain because he is the acknowledged Christian. It won’t matter that he is not a practising Christian, that he cheated on his disabled first wife, and then left her to marry a younger, richer woman.

The issues on the agenda of the ultra-conservative Christian right are: abortion, the war in Iraq, Israel, guns, a wall around the US border with Mexico, and immigration.

Senator McCain and Governor Sarah Palin check all the right boxes. Plus, Senator McCain is a genuine war hero. To love God is to love America and to love America is to fight in a war, own a gun, hate illegal immigrants and homosexuals, and defend the rights of the unborn.

Senator Obama, on the other hand, is pro-choice (supports abortion); pro-diplomacy and war only as a last resort; pro-civil union between gay couples; was once photographed in an “Islamic paraphernalia;” had an African Moslem for a grandfather; “pals around with terrorists;” has never gone to war; has questionable patriotism; not pro-America enough and may not really be American (being born in Hawaii doesn’t count); is a socialist, communist, Marxist and will “spread the wealth.” He even admitted that he shared toys with his friends when he was in kindergarten, a clear sign of communism! Did I mention that he is black?

Senator McCain told CNN’s Larry King on Wednesday that race won’t be a factor on Tuesday. I fervently pray that he is right. From where I am sitting though, neo-racism and xenophobia have become clothed in many other labels. Those labels and the effect they have on fringe white supremacist elements of the society are paralysing me with fear, a strange emotion for me. I am tempted to keep my family indoors until well after the election.

But I choose not to, because I am hoping that this Tuesday is the day that Dr. King spoke of 45 years ago, the day when “all of God‘s children, black men (and women) and white men (women), Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” And those God’s children (both in white churches and black churches tomorrow) will join their voices to say, “Amen” to freedom from race-induced violence in the coming days!

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