By Getzy Markowitz
Thank G-d, I grew up in a home untainted by the internet. When we finally did get a desktop computer, lacking access to cyberspace, I would look up definitions in a Webster, as opposed to the World Wide Web. Research was not done on a powerful search engine, but by investigating a vast amount of material stored on an Encarta encyclopedia CD-ROM.
While there was a lot of information on that thin disk, there was a limit to the capacity of audio files that it could contain. Aside for a list of international anthems, the visual and audible categories listed mainly speeches of great leaders. It was from my Dell desktop that I first heard JFK’s call for Americans to ask not what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country. On that computer screen I watched Golda Meir speak as a Prime Minister negotiating peace for her citizens, and as a mother desiring it for her children. I heard Menachem Begin echo Isaiah, speaking of a day when swords would be beaten into plowshares and nations would discontinue the study of warfare. And it was from those speakers that the resonating voice of Dr. Martin Luther King first captured my attention. Standing in the symbolic shadow of the signer of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. King shared a dream that emboldened a great many to pursue liberty and enjoy the cherished American dream.
Barack H. Obama stands in the shadow of a great man, who though may not have been president, has definitely set the precedent by which the president elect will assume office. In just a few weeks, Obama will deliver his inaugural address. He will then walk to the White House, in the very city where King spoke while leading that legendary march on Washington.
King was an inspiration who moved a young Jewish boy to view people differently, as if they were not different than myself. He influenced millions, including a man who will soon hold the world’s most influential position. But sadly, I believe that a majority of African-Americans have transformed King’s dream into a nightmare. The civil rights leader spoke of a nation where his children would not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Yet those who would call themselves his adherents have offended a great man by blindly voting for Barack Obama.
I am not saying that Mr. Obama lacks qualities. Less so am I saying that he is not worthy of the presidency. What I am pointing out is that none of that mattered to the greater African-American community who brazenly voted for a color of skin rather than a colorful character. While his policies may be outstanding, the larger part of the African-American constituency voted to bring a black man to the White House, irrespective of his politics.
The fact is that Obama won an electoral landslide, and by popular support of the people of the United States. Following his election I roved through Times and Union squares which were full of people united in support of a charismatic new leader. Everyone has their reasons and motives for how they cast their ballots. If they uncritically voted for Obama during these critical times, they could be excused. But this was not the case for many of my African-American brethren. They are to be held to a higher standard, as ironically it behooved them to discriminate in this election.
For the first time in history, African-Americans were given an opportunity to exercise what King preached. Sadly, they have taken the voice of the great liberator and placed it in shackles. For while we all could take immense pride in the election of our nation’s first black president, most of America voted for his ideals and not the idea presented by the opportunity. By choosing color notwithstanding character, the African-American majority has done to themselves what their oppressors had done for generations. While America has finally prevailed over racial injustice, its victims have chosen to be blinded by coloration, thereby imposing a sort of intellectual segregation.
Eighty percent of African-Americans surveyed in a CNN poll said that Obama’s election is a dream come true. While I am sure that Dr. King would be overjoyed by this election’s outcome, I strongly believe that his followers have misinterpreted this visionary’s dream, and are therefore to blame for its misrepresentation. King’s vision saw more than a black man becoming the leader of the free world. When finally presented an opportunity to exercise intelligent freedom of choice, many selected a man of their race, instead of an incredible member of the human race. Obama has been described as spellbinding, but too many were attracted to his complexion rather than his strategies on complex issues.
I applaud the president elect on an impressive campaign and a stunning victory. May G-d Almighty grant him the wisdom and courage for the task at hand. I wish him success in his new function, for his success is that of the country he will lead. Finally, I pray that he will be a shining example of a man with a masterful content of character. I hope that through his virtue, he will earn his people’s vote, as well as mine, in four years time.