Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A once unimaginable feat

In one of those Ripley's Believe It or Not historical oddities, Barack Obama's run for the presidency can be linked to the savage racism against black Americans 45 years ago by Birmingham Police Commissioner Bull Connor, who also boasted of membership in the Ku Klux Klan.

When Connor turned police dogs loose on black demonstrators and attacked them with high-pressure fire hoses, the disgusting photo images led to widespread demands among Americans for civil rights legislation that led to a cascade of laws and court rulings ensuring equal treatment.

Connor and other white supremacists would have erupted in howls had they been told a black American would be nominated to be president. Only a few short generations ago, after all, blacks were banned from whites-only restaurants, hotels and movie theaters.

This is the genius and gift of the American culture—the ability and willingness to eventually do what is right.

In campaigning hard on the nation's needs, and not racial injustice, Obama is effectively ending ugly politics of pitting whites against blacks and visa versa. Instead, Obama's deft attention to the country's painful economic distress, a bankrupting war, unattended health and education needs and energy self-reliance stirred a historic record turnout on Election Day of voters captivated by his judgment and leadership virtues.

If Americans were impressed with Obama, international observers were doubly so. A nation that once went to war over the right of some to own slaves went to the polls with hopes of electing a black person as its president.

By any measure, remarkable.

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