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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Generation Gap

One of my neighbors hustles to do lawn mowing and he does our yard. He's an older guy, works hard, does a good job, and follows up when the lawn gets long again. Today he had some significant words to share with the young guys who hang out on our block and do little in the way of identifiable labor. He put it to them because they messed with him while he is working. He let them know exactly how he felt about them and that he would be happy to school them if necessary. The young guys talk tough, but they won't mess with him. He's scrappy.

Scrappy is a way of life in my neighborhood. Yelling is a way of life in my neighborhood. It takes a little getting used to for those that are unaccustomed. Black people say it's a black thing. Poor people say it's a poor thing. Immigrants say it's an immigrant thing. I guess it's not a white middle and upper class thing...

It brings to mind the Rev. Wright and Obama issue. Rev. Wright is a fiery preacher. Obama has said that black preachers are likely to whoop and holler in their sermons. White people are naturally taken aback by this because there is little whooping or hollering in their churches. So when you add what is perceived to be the inflammatory language of black theology to the mix, white people will feel a whole lot of discomfort. Hillary came to quick judgment and wondered aloud why Obama had not left the church and why he stayed so long. Her discomfort with the Reverend led her to tell Obama to leave his church. Quite a leap. Meanwhile the white media can't seem to let it go. They are incredulous that the whole Rev. Wright thing has happened and then they proceed to go over it again and again and again. What is really bothering the media is that they don't understand this pastor, his message, and his delivery. They understand only that he is different than what they are used to. My conclusions about this have little to do with the content of the Reverend's speech. If that were the heart of the issue, the media would be treating this much differently. Instead, they are focusing on how a preacher could behave so improperly, how a congregation could be so tolerant and unchallenging, how Obama could sit for this! Hrumph! The indignation is palpable.

On my block, the yelling and banter ebbs and flows. Sometimes it goes on longer than it should. There was a nasty altercation involving an inebriated woman, a young man, and a broken bottle that she used to threaten him, and instead only egged him on to new heights of profundity. Sometimes the yelling and anger will become violent and guns are brought out and used. I have seen this only once, but the news is filled with the commonness of this escalation. Perhaps it is this violation of white sensibilities that leads Hillary et al. to be relentless in their criticism of Obama's judgment. For if Obama is allowed to respond without outrage to the pastor, then what next? White culture may not be allowed to set the standard for decorum, propriety, or acceptability. That would be scandalous (as the guys on my block say).

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