Jan 20, 2009

Dad and Dr. King

I grew up in the boonies where everybody pretty much looked and acted like everybody else. Of course we saw bad things on the news and knew discrimination existed elsewhere in the world, but it just wasn't anything we ever saw first hand.

My first chance to know someone different than me came when a Catholic family moved to town and the new kids came to summer camp with us. We children accepted each other without a second thought but the Catholic mother was a nervous wreck about the prospects of her children spending a week camping in the woods with what she viewed as a bunch of snake handling, feet washing, tongue-speaking, Catholic-converting Baptist kids. She sent her kids off with strict orders not to attend devotions with us or participate in any feet washings or snake handlings--activities which were not on the agenda anyway since we weren't that kind of Baptist--so the first discriminatory thought I ever had in my life was that Catholic kids were nice but their mothers were totally wierd.

When I first learned about slavery in elementary school, I came home and asked my Dad if it was really true that in the olden times people owned other people. He said it was true that some people had but not anybody we were related to. He assured me that our ancestors were so poor that their jobs were to clean the slaves' houses while they were at work. Around our house any budding concept of genetic supremecy--white or otherwise--was pretty much nipped in the bud.

In my Dad's view of the world a person's value came not from the circumstances of birth--skin color, social standing, wealth--but from working hard and staying at it longer than anybody else, and from doing the right thing even when the "right thing" and the "easy thing" were two totally different things. In fact, the only discrimination my Dad ever exhibited was an utter distain for "deadbeats"--people who didn't work hard and expected other people to take care of them, with particular distain directed towards men who didn't take care of their families or pay their bills.

Martin Luther King's view of the world was much the same as Dad's, except instead of teaching his values to six kids like my father did, he taught an entire generation to forget about the obstacles, work hard, and stand up for what is right.

So speaking as my father's daughter and allegedly the decendant of a slaves' maid, I am impressed that Obama worked harder and stayed at it longer than anyone else.

And if my Dad were still around I think he would also be impressed that Obama overcame the odds to achieve something that only a handful of other people in history have ever achieved.

Except Dad would be having a conniption fit that we've elected a screamin' Liberal to the White House. I forgot to mention that Dad's value system placed Liberals somewhere on the list between "people who drive Ford products" and "deadbeats".

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