Saturday, February 7, 2009


Prior to the election our our new President I was not an especially political citizen. I pride myself in an ability to see both (or more) sides of any issue, which comes in handy in fiction writing because it allows for creating moments of decency in the most morally deprived characters and allowing the saintly ones to fall considerably short of perfection. Accepting the dogma of a particular party without question or reservation goes against my nature, as does seeing the opposition simply, strictly, simplistically as the enemy. But life among other things is about making choices, and growing up in a non-affluent African American (Caribbean to be precise) household put the democrats in a far more flattering light than the republicans, so I didn’t ponder my registration decision strenuously. It was basically a pre-made choice. When I registered to vote and declared myself a democrat, the timing of it had nothing to do with wanting to support whoever was running for president or governor or mayor at the time. I had gotten a job collecting signatures for a politician who was trying to get on the ballot to run for lieutenant governor of the state of New York and as one of his campaign workers I was asked to register as a democrat, which was fine by me because I already considered myself to unofficially be one. Had I gotten that same job working for a candidate who was republican, perhaps I would have taken the decision lightly enough to say “what the heck” and gone the other way. It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore years at NYU and there were far more pressing things on my mind, like girls and…like girls.

Every four years as election time rolled around I surveyed the field and made a gut call. Typically it was for the democrat. But since I considered politicians a rather untrustworthy lot in general, this felt more like picking the lesser of two evils than supporting who I was most inspired by. I voted for Ross Perot specifically because he had not spent the majority of his life prior to running for president as a politician. That seemed to be the strongest qualification a candidate could possess. After all the sound and fury of each election season, the winner would step into office and for 4 – 8 years achieve scattered results and mixed reviews. Sometimes circumstances dictated a rise in his popularity, other times a significant fall, but none of these men changed the world from my perspective. World changing seemed to have reached its zenith in the 1960’s, whether the agents of that change were politicians or preachers or athletes or musicians, and after that the world simply grew more technologically advanced each year but not necessarily much different than the past. The decades of the 50’s and the 60’s were basically night and day in comparison to each other. Subsequent decades flowed into one another with much less contrast regardless of the fanfare.

Then this time around came around. A man by the name of Barack H. Obama took to the world stage and rocked it like the Kennedys, the Beatles, Elvis, and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five all rolled into one. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that if the blatantly right man for the job somehow won, things were going to be quite different going forward. The game was going to be played by a new set of rules. Those who had strongly cared about government in the past continued to do so, but those who had scarcely paid attention before were now also engaged. Obama was not the first black man or the first minority or the first person under 50 or the first dynamic speaker ever to run for president. What he was, what he is, continues to be written in the history books. We’re only in the early chapters of those books, at the beginning of what surely has the potential if not guarantee to be greatness. We sense that great change is coming once again. What that change will be isn’t really clear. I'm not holding out hope for those 40 acres and a mule. Not much beyond disappointment may even occur, if only because there is so very much for this particular presidency to live up to. Time will tell as it always does. But for now, the sense of promise and potential is overwhelming, and all things seem possible even if we don’t actually understand what is meant by all things. What we do know is that a black man became president, not even one with a WASPY name, and if that could happen who knows what might take place next. Condominiums on the moon? Moving sidewalks? Flying cars? Robot maids? A cure for aging and antidote to death? A diet pill that works fantastically for 100% of the people 100% of the time, with no side effect other than increased libido? A pill that enables 80 year old men to get it on whenever they wish? Oh yeah, we already got that one. The New York Jets winning another Super Bowl? That’s what Obama’s election felt like – as if the future, at least the first part of it, had truly, finally arrived.

I've been asked by a number of people to describe the experience of being in DC on the day Barack Obama was sworn in. What did it feel like to be standing for hours among millions in the blistering cold in our nation’s capital to watch the inauguration of our new president, our great black of skin but colorless of soul hope? How did it feel to be there with three of my four siblings partaking in such a historical moment? How did it feel to know the moment would have occurred whether we were there to share in it with the masses or not, whether we had each done our small part by voting for him or not, but we had chosen to come nonetheless because it seemed senseless to be anyplace else? How did it feel the day after the day honoring Martin Luther King Jr. to believe the dreamy vision he had spoken of shortly before his death was by all appearances at last being realized? How did it feel to know that if my daughter ever asks me where I was on the day Obama became president and the future perhaps became the present, I will be able to say – I was right there with him, in body as well as spirit?

It felt great.

- Roy Pickering

  • The Gluten Free Illustrator did not make the trip to DC as she needed to stay in our nice warm home with our little one.
  • 1 comment:

    1. Wow Cuz, that was great!!! - Rick Gunter