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History isn’t always black or white

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By Lee Helscel

Sometimes we are chided by our readers for something we did or didn’t do. Most of the time it’s only a comment or two; on occasion there are a number of calls – and a few lengthy conversations.

We try to learn something from all writers of e- and regular mail and the telephone callers. And once in a while,  we realize a common thread in those discourses is something we should have addressed.

As a “community” newspaper that tries to cover 15,000 households each week,  the Citizen usually leaves history-making events to the big boys in daily journalism and all the blow-by-blow electronic mediums. But a number of readers were concerned that we hadn’t mentioned the unprecedented presidential election of 2008 – a moment chiseled into the mountain of American history.

Not that we printed a front-page story of election night in the Corridor – but the editorial pages carried Jim Flynn’s “Consider This” statement of why the Democrats were able to propel Barack Obama into the White House, in the Nov. 7 issue. On the facing page, in his own way, Robert E. Beckner predicted Obama’s win in his “Right Down the Corridor” column, written more than a week before the election.

In the two-plus weeks after the election of the nation’s first African-American president,  we have read and heard others voice hope for the nation’s future. Considering our  state of the economy, the unknown duration of two lengthy wars, fear of a virtually invisible enemy, and government corruption, the man who hasn’t even taken office will have yet another mountain to climb once he’s sworn in.

With the hopes for Obama to heal the nation’s domestic and international ills, there are those who are still predicting his tenure will be America’s fatal disease. So far,  his choices of advisers and rumored appointees is a list that is short of socialists, communists and religious radicals – the political plagues of our time.

And there are still those who are inwardly or outwardly afraid that as a black American, Barack Obama will favor the downtrodden with wasteful government programs that taxpayer money will be squandered on. That wasn’t part of his platform and he didn’t persuade 41.9 million Americans to vote for him because he was going to put them on the gravy train.

The president-to-be hasn’t presented any outrageous plans, yet, and from his demeanor in interviews he has shown no inclination to say or do radical things. But one thing is certain – no matter what he wants to become law will have to pass muster on Capital Hill and with all the movers and shakers in Washington, D.C.

Even if he is a new breed of president, he will have to work with a large and diverse crowd of influential people to pursue any agenda. To change the course of the economy and our international relationships, he will have to find a way to revitalize Main Street and Wall Street, while keeping the military industrial and medical industrial complexes happy.

At the community level, we are Main Street and Back Street. The latter is the address that sees a new hope in America’s first black president. But he is more than that and it came across in the campaign. He is a biracial man – a human being who knows both worlds. Will his unique background, education and upbringing serve him and the nation well? Will all the races and ethic peoples of this land see a part of themselves in him and work together? That is the hope of many who voted for him.

Can this charismatic “mutt,” as he’s called himself, create jobs so the working class will have gainful employment, spend money, make profits for corporate America and rekindle the American dream? Does he have the perspective to create foreign policy that brings our troops home and develop international relationships based on mutual benefit and peaceful coexistence?

History was written on Nov. 4. But the book is unfinished and the chapters of President Barack Obama are open pages. He has shown that “change” is possible – but there are still mountains of social and economic reform that challenge the nation.