[The first section is an excerpt from a copyrighted essay by Alice Walker.]
Nov. 5, 2008
Dear Brother Obama,
You have no idea, really, of how profound this moment is for us. Us being the black people of the Southern United States. You think you know, because you are thoughtful, and you have studied our history. But seeing you deliver the torch so many others before you carried, year after year, decade after decade, century after century, only to be struck down before igniting the flame of justice and of law, is almost more than the heart can bear. And yet, this observation is not intended to burden you, for you are of a different time, and, indeed, because of all the relay runners before you, North America is a different place. It is really only to say: Well done. We knew, through all the generations, that you were with us, in us, the best of the spirit of Africa and of the Americas. Knowing this, that you would actually appear, someday, was part of our strength. Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about.
[She continues in this vein, giving wise and gentle advice, for several more paragraphs.]
. . . Because, finally, it is the soul that must be preserved, if one is to remain a credible leader. All else might be lost; but when the soul dies, the connection to earth, to peoples, to animals, to rivers, to mountain ranges, purple and majestic, also dies. And your smile, with which we watch you do gracious battle with unjust characterizations, distortions and lies, is that expression of healthy self-worth, spirit and soul, that, kept happy and free and relaxed, can find an answering smile in all of us, lighting our way, and brightening the world.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.
In Peace and Joy,
© 2008, Alice Walker
15 November 2008
Dear Brother Obama -
It’s pretty cheeky of me to be writing the president-elect, and darned unrealistic if I were to believe that you were actually going to read it. The best I can hope for, realistically, is that this becomes a datum in a report, something of the sort that of the 20,000 blogs examined, 15,432 were favorable, 4,112 were unfavorable, and 457 (including this) were confused blather.
But, silly me, I’m always thinking that sometime, somewhere, someone will pause and listen for the voice of that pesky Professor Reality before they tromp the cowpies of the body politic’s pasture.
Is the appellation “brother” a bother? I know OF Alice Walker, but I confess, I’ve never read a darn thing she’s written. I’ve heard that she boldly goes into racial issues, but I sure hope the “brother” thing isn’t racial. I may be wrong, and if I am, that’s really her business, and yours. Maybe it’s a Christian thing, that would certainly be nice. Between us, there could be a fellow lawyer thing going on but, let’s face it, you’re Harvard and I’m WVU. Harvard Law and Yale Law are the intellectual bigots of the law. WVU is among the aw-shucks, keep-your-powder-dry bigots of the law, so beyond the ability to stand up in the same Courts wearing clothing which is superficially similar, our experiences aren’t real brotherly. Somewhere in the recesses of my heart, there is the hope that you could find the concept of “brother” in a fellow human, not because s/he is a voter or a cause, but just because we’re all in this together. That’s the one I hope for, and yet the human experience (approximately since the evolution of our species) argues against that.
Hey, kudos, pal, you presided over one of the truly great campaigns, better than Clinton’s first, better than the Reagan express. Other than knowing of a very few top aides, I really don’t know who ran it, which is one reason it was great. Both campaigns of Bush II were effective, but the overwhelming presence of the Karl Rove troll diminished the Bush II appearance.
All that being said, it’s the top of the first inning. As president, you have done nothing. You don’t get a honeymoon. You don’t get 100 days. Prime Minister Medvedev of Russia has already been on your ass about deployment of the U.S. advanced missile defense system in Europe, and there’s nothing you can do about that yet.
And Alice Walker is right, the economy is not your fault, at least beyond the fact that you have participated with the other 534 people in Congress at the biggest brothel on Earth wallowing in the dough when times were good. We can hardly single you out for that. Well, the 1929 economy wasn’t Hoover’s fault, but he still gets slammed for it, and nobody seems to think that’s unfair. Oddly, the opposite is true too. Boom times weren’t Harding’s or Coolidges’s doing (Harding was drinking and playing poker, Coolidge was only working four hours a day), but they both got a pretty easy ride for all of the incompetence going on because for whatever reason, things looked good. So, friend, if looking for fairness, you have the wrong jog. A really harsh humor source, The Onion, had an article last week entitled something like “Another Black Guy Gets a Shitty Job.” What is funny is that it’s true. (By the way, why is it that mixed race folks always are considered "black"? I don't understand that one, it seems terribly ante-bellum to me. And sad that it's still in play.)
I voted for you. I didn’t then and do not now think you are Moses, and don’t be giving me a line of shit about the Promised Land. Go to work. Talk straight. Take your lumps, give out some lumps. Don’t blow sunshine, don’t promote a cult of personality, just work in the sunlight. When I believe you are wrong, I’ll express my opinions in a reasoned fashion. I will not yell, wave signs, or do other silly shit. I will be willing to listen, reason and, when appropriate, change my mind. But I - and others - WILL be a part of the equation.
Read Ms. Walker’s essay every night, or something like it. You’ll need the inspiration to do the dirty job you’ve taken on. And every morning, put it aside, and walk with Prof. Reality into a hard world.