Hillary, Obama, and the Little Seedling

January 18, 2008

Ever been frustrated with slow growth? Supposedly God created the world in seven days, so why does it seem to take so long for anything meaningful to materialize, whether it’s personal maturity, relationships, or cultural standards? Sometimes it seems the world is full of dud seeds. Are they buried too deep? Overwatered? Planted in the wrong ecosystem? Maybe, but do they count for something?

When I was growing up in Louisiana, we had a maid named Mertis. She was African-American. No, we didn’t call her a cleaning lady, we called her a maid. And she made my day quite a few times. In fact, she made the effort to plant a seed in a little girl with big pony tails and big thoughts. During my recent trip to the South after 15 years, I was surprised how many people still felt the need to point out the skin color of the person they were describing. This doesn’t seem to happen in the Northeast, at least not in my neck of the woods, at least not too often. It was disturbing. There’s an article by Jon Meacham in the recent Newsweek addition called Letting Hillary be Hillary. Of course, it’s all about her but it’s also about her being a woman and about Barack Obama’s skin color. Will we ever exist in a world where folks don’t feel the need to point these things out? Of course the article was quite thought provoking; I enjoyed it. But I see it as slow growth.

I guess we were all duped in second grade when we planted seeds in plastic cups. Remember how yours grew overnight? It was fascinating. Each day it stretched taller and taller, a tiny miracle right before your eyes. I wish I could make myself grow like that. It’s difficult day after day to stand and stare at the dirt, add the water, and talk to the seed. Where is the growth, I ask myself. And what kind of plant is it anyway? Shouldn’t I know this by now? Haven’t I planted enough seeds to fill a garden? Yes and No. Perhaps it depends on the big picture. Perhaps all the dirt, seedlings, and blossoms are working together to create the picture of my life. Maybe they’re creating the world I live in.

Jon Meacham’s article explains how some key leaders wish these two unusual candidates weren’t running at the same time, against each other. Apparently, it adds stress to the cause. Why, I ask, when we’re supposed to choose based on merits, qualifications, records, plans and visions. In fact, Hillary pointed this out along with her understanding that poor folks are so torn. Oh, please get over it! Close your eyes if you have to and let someone read the stats to you. Isn’t this silly? Maybe I’m spending too much time staring into the dirt. Or maybe I just don’t understand the cultural implications of a woman President or an African-American leader. Can these genetic and biological facets cause more damage than those found in past Presidents? What about all the learned behaviors? Gee, Kennedy was Catholic…what happened there? Can we possibly survive this? I think so. So why does it have to be an issue? Why must we keep pointing it out? Just lower your lids and I’ll stop staring at the dirt.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have their own gardens to grow. They’re part of a political landscape, a culture that you, Mertis, your neighbor, and the teachers who buy those seeds and cups are all part of. So what’s the point of all this? Well, you just can’t make a seed grow faster than it can but you can plant as many as possible. If you plant one and then stare at the dirt day after day just trying to make it grow, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities. You’ll never have a garden and the world may never have a Hillary or an Obama as President. Now that would be an interesting plant, don’t you think? What about the two together on the ticket? Don’t want to overwhelm you but it could happen. Take a deep breath and close your eyes if you must. It’s not only soothing but also enhances your listening skills.

The seedling in your cup just got taller.

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