I wish the Rainbow community in which I grew up could see Barack Obama.
I mean those who were 25 or 30 or more years older than me -- the parents, the ministers, the lawyers and doctors and such, but mainly the teachers. As I am nearing 80, there can't be many of that older generation left. But even people my age or 10 or 20 years younger might have the same reaction. Meanwhile those who are even younger are accustomed to taking things for granted that people my age and older could hardly hope for in our formative years, and those more recent generations are likely to view the Obama success as much less of an unheard-of phenomenon, and instead as only their just due. They are mistaken about the former proposition, though the latter is true.
The old folks would be completely astounded and pleased. They would see Obama as exactly what they had been aiming for, all these long years. Yet at the same time they would be wary, and not a little fearful. Is this the same United States we've always known?
they would ask themselves. What's behind all this enthusiasm of so many different groups of people over this Rainbow man? Is there another shoe waiting to drop? If so, how long is it going to take for that to happen, and what form will it take? After all we've had many Rainbow leaders to reach heights in the past, though admittedly none having so good a shot at actually becoming the U.S. President. And few if any of those have escaped being demonized in some manner or even literally gunned down, as witness Reverend King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Mainly their downfalls have been accomplished by charges of moral wrongdoing or political or financial corruption of some kind. So is this Barack Obama man being set up so high just to create an especially resounding and doom-filled crash for us when eventually he is brought down, as if we haven't already had to suffer from such situations as, for nearly 20 years, the sight of that sorry, prurient, Charley McCarthy excuse for a man, Clarence Thomas, who has been a towering humiliation for us from the day that he took the seat on the Supreme Court that had been occupied by a truly legitimate Rainbow hero, Thurgood Marshall?
I don't know enough about Obama, I think because he rode in on such a tide of esteem and praise before I had had a chance to make a good estimate of those waters. He popped up too suddenly from out of nowhere, like a Deus Ex Machina. I hear that he is especially proficient and inspiring in his speeches, but so far I haven't been in a position to hear any of them.
Yet, though he is a few days over being exactly 30 years younger than me, I feel as if I know him well. That has nothing to do with both of us being males and of African ancestry, his of much more recent vintage than mine. Nor is it because we have much the same kind of mixture of bloods. Instead he is familiar because he is exactly the product that the educational system that I went through strived for with might and main. And that is all the more interesting because I'm told that during Obama's high school years he had issues that wouldn't have predicted his present eminence.
The teachers at Dunbar, the somewhat snotty yet worthwhile high school that I attended in D.C., would have been thrilled out of their socks by the sight of Mr. Obama. I don't mean the Dunbar of today's hip-hop world. I mean the much more staid Dunbar of the 1940's, when it was the academic school that was attended by the aspiring children of D.C.'s Rainbow professional elite, the doctors, lawyers, teachers, and what-not, whereas everybody else with any African ancestry went to three other high schools that specialized in lower prestige business, technical, and vocational subjects.
In a certain sense I had no business being at Dunbar. I was certainly smart enough to be there, and I think I showed that, but in terms of outlook, I was like a fish on the ground. Like everywhere else where I have ever been, I was regarded as being an outsider, a weirdo, but at Dunbar I felt especially uncomfortable, as I did later at Howard U., because I thought that because Rainbows were discriminated against no matter who they were, there should be no place among them for snootiness and class differences, and yet there were, strongly, and I wanted to have nothing to do with any of that.
So I was strangely disturbed when, after I had heard his name for a while, I finally saw Obama's picture.. He looked so keen, bright, alert, and polished. He looked like he was born wearing the kind of business suits in which he was so immaculately togged out, while I on the other hand have always seen wearing suits as just a form of self-degradation. In a word to me he looked like (gasp!) that model of my day, an achiever
, and that was something to which I couldn't relate, because for so long -- and in a weird way just like a typical block boy, to whom I couldn't relate at all -- I had been suspicious of the type.
Barack Obama makes me feel sorry for that Rainbow community that produced me. They would have liked so much to have produced him instead, and instead of letting odd, far-flung spots like Hawaii and Indonesia be the places that can claim that privilege, formative-wise. But sometimes the times are badly out of sync with our desires, and no one can know that better than a Rainbow.
Yes, that older generation must now be pretty much gone, but the one contemporary with me and a decade or two younger is still around, including the achievers with whom I graduated. A number of them were able to bypass humble Howard U., and instead they attended -- in the eyes of the larger world -- more prestigious and expensive schools, and later some of them went on to indeed become big fish in the American seas.
Or at least I think they did. By not staying in D.C. in the latter stages of my life I don't know what became of them, but I feel sure that however many are still around, they're all cheering at the tops of their voices for Obama, and so am I, though not at the top of my voice because I have that same wariness and fearfulness that I pictured in the older generation, if they could be here. But that wasn't why I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Instead I had many other reasons, among them the fact that she and her husband go back so far in support of the Cause, and yes, partly because that surf that brought in Obama had become a strongly rising sea, and there is something in me that always makes me unable to avoid trying to swim against the tides.
Actually I am for Obama and Clinton equally, and therefore, as they are the only ones left standing on the Democratic side, I should be enjoying what should be a win-win situation. It is a huge exception in my many years of wishing for good things in politics, and I don't think it has ever happened before. But since only one of them can get the nomination, I will feel deeply sad about the other that will fall short...
Right now it's beginning to look as if Obama will achieve the nod, and, though few others might, I can strongly sense that already the area around 1st and M Streets N.W. in Washington, D.C., the location of the now long torn-down fortress-like gray building that housed the Dunbar that I attended, is thronged with thousands of powerfully approving wraiths and spirits.