Friday, January 16, 2009

I Cry Because I Want my Face to Shine- A letter to President Obama

Mr. President,

I watched you at the Democratic National Convention and I watched you in Chicago's Grant Park after the election. I called my daughter in Denver (a block from the convention) and she wanted to know... "Mother, why are you crying?"

I cry because I can hear clearly, a new kind of sound… a collective and harmonious esprit de` corps that has the potential to lift the voice of American past the low drone of despair that has played in the background of our days for far too long. It is a new verse for America, one that could amplify our voice facing forward toward tomorrow and toward a new reality so lyrical that I can hear it sing. For those who have ears to hear, Mr. President… say it loud and proud and let them hear.

I cry because I could see a look on the faces in those crowds… the faces of optimism, of faith. I could see them imagining an individual and collective picture of hope-- hunkering down ready to homestead perhaps just over the next rise, their eyes fixed on the point of hope where the eyes and horizon meet. Those faces reflected the majesty of America at another place and time. And maybe again at a place and time reserved for us in the not-too-distant future? Perhaps as soon as at the turning of the year? For those who have eyes to see, Mr. President… beam it with crystal clarity and let them see.

I cry because I know that we have lived with something diaphanous, something that we cannot quite put our finger on, for so long now that we don't even notice it's there. The America of late-- formerly a hero, a leader, a once brightly lighted beacon of hope-- has fallen from grace, a casualty of friendly fire. America's majesty has suffered and her principles have suffered, adulterated at the hands of those who measure power with the yardstick of fear, success by the hammer of conflict and who trade America's long term destiny as a symbol of freedom in situ, for short term might and egoic gain. For those who have a heart to feel, Mr. President… do it with passion and let them feel.

I cry for America. “She is the crippled freedom-fighter,” I told my daughter, “she is the archetype of wounded healer. She is an eagle once majestic in flight, now with broken wing. She is a candle of hope now flickering dim. She is a country without a soul. I mourn the loss of America's soul. It has been sold out from under her and it falls to us now, and you, to retrieve it and restore it to her.”

I cry too, because all of a sudden I realize I am battle weary from holding in abeyance, an enemy that I can't see-- one that is there in the shadows and one I can't even identify. But I know he is one of us. I want America's soul back. I want back the hope that I once knew.

I cry because I did not know how badly I wanted that until I saw the uplifted and shining faces at the Democratic National Convention and Grant Park-- so much hope in those faces. Some so young, so shining, and all so filled with full frontal optimism. I remembered another time, another place where I saw faces uplifted and shining with hope in that same way toward a man called Martin, and a man called Kennedy, and another called Kennedy.

I cry because I remember being one of those faces-- uplifted and full of hope. I want to feel that hope once more. I want to feel the real America in your Inagural speech and in your presidency. And most of all, Mr. President, once again, I want my face to shine.
~ © B. Kaufmann

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A few Thoughts...

When I think about it, my own life is no less rich and the living no less inspiring than my pioneering ancestors and I come from a long line of Indians and outlaws so don't ever turn your back on me!

Life is, after all, a slice of human consciousness lived from its place in human evolution. "From here to eternity" as it were-- from earth to the stars, from personal space to cyberspace, from a small local footprint to the world reduced to the size of a notebook and sitting on your lap!

As a child I lived with the perpetual and immenent threat of annihilation. That's child abuse! It wasn't a kid-friendly world and I couldn't understand why the grown-ups who were in charge weren't doing something?

So at age seven with my face in the window eyes turned up into the night sky and staring at the stars I made a vow: "When I am a grown-up, I will do something."

My writing is that something and I write to "simply change the world." If that sounds like a lack of humility it isn't because I know that one person absolutely can change the world and I've met some who have.

Kay Kennedy put together an anthology that puts the reader in the midst of history to view it from the inside out.

When I was in high school and even college, history classes were stale and boring featuring memorization and regurgitation of dates that coincided with events that had no human face, certainly no magic, and no life!

Anthologies are great fun and stores are rich remembrances. History books chronicle; stories are little narrative slices of living. History comes alive through story. I often think of my grandmother and her story, her life-- the history she lived. In her lifetime she saw humankind evolve from horse and buggy to man on the moon.

I was a sixties kid and for the youth of the sixties, turmoil, disillusionment, and revolution were everyday 'business as usual'. Like a radio perpetually on low volume, fear and death dronned on in the background. The superpowers threatened to extinguish all life on the planet, the Vietnam War was escalating and peers were being escorted home under American Flag blankets. The civil rights and equal rights movements were testing human civility, and faster than one could recover from one shock another real life hero would fall to yet another assassin. Despair was commonplace. Contrast that with a man on the moon... we could conquer space travel but couldn't make nukes or war obsolete! It was a time when youth needed hope because hope was scarce. When it was finally resurrected, it came in the form of idealism and a philosophy of brotherly and universal love. Perfect principles; imperfect execution.

For others who contributed to "Looking Back," the history is different for each because the "times" were different as well as the perspective of the individuals. The stories of human societal evolution are enlightening, heartwarming, poignant and spellbinding. They put a human face on the past.

And there are people now who are putting a face on the future...