Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Wonderful

It was a fine inauguration, but it had its shaky moments!
by Charlie Leck

It was a fine inauguration in spite of the stumble by the Chief Justice of the United States when he was swearing in our new President.

There were two extraordinary highlights for me.

One came when the highly respected black pastor and devoted civil rights worker, the Reverend Joseph Lowery, gave the benediction and concluded it before a President who was giggling and smiling (reverently)…

“Help us work for that day
when black will not be asked to get back,
when brown will stick around
when yellow will be mellow,
when the red man can get ahead, man,
and when white will embrace what is right”
The other was when the poet-friend of the President’s, Elizabeth Anderson, read her special creation for this occasion, “Praise Song for the Day.” It knocked my socks off and big, salty tears rolled down my cheeks as she concluded. Here's the full transcript, but the conclusion, beginning with the words, "What if the mightiest word is love..." is what got me.

Each day we go about our business, walking past each other, catching each others’ eyes or not, about to speak or speaking. All about us is noise. All about us is noise and bramble, thorn and din, each one of our ancestors on our tongues. Someone is stitching up a hem, darning a hole in a uniform, patching a tire, repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.A woman and her son wait for the bus.

A farmer considers the changing sky; A teacher says, “Take out your pencils. Begin.”

We encounter each other in words, Words spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed; Words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark the will of someone and then others who said, “I need to see what’s on the other side; I know there’s something better down the road.”

We need to find a place where we are safe; We walk into that which we cannot yet see.

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

Wow! Were you listening? Did you hear her? Just imagine! “What if the mightiest word is love… love with no need to preempt grievance?”

Oh my! White America, were you listening. It seems over! Over! There is no need to preempt grievance! From here, from now, we start even and your guilt you may shed and the excuse of the black slaves ends here and now -- if we both buy into the bargain.

We start on even footing and we go forward, together, to make an incredible, beautiful America.

I need time to reflect on Obama’s speech. A dozen emails tell me it was perfect… “wonderful”… “inspiring”… “unparalleled”…. I need time to think about that. I need to read it again… and again… and, perhaps, again, to understand where he was going. It was not what I hoped for, but I need to quietly read it again and again.

Pastor Rick Warren’s invocation was embarrassing. When I was just a kid, my father used to say, “They should have a trap door!”

But, not only was it too long, the totally Christian tag at the end was uncalled for. This is “no longer just a Christian nation.” This is a land of many religions and many faiths. The Bible thumpers think that they must pray using the name of Jesus every time because he is quoted in the gospel as saying, “When you pray, pray in my name!” That’s fine, but that doesn’t mean that every prayer must verbally state it is in his name. The Christian may be praying in the name of Jesus, but those of the Islamic faith are praying in the name of Mohammed. Grow up you fundamentalists and let your minds relax and your hearts be more open. The inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer by Warren was a real shocker.

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