I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
-- Dr. M.L. King, August 28, 1963
We're not there yet, of course, not by a long shot. But there is movement: take a step back from this seemingly endless run-up to the 2008 American presidential election, and you can't help but notice something truly amazing, for those of us who remember when Jack Kennedy's Roman Catholic faith was a major problem for his campaign, necessitating a special televised address by the candidate to reassure the nation that he harbored no ultramontane loyalties. Look at the race and be glad: an African-American man, a woman, a Mormon, and an Italian American are all serious contenders for the nations's highest office. It may be that none of these folks will be our president come January 20, 2009. But, for the first time in our nation's history, it is entirely possible that one of them could.
As the race narrows, of course, it will grow steadily less appealing. A small amount of racial sniping has begun. Hillary Clinton observed that it had been necessary for a president to be committed to it in order for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pass, and there were those who thought it was disrespectful to suggest that Dr. King had not accomplished this feat single-handedly, a response he would have brushed off as absurd. On the gender side, Obama supporters were not above a potshot or two at Mrs. Clinton's recent public display of emotion in New Hampshire: "She can cry all she wants," said Colombia city councilman Barry Walker, as if Hillary's tears were a stock in trade, as readily deployed as those of Paula Abdul, rather than the modest moistening of the eyes that actually occurred "(but) black people have been crying for years. What's going to help here is addressing the issues that are affecting us." And when Mrs. Clinton's prospective First Gentleman said something inscrutable -- but definitely crabby -- about Obama's record of opposing the war, there must have been many in the campaign who wished he would just go somewhere else and work on his golf game.
For the most part, though, it hasn't been like that. Some African Americans support Hillary and some women like Obama. Let's keep it that way. None of the candidates should let themselves or their people fall into the snake pit of baptizing the bigotry they think people want to see, papering it over with code words that fool no one. We as a nation have spent way too much time in that pit already.
There is plenty to criticize in each of us. You don't have to get me on my gender, which I can't help; get me on what I do. I've made more than enough mistakes to keep any critic busy for the rest of his life -- use them, not my race or my gender. The same is true of the candidates. It's true of all of us. We may be part of a group, but each of us is responsible for our own actions, and it is upon those that we should be judged.
Please note that my eMinistry Network teleclasses "Forgiveness: What It is and What It Isn't" and "Writing the eMos: The Craft of Devotional Prose" have both added second sections on the same night, which should make it easier for folks on the West Coast to participate. Register at http://www.eministrynetwork.org/teleclasses.htm.
January 26, 12 noon: Barbara Crafton at St. Philip's in Joplin, MO. Call 417-623-6893 for reservations.
February 7, 12 noon: Geranium Journey to St. John's, Cold Spring Harbor, Long Island. Call (516) 692-6368 for details.
February 8-10: Barbara Crafton at St. John's, Lynchburg VA. Call (434) 528.1138 for details.
February 11-15, 12 noon: Barbara Crafton preaches daily at St. Paul's, Richmond. Call 804-643-3589 for details.
February 16, 9-4: Barbara Crafton at the Community of St. John Baptist in Mendham, NJ. "Forgiveness: What It Is and What It Isn't." Call Sr. Eleanor Francis at 973-543- 4641 to make a reservation.