On the first Tuesday in November 2008, Annie and I were driving cross-country from the East Coast to the West to return to our home in Orange County, California. We were staying in a Motel 6 in not the nicest neighborhood in some Midwestern city and listening intensely as the election results were pouring in. We were hoping that Barack Obama would be our newly elected president and our first Black president. He was impressive, bright, articulate, young, energetic, and full of great ideas.
With our first Black president, I thought we were writing a new chapter in United States history. We did enter a new chapter, but not the one I was hoping for: that our country would rise above its racism. Instead, this chapter was about how deeply seated racism is in our country as we witnessed anti-racism and white nationalist movements abounding. Unfortunately, that chapter is still playing out, and there doesn’t seem to be an end.
In spite of many obstacles, one of which was a bit of Obama’s naivety, he did a great job, and it wasn’t hard to vote for him for a second term. I see him as one of the great presidents of our country.
But an additional gift came along with Barack’s election: his wonderful wife, Michelle Obama, who is so warm and inclusive and identified with those whom our country has unofficially identified as second-class citizens—people of color and low-income folks. Michelle did a great job of recognizing those folks and being a shining example of what it means to be a caring, loving, sharing First Lady.
I thought her book The Light We Carry was inspirational, honest, and genuine as she shared the story of how she met the challenges of racism, feminism, and classism.
One of the lasting lessons pounded into my head was her concept of “When they go low, we go high.” It’s one of those short catchy phrases that is so easy to say but incredibly difficult to do. Michelle, as a black educated professional woman, had spent most of her life going high as she, Barack, and her family were attacked at so many different levels.
I have voted Democrat my whole life primarily because I see that party more as the people’s party. That said, I’m also proud of President Joe Biden, who has gone high when it comes to dealing with the shenanigans of Donald Trump. He has said little or nothing about the man but has chosen to go high by pointing out all his administration’s accomplishments, and not attacking the forty-fifth president and his idiosyncrasies.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a Republican candidate who doesn’t go low and talk about Joe Biden’s son, or Biden’s age, or his humanity but concentrates on his or her plan to make our great country even greater? I would listen to this person. But now I simply tune out the Republicans, with their baseless attacks on the Biden family and their idiotic ideas about getting rid of the government and never taxing the rich.
My biggest challenge is can I go high when people attack my theology, my politics, and some of my cockamamie ideas? I really want to!
How about you?
Peace Love Joy Hope
Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy, Jakarta (public domain)