After the announcement of an Obama speaking at Claflin University, I decided it was time for a Skeptical Brotha and the Safe Negro to meet. I conjured up a dramatic confrontation in what must have been a delusional episode during the tedious drive which had me angrily confronting Obama about a long list of sins. I painstakingly choreographed asking a startled and perplexed Obama, “Condi Rice, you voted to confirm Condi, she of the harrowing mushroom cloud and disappointing perm.” Explain that, Sir!!! “How can she tame warmongers if she can’t even tame those nappy roots?”
I combated my cynicism and fatigue long enough to embark upon an arduous journey of 16 hours: two 8 hour round trips to pick up the precious tickets of admission to Claflin‘s sad-sack gymnasium to hear the one, the only, Safe Negro in the flesh.
The gymnasium was packed to the rafters with black folks in nervous anticipation for what was to come: a chance to touch the hem of His garment and be miraculously healed of their cynicism and disappointment. In short, we came to hear a word from the Lord. It was supposed to be an event that would forever leave us changed and uplifted. It was supposed to be an event where souls were saved and burdens cast off. It was supposed to be an event to remember that would chart the trajectory of an irrepressible star on an unalterable rendezvous with destiny.
Hallelujah!! We came to hear a word from the Lord. We heard some prefunctory remarks from the University’s President and South Carolina’s legendary black Kingmaker, Congressman James Clyburn. The Congressman graciously introduced Him. The “Arena” and I use that term loosely in a Negro HBCU kinda way, erupted as He and sistah Obama entered. After brief recognition of the assembled Negro dignitaries, He began.
Obama started off by telling an odd story about his children that is meant to convey to whites an upper class cultural cue of patrician obliviousness: our children are just as clueless as yours. His vignette told of one of his children asking the other for the umpteenth time, “What are we doing here again?” The child inquired of responds to the other with perfunctory efficiency: “you know, Daddy’s President thing.” This is said in a tone that doesn’t indicate that either child comprehends or cares about the import of what Daddy’s doing.
I cringed and thought, “Y’all didn’t explain the historic nature of this Presidential undertaking to your babies?” “Whatever y’all said ain’t sink in.” Another epiphany occurred, “If y’all can’t get the babies to understand, what realistic chance do I have of you all breaking it down for me?”
Exhausted, strung out, delusional, angry and sad, I should have called out to the one who is able to keep us from falling. Instead, I leaned in closer, tottering dangerously close to the edge of my small seat like the rest of our people hungry to hear a word from the Lord.
Obama continued and spoke of America reaching a domestic and national crossroads. He spoke of a broken health care system and threw in a little something about a parent taking a child to the emergency room for an asthma attack when all they needed was proper medication from a primary care physician. Then it happened, the moment we’d all been waiting for, he spoke of what was on the tip of every tongue, on every heart and mind: small business insurance.
Father God, in the name of Jesus!!!! Small business insurance? Are you freakin‘ kidding? It went down hill from there. We heard some trite bromides about No Child Left Behind, teachers’ salaries, and the need for our children to be able to compete with China and India. From there, he transitioned to a mind blowing description of the need for more infrastructure, port system investment, and the need for more access to broadband internet. I was operating on a grand total of three and a half hours of sleep over two days and 16 hours of travel with two friends to hear about port system investment?
We came all this way to hear a word from the Lord, not a damn fool who insisted on boring us with the tedium of port system investment!!! The air seemed to be stealthily leaving the room and suddenly we all became trapped in a theater of the absurd. The room started to swirl as the gathering aroma of my own funk made itself known because I neglected to bathe. My New Wal-Mart track suit looked incredibly cheap next to my comrades snappy attire and everybody else’s “Sunday best.”
Laboriously, my mind came back into focus and I thought, “Barack, you flew down here to the Bible belt to bore black folks to tears with some whitefolks s#*t?” I should have looked heavenward and beseeched the Lord to “Fix it, Jesus,” “Fix it.” Instead, like a damn fool, I leaned in closer to be anesthetized with an awkward and perfunctory mention of a recently buried soldier, his opposition to the War and wasting $400 billion and some mumbo jumbo I didn’t quite catch about Obama being in a room full of “patriots willing to defend our freedom,” and his unwillingness to continue placing people in the middle of a civil war. Again, we came to hear a word from the Lord.
Obama began again and said that “People were hungry for something new” and were tired of the “Can’t do, Won’t do, Won’t even try,” that we often get. “Yes,” I murmured to no one in particular. He pledged by the end of his first term as President to make health care access affordable and accessible to all, and then, inexplicably, launched into a mind numbing, soul stealing, mini dissertation about cutting the administrative costs of health care by utilizing new technology and eliminating duplicative paperwork.
“Lord, have Mercy.” Mercifully, He ended his “talk” after some boilerplate about parental responsibility regarding education and opened the floor to questions. A question about education and HIV/AIDS was asked which he answered passably. Then came the question and the answer which perfectly fit the stanza in the Negro National Anthem which says:
“Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chast’ning rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet, Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?”
A question was asked about rural economic development to which he regaled the assembled crowd of two thousand southern fried Negroes with a smattering of white meat about the urgent need for alternative fuels like bio diesel which utilizes switch-grass and manure. WHAT IN THE HELL IS SWITCH-GRASS? MANURE? You mean BULLS*IT, dontcha, Barack?
I was truly starting to feel like Marion Barry when the police bum rushed the room after he had exhaled from a crack pipe, and exclaimed, “The bitch set me up!” The media set us all up and we all fell hard. Serves my dumb butt right for not listening to my skeptical inner voice.
I left my home and drove for 16 hours to hear some sho’nuff whitefolks s#*t about some freakin’ switch-grass. Michelle, what the Hell kinda ignorant ass mess are these whitefolks fillin’up your man’s head wit and WHY IN THE HELL didn’t you get up and let the people HEAR YOU? Your law degree comes from the same place his does. If you felt the need to fall up in South Carolina with your man, the neighborly thang woulda been to say your peace, girl. You know, give us a word from the Lord since hubby couldn’t. Nobody was feelin’ that tired First Lady wave. You were beautifully turned out in those expensive heels and bell bottomed pants but come on, Hon. Did y’all leave Barack at the airport and bring an Oreo twin named Barry instead?
Do us all a favor next go-round. Leave Barry at home and make sho’ y’all bring Barack witcha. Small wonder Darrell Jackson and Robert Ford ain’t got time for ya. I wouldn’t make any time for ya either after what I heard. Miss Hillary isn’t gonna mess up her do worrying about you.