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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"I Have a Dream . . ."

At 11:11 this morning, I, a hairy man from East St. Paul, sat in my Pontiac at Holiday eating a double cheeseburger and onion rings from JT’s listening to Barrack Obama’s inaugural address. I was troubled.

For the past several months an idea has been gestating within me. Every mention of our 44th president has been linked with a common phrase – “the first African-American president of the United States.”

Why? Why does everyone need to quote this? Some may say, given our country’s history, this is a momentous achievement that must be recognized as proof racism has been overcome. I utterly disagree. Our society’s obsession with physical characteristics has a completely negative effect.

If racism were truly ended we would be appreciating Obama’s inauguration solely for his message of hope and inspirational leadership not for the color of his skin. The tint of his flesh shouldn’t even be mentioned, nor should the size of his feet or the number of his teeth. None of these things matter. What truly matters is the message he relays and the actions he takes.

Recently, I’ve contracted an antipathy for John Lennon. One of the greatest stunts he pulled was his and Yoko Ono’s “bag-in” where they refused to uncover themselves from a sheet while reporters interviewed them. Their message was profound. “Listen to our words and ignore our physical traits.” The media didn’t get it. Or maybe they did but they obviously refused to implement any change in the way we judge others.

I’m thoroughly sick of our society’s obsession with physical traits. I couldn’t care less if someone is the first “woman” to accomplish something or the first “Indian” to punch a donkey. All that matters to me is what they accomplished. I truly hope and pray Barrack “fraggle-rock” Obama can bring this country together and ease our concerns and tribulations. If he does, I will give him recognition as an effective president, not as a effective “African-American”


A message from Adam James Pankratz, the first “sasquatch” to become a gentleman of leisure.


  1. Why? Why does everyone need to quote this? Some may say, given our country’s history, this is a momentous achievement that must be recognized as proof racism has been overcome.

    No, I think people point out that Barack Obama is our first black president as proof that racism IS BEING overcome, not that it has been overcome.

    Obama's election doesn't mean the battle against racism is won, but it is a decisive blow in that battle, and as such, I believe, is worthy of recognition.

    No, the color of his skin doesn't matter, anymore than the size of his feet or with which hand he writes (he's a lefty, btw, I recently learned). But at various points in our country's history, the color of his skin DID matter, so much so that had he been born 150 years ago, he'd be enslaved, 100 years ago he'd be free in name only, and 50 years ago he'd have been forced to ride in the back of a bus to the presidential inauguration.

    So yeah, I think it's worth noting that while we haven't won yet, a decisive blow against racism has been struck with this election. Obama wasn't elected ONLY by other African Americans, which means that, at least, for a majority of voting Americans, the color of an individuals skin DIDN'T impact how well that majority believed someone could do the job. In that way, Obama's election is a big step towards the world you (and I think, a lot us) pine for: a world where appearance is irrelevant.

    In a perfect world the color of your skin would be such a non-issue that it wouldn't even be mentioned, let alone made such a big deal. But we don't live in that world, not yet. But this election moves us a bit closer to that world.

    I honestly believe that my children, when grown up, will look back on yesterday and wonder what the big effing deal was about the color of the president's skin. And I will smile widely at their colorblindness. But while my children will live in that world, I think it's important that we celebrate how much OUR world has changed since the world of our fathers.

    That something which was nothing more than a dream five decades ago is now a very real reality, well, that's worthy of recognition, I think.

    Of course, all racial and sociological concerns aside, there's a large subset of people, myself included, who love presidential trivia and like to find the "firsts" in each President.

    So in that regard, I think there's some desire to note Obama as the first African-America president in the same way it's worth noting that John Quincy Adams was the first president to wear long pants to his inauguration, or that Andrew Jackson was the first president to be born an American citizen, or that JFK was the first Catholic president.

    As, I believe, in the future, it will be worth noting the first female president, the first non-Christian president, the first President to visit the moon or arrive to his inauguration via teleportation or defeat his enemies in a lightsaber duel.

    Not solely because of the socio-political implications of any of those "firsts", but simply because they are touchstones in American history, chapter headings, if you will, in the narrative story of America that speak to the changes in the times signaled by those "firsts."

  2. Wait, Obama is left handed? I wish I knew this before I voted...

  3. With those other examples of presidential "firsts", I highly doubt they were mentioned EVERY time someone in the media spoke about the respective presidents.

    My main point is if we as people continually treat physical characteristics as points of distinction while gauging achievements then we will never be "one" people.

  4. Yeah, I do see your point, and I don't entirely disagree with it, either.

    I just think, in this case, noting the point of deviation from a world where this particular physical characteristic was important (to some misguided people) to a world where its (hopefully) not anymore is worthwile.

    I certainly wouldn't want to continue noting the distinction as history goes on...making a big deal out of the SECOND African American president, or the THIRD, would definitely be a hindrance to bring us together as one people.

  5. Wait, you went to JT's and didn't stop at my house to bring me any? You are dead to me!!!

    Seriously though I agree with pretty much all of you guys. I remember thinking that when people were saying it is such an accomplishment to have an African-American President; I was thinking that he real accomplishment would be when that isn't even taken into account. So yes we still have a ways to go for us to reach true equality (I am sure we will go through this all again when we get our first woman prez), it is still a big step considering where we are coming from.

  6. In other firsts, I learned yesterday that Obama is officially the first president to use a Blackberry and thus, to conduct his electronic matters remotely.


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