Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inauguration of Barack Black Eagle

Yesterday was quite a day. Three things about yesterday really struck home to me. The first were these lines in President Obama's inauguration speech:

"In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. (This is my legacy, a second generation American of Eastern European roots, whose family history essentially stops at Ellis Island.)

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. (And died early of black lung from toiling in coal mines, as did both of my grandfathers. Men I never did get to meet as they were dead before I came on the family scene.)

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sanh.

(My brother lived through Khe Sanh. Watching the nightly news was tough, not knowing, never getting enough information. When he finally called over MARS radio, my mother passed out.)

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction." (A functioning 'we' is always greater than the sum of it's parts. One of the reasons Jesus stated that when ever 'two or more" are gathered in my name, I am there.)

It had been a long time since I though about my grandfathers. About how their absence played such a huge role in the lives of the families they left behind. My dad was forced to give up promising careers in either hockey or baseball, as he was the male member left to support his younger siblings. He went to work, forced to drop out of high school, for one of Detroit's numerous auto factories. He never ever talked about his father. I got the impression my grandfather's last torturous years were incredibly hard on his family.

My mother grew up without her father in a household of five siblings, raised by a single mother in an era in which single mothers had no social safety net at all. She kept the family together during the depression by bootlegging alcohol. Not an uncommon survival strategy for the times, and one also shared by my father's family.

President Obama's daring to couple the travails for immigrants with the black experience of slavery is not something a white politician could have ever pulled off. It's also not a coupling I've ever really thought about, but he's right. New immigrants, like blacks, have always been defined as 'others' and made to slave in one form or another for those who actually get the pieces of the American Pie. And in some respects, their experiences are worse--as in not having shelter or food and in spite of knowing all this, they still come in droves. This country represents a powerful dream, a light that still shines throughout the world.

The second thing which really struck me was watching the Horse Mounted Unit from the Montana Crow Nation riding in the van guard of the inaugural parade. Barack Obama was adopted into the Crow Nation in May of this year by Hartford and Mary Black Eagle. His native name, Awe Kooda Bilaxpak Kuuxshish, translates into "One Who Helps People Throughout The Land."

Our president is not just Barack Obama, he is also Barack Obama Black Eagle, and he also understands the truth of the Native American experience in the United States.

"Few have been ignored by Washington for as long as Native Americans, the first Americans," Obama said. "That will change when I am president of the United States."

President Obama also told his Crow family that treaties with Native Nations were 'paramount to law' and would not be ignored when Washington makes decisions concerning Indian country. Why is this an important promise to Indian country? Because these Nations sit on some very important geography when it comes to alternative sources of energy. They are crucial to his energy plans. This nation's government has historically forgotten all about treaties with Indian Nations when it comes to natural resources. Barack Black Eagle is promising a different approach. That will be a huge change for Indian country. One he signalled he hadn't forgotten as the Crow Horse Mounted Unit rode third in his inaugural parade.

My third strong hit came in remembering the words ascribed to Our Lady of America: "Dear children, unless the United States accepts and carries out faithfully the mandate given to it by heaven to lead the world to peace, there will come upon it and all nations a great havoc of war and incredible suffering. If, however, the United States is faithful to this mandate from heaven and yet fails in the pursuit of peace because the rest of the world will not accept or cooperate, then the United States will not be burdened with the punishment about to fall."

I have the very optimistic sense that the United States is finally in position to truly accept this mandate. That as a united country, we are finally beginning to understand that it is the 'we' of America that makes this American dream a reality for everyone everywhere. We are beginning to know deep down inside that everyone must be invited to the table in order for the dream to be valid and for peace to prevail. Or as President Obama said yesterday:

"They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations."

Peace only happens in an atmosphere of hope and a strong commitment to justice. We tried peace through fear, and found it didn't work. On the other hand, it may have been the only path we could have walked to get us to the understanding we seem to have now, under this president. Hopefully we will choose to cooperate with the vision of "One who helps people through out the land."

NEWS FLASH for the Vatican: Mary didn't give you the mandate to bring the peace of God's kingdom to earth, she gave it to the United States of America: One nation, under no particular definition of God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Perhaps you should meditate on the reasons for this.


  1. Good read Colleen and it was a light filled day. . .

    "Psalms 15

    Lord, who can be trusted with power
    and who may act in your place?
    Those with a passion for justice,
    who speak the truth from their hearts;
    who have let go of selfish interests
    and grown beyond their own lives;
    who see the wretched as their family
    and the poor as their flesh and blood.
    They alone are impartial
    and worthy of the people's trust.
    Their compassion lights up the whole earth,
    and their kindness endures forever."

    (A Book of Psalms, translations by Stephen Mitchell)

  2. I missed some of the speech. as I was running around and only briefly got to my wireless internet connection to hear the speech. Thanks for filling in.