In the summer of 2000, Omar Rahman’s brothers made plans to return home with their parents to Nablus on the West Bank. After forty years of bricklaying, his father was ready to retire to the lemon and olive trees of his birthplace. For Omar, a man born and raised in the United States, Nablus was the last place he wanted to go. His brothers entreated him to stick with the family, telling him life in Nablus could be no worse than their decades in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. As he helped pack forty years of their parent’s lives, Omar knew better. In the Middle East he knew, them guys don’t dance.
The strange and varied reactions to President Obama’s reelection have me wondering what expectations people have for the man? Since election day, we’ve grown a state by state secession movement whose online petitions, though small, now number over a quarter of a million people. We’ve heard ex-candidate Romney insist the gifts the President handed minorities and young adults was what swung the election in his favor. Lastly, we have black folks at The Root demanding their piece of whatever Romney says Obama was doling out to everyone but them. It seems to me that all three groups, with their beggarly views of this man, deserve each other.
The presumed ‘heartland of America’ is where the secessionist petitions seem to have taken greater hold. In states where some believe the healthcare mandate would have the greatest affect on the health of the soon to be insured, too many in poorer states like West Virginia, Alabama and Missouri feel the mandate and President Obama’s reelection signals an end to the capitalist spirit, so touted as uniquely American.
What people and political leaders in these states forget is how much federal taxpayer dollars are already flowing into their states because they do not generate enough revenue through employment to cover their costs. According to the Tax Foundation, in 2006 and before the recession, West Virginia already received $1.83 for every dollar they sent to Washington. Missouri received $1.29 while Alabama received $1.71 in funding for every dollar they sent to Washington.
Perhaps the myopic secessionists prefer an alliance with Russia, China or even Palestine, nations who have no public access to health insurance. Maybe then they might look inward and realize that health care, like public education, works best when everyone has it and everyone uses it for their benefit.
Soon after his family’s arrival in Nablus, Omar got word of the coming second Intifada. By December 2000, with mass protests taking place all over both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, he wondered how long his brothers and their families would last in a militarist state? He knew how they’d complained about police here in America. Still, would they join the protests against Israeli’s, whom they claimed ‘they could handle’, as in a street fight? By the new year, 2001, Omar wondered if his brothers were beginning to understand why their father emigrated to the States in the first place?
Mitt Romney can be forgiven for sounding exhausted after a long and drawn out election cycle. More’s the pity that he hasn’t the sense to offer the same to President Obama, who is still on the job and never seems to take a day off.
Romney’s insistence, along with his running mate Paul Ryan’s charged allusion to ‘urban’ voters who won the election for Obama again has Americans wondering where it is the Republican Party gets its facts from? In our last column, we decried the ignorance within Democratic ranks who assume the Southeast of the United States is still up to its Antebellum ways. Do we need to remind the GOP that urban metro centers are where most Americans live and have done so for over one hundred years? Moreover, may we ask the candidates where they themselves spend most of their time? In cities maybe?
The GOP’s attempts to isolate minorities, young people or the gay mafia as fringe groups ignores who voted along with them. Thirty-nine percent of white America, the largest single voting bloc, voted for President Obama. Unwilling to look inward, candidates Romney and Ryan are loathe to accept by simple means test whether or not their campaign platform held water. The 2012 election proved by 332 to 206 electoral college votes that theirs was a sinker to Americans.
By spring 2001, Omar’s brothers and their families were ready to come home. The words of one of his brothers said it best: ‘those guys over there are crazy’. Omar, assuming his brother meant the Israeli’s, tried to empathize with his parents plight in remaining. His brother’s redress was swift. ‘No Omar. Our guys are crazy! It’s war.’
Though their parents would stay on in Nablus, the sons would return, family by family, to the United States.
Keith Harriston is a journalism professor at Howard University in Washington DC. His ‘Open letter from Black America’, published in the Root just after the election is a quid pro quo plea to President Obama for the black community and their support of him. Still, the plea comes in the form of unstated demands except to cite other minority groups who have benefited from this Presidents’ policies.
At times, it seems traditional white and black America are stuck in the mud. In a nation that is growing more yellow, red and brown, these two groups seem too heeled in the past to be of any use in confronting the issues that may overwhelm all of us in the present. Both seem unwilling to confront the local needs in their midst and pave the way for their children’s future because they each are looking for their quid pro quo.
If the unspecified demands of Professor Harriston need be identified, try this. Look local. See if the works of your leaders in town, city, county and state seek are done to benefit all of the children, not just the well heeled or the black or the white. See if your leaders stand the means test that President Obama has been put to. If they don’t, regardless of color, they need to go.
This suggestion applies not only to Professor Harriston and black Americans. White Americans, who voted for Romney and Ryan may want to ask those same questions. They may want to ask why it is the federal government sends more money to their states than it receives? And, they should demand their local leaders work harder to create good paying jobs rather than spend so much time separating white from black, straight from gay and illegal from citizen.
Immigrants arrive at our shores for a myriad of reasons, many of which are the same regardless of where they come from. From war torn Guatemala to war torn Chad or the West Bank, they come because they know they can raise a family here. In their nations, many cannot vote, get their children an education or even find a job because of war. We forget this. We forget that our relative safety is a product of our common belief in each other, regardless of our differences and our painful common past.
This President’s time is short and his ilk will not come our way again soon. Do not misconstrue his brilliance with the color of his skin. His brilliance is in the mind. For traditional black and white America, this blue eyed devil thinks it’s time to live in the present. To realize the President is a product of a black Nigerian man and a white American woman shows me there are boundaries in the field of love.
No matter what we glean from the past, the future, our common American future is all that matters.