Inauguration Day

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I have long considered myself to be a true independent in the arena of politics.
I make every effort to study and analyze each bill or proposition and come to my own conclusion with the information I can find, and I apply the same method when choosing a candidate.
I despise party politics and believe partisanship should die its long over due death.
Having said that, I will admit to getting very excited this past presidential election.
The reason for my excitement was Barack Obama and what his potential election signified to me.
Now, I do not agree with all of his policies and ideas and I know that he will stumble and sometimes fail.
I will have my moments of frustration and even anger over decisions he makes.
It is this way with any elected official, especially with our Commander and Chief.
I accept our leaders short comings knowing that the only person that would do everything the way I would is, well, me.
But there are many ideas and policies I strongly agree with, and I do believe he wants to make a difference, to make things better and to bring about long over due change to the status quo.
So my excitement and amazement came to a head when President Obama won.
Even watching Senator McCain give his concession speech, and President Obama's acceptance speech I was still slightly stunned that we had elected the first African American president.
I was so overjoyed and proud that we as a country had come so far that the ugly head of racism was having a harder and harder time rearing its ugly noggin.
That is not to say that I delude myself in any way.
I know racism, ignorance and intolerance are out there.
Behind closed doors, whispers here, a slight shake of the head there, sometimes right out for all to see, but I felt the struggle for racial equality was continuing to make headway.
Not as fast as I would like to see, but still moving forward.
Racism has always dumbfounded me.
I try to form opinions based on information and my own sense of logic, so hating someone because of race, creed, or religion never made any sense at all to me.
My wife and I have raised our kids in a like fashion.
That there is no room for hatred and all individuals should be evaluated on a person by person basis.
I am not saying you should love everyone and the whole world should be your friend, not at all.
Let's face it, there are some people in the world that you will never have over to a weekend BBQ, or that you would rather staple your ears closed than listen to them speak.
That is normal, but to hate someone you have never met because of the color of their skin or which god they pray to? Huh? How could ignorance run that deep? Well I got my answer to that last question.
I happened to be in a southern state on businesses on Inauguration Day.
I will leave out exactly where I was so as to not cast that state in poor light, as I happen to really love this place.
Anyway, the atmosphere was truly electric.
There were so many emotions filling the air, from joy and excitement to fury and outrage.
I was sitting in a small restaurant for lunch with three individuals I was working with at the time, all natives of the area, all white men.
The lunch crowd was a mix of white and black people, all eyes glued to the few televisions located through out the establishment.
The tension in the room was palpable and at first I did not recognize it as tension.
"I just can't believe this, it is called the White House for a reason and now we have a (N-word) living in it.
" I almost choked.
This was not some whispered tone, but a loud, clear statement for all in our immediate vicinity to hear.
The other two agreed completely and their conversation continued in a similar fashion.
At first I could just sit in horror as I looked around at the faces of the other patrons, then back at the faces of the men at my table.
No one (including the other patrons - black or white) seemed to bat an eye.
This was a normal conversation and perfectly acceptable to them.
I also realized that because I am white, they just assumed I would agree with them and carried on.
I was at first mortified, but then became angry.
I stayed calm, not knowing these individuals well but also knowing I had to work with them on this particular project so I question them - "is the only reason you don't want this man to be president because of his race?" They looked at me blankly for a second then replied matter of fact "Does there need to be any other reason?" At this time, I excused myself and left the restaurant and headed back to work.
(I won't bore you with the details of the rest of my day) Now I always imagined racism was a spawn of ignorance and small, insecure minds.
But these men were talented, educated individuals.
How could men who obviously had the capacity for rational and intelligent thought have this kind of deep seeded racism? It was so natural to them, so natural they assumed I felt the same way because I am white.
It was so natural and normal that it was scary as hell.
It is as if it has been passed down from generation to generation for so long, that it is almost at a genetic level, an inherited trait.
How do you combat this type of deep seeded racism? This level of ignorance and hatred? It is a worry that I cannot shake.
It sometimes keeps me up at night, and makes me question how far I thought we had come and makes me see how far we still have yet to go as humans in the struggle for equality.
We are all a part of it, and all need to realize it and preserve.
If we turn a blind eye and kid ourselves that it is going away, it will never get any better.
I do not know how to fight intolerance at these deep levels, but I am not going to stop trying to figure it out.
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