The Promised Land

I wrote this Tuesday [January 20], but was not able to proof or publish it until today. I decided to leave the verb tenses in the present rather than potentially destroy the feel of this post. Hope you enjoy it!

Today is a very historic day in American history. Today we inaugurate the first African=-American President in our history. The fact that yesterday was the national holiday honoring Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. adds special significance to today. if that is even possible.

Dr.King often drew parallels between himself and his tole in the civil rights movement to that of Moses leading his people out of bondage. He said in one speech that he has been to the mountaintop and seen the promised land. He also said that he may not get there with us – a most prophetic statement.

Moses never got to the promised land either. The person who led the Israelites into the promised land was a younger man, Joshua. And just as Joshua led the Israelites into the promised land, perhaps Barack Obama will be our Joshua and lead us, all Americans irregardless of race, creed, or color, into the promised land, whereAmerica finally lives up to the promise of the principles set forth in our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.

The Founding Fathers believed in the inalienable rights of man. That has never been an issue for Americans. What has been the issue for the last 230 years has been the definition of the word “man,’ that definition has slowly changed over the course of American history, moving inexorably to broader and broader interpretations of what constitutes man.

In the beginning, man referred to white males only, usually of Anglo-Saxon descent. And this definition usually also mean these men were protestant in their religious persuasion. in the latter half of the nineteenth century, as a result of large0scale immigration fromIreland, Italy, Poland, Russia and elsewhere, the Anglo-Saxon restriction was lifted to include other white males. At the same time and into the twentieth century, the male restriction was lifted to include white females. But people of color, especially African-Americans, were still excluded from the American understanding of what constitutes man.

prior to the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, the vast majority of African-Americans living in the USA were slaves. They were not considered to be people, but rather were classified as property. But even with their emancipation and the Civil War, there was little real change in the status of these people of color, nor was their much change in how they were perceived by white Americans.

The nearly 150 years since then has been the struggle of African-Americans to gain recognition as part of what we Americans call man. Over those 150 years there have been many laws passed to guarantee this right or that right to people of color. These laws all have one purpose in mind – to change the American understanding of what constitutes a man.

You can equate this progression of legislation as a form of Skinnerian behavior modification. Or Pavlov’s dog. If the new behaviors, in this case, treating African-Americans the same way we treat others we consider human beings, is enforced and repeated often enough, the new behavior becomes internalized, which removes the need for further enforcement or behavior modification.

we are not quite there yet. There is still a fair amount of racism in this country. but the Inauguration of Barack Obama has taken us to the mountaintop and beyond. We can now plainly see the promised land. If everyone involved lives up to expectations, we may actually get there in my lifetime.

Here’s the link to the YouTube video of Obama’s Inauguration Speech. I think he understands the historical importance of his election, so much so that the power of the moment overwhelmed him for just a few seconds during the oath taking.

Here’s the link to Obama’s inauguration speech, in case you haven’t seen it yet. I’d be interested in hearing what you thought of it.

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