I do not pretend to know what will happen on Nov. 4. Here’s what I do know: America will never be the same. The good news is that this declaration is not necessarily bad news. America can be better than ever. On Nov. 5 America will begin to define a new normal, the next equilibrium, and reintroduce its democratically certified brand to the world.
The future demands truth and honesty. For citizens within our community it means that we cannot turn a blind eye to all of the divisions exposed by this electoral cycle. Historically, political passion is reduced to a few decisions, typically down party lines on Election Day. Then we pack away our passion and emotion like Christmas decorations after Dec. 25. This cannot and will not happen this year. If you are passionate enough to be a political advocate through Nov. 4, then you should be passionate enough to be a civil servant on Nov. 5 and beyond. I’m not a politician, Republican or a Democrat, but here’s my short list of things we can work toward.
We need to be intentional about embracing diversity. Historical perspective is a must here. Were it not for the political power exerted by the Republican party, slavery would not have been abolished in 1863. Yes, the party of President Abraham Lincoln, the great emancipator, brought liberation to African Americans. Yet 145 years later, John McCain and Sarah Palin have campaigned relentlessly with almost exclusively white supporters to the theme "Country First" replete with country music icons and Joe the Plumber. Why is the party responsible for emancipation now lagging behind in diversity?
The consequences are staggering given the forecast that by 2042 America will experience its first ever non-white majority. Even if Republicans retain the White House, the party will need to address its narrowing demographic. Great Americans come in all colors. People must accept the fact that great Americans can disagree with you without sacrificing their love of country. This lack of diversity has been cited by party icons like General Colin Powell and Christopher Buckley, formerly of the National Review, as they explained their cross-party endorsements.
Recently, I was one of two African-Americans to attend a local Republican rally on the Covington square, two out of roughly 100. What disturbed me most, however, was being conveniently overlooked when volunteers distributed handheld American flags. Hopefully it was simply an oversight. The Republican party is not racist, but this campaign is guilty of being less than a unifying force for all Americans. Often the perception of racism is just as damaging as the presence of racism. Unfortunately, until diversity is addressed, we will revisit this chasm every two years.
Race perception permeates our entire county, dividing us geographically as well. West Newton is perceived to be the problematic side with murder, gangs, drugs and underachieving schools. Once again, perception has skewed reality. These problems know no geographical boundary nor are they limited to a population of minorities or the impoverished. The act of voting exclusively will not stop gangs, end racism, reduce abortions or improve schools. This feat can only be accomplished when advocacy is transformed into community service.
Finally, in spite of all of its collateral damage, racism was not our greatest enemy during this election cycle. From my perspective, ignorance in general has had a worse impact. Cyberspace-assisted ignorance has replaced liberal arts education as the greatest wellspring of knowledge. Andy Martin, the source of rumors that Barack Obama is a Muslim and secretly trained to overthrow the government, admitted on CNN that he no longer believes the rumor that he began.
This cycle reveals how willing the general public is to be spoon fed information that our biases are all too willing to digest. One episode of Jay Walking from NBC’s "Tonight Show" is enough to prove how little Americans know about the history of this nation and the complex issues surrounding the economy. Many who cry socialism cannot define socialism. Many who shout Marxism cannot tell you who Karl Marx was or when he lived. Many who shout Muslim are quoting a man who admits he made the whole thing up. The last few presidential cycles have revealed an anti-intellectual push back from people who wish the world could be a much simpler place. The reality is that not every issue is black or white, but there are varying shades of grade. In this world in which we live, ignorance is bliss and intelligence is still a virtue.
The greatest human servant, the exemplar of love, during his greatest moment of challenge and pain once said while agonizing on a cross, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." This instance is a clear forecast of the destruction caused by ignorance in action. My prayer is that our community service will find expression via support for our schools, all of our schools. Schools are a great place to embrace diversity, fight racism, ignorance, abortion, xenophobia, bigotry, sexism, poverty, gangs and all other ills of our society.
Here’s how you can support the campaign for Nov. 5: 1) Replace political yard signs with American flags. 2) Join people of faith on the Covington square at noon on Nov. 5 for an interracial, interdenominational, intergenerational community prayer service (this is NOT a political rally). 3) Adopt a school.
The election is over Nov. 4 but the future, the advancement of our community, begins on Nov. 5.
Eric Lee is the pastor of Springfield Baptist Church.