By Darin L. Hammond
Madison County, Idaho is a frozen wilderness, pounded already this year by an 8" snow storm before Halloween. Madison also ranks among the most conservative, and Mormon, counties in the United States.
Google no longer catalogues the 2008 story of a disturbing bus ride in Madison School District, but I am alive to attest the truth of it. After Obama won the first election, children on an elementary school bus chanted the words that surely came from the mouths of their parents: "Assassinate Obama." The story was a brief national scandal. Madison County, a cold place indeed.
Thankfully, that incident has long since passed. The election this time around kindled more heat here, as Mitt Romney is a Mormon, along with nearly everyone in Madison County. Most vote republican reflexively, regardless of the candidate, but citizens would happily vote twice for a Mormon.
On election day, in my tiny gray booth, with an ironic blue curtain, I felt that my fellow voters would have appreciated a ballot with just one box: republican. I rejected the eerie sensation that an electronic eye was recording my liberal ballot punching.
In this climate, my wife and I raise a 10 year old, half-Hispanic son, who views President Obama, not as a Black man, but as a brown person, like his own reflection in our bathroom mirror. He sees a bit of himself in Obama, transcending even religion - Mormonism. He proudly voted in Lincoln Elementary School's own little election, for Obama.
I gave him a high five this morning when I surprised him with Obama's win. He was elated. Despite teasing from friends at school, who, of course, discovered that he supported Obama, my boy remained joyous, happy that one of his own would remain in the White House. I am proud of his courage.
My son is shy and sometimes lacks confidence, but he stood for his beliefs in the face of peer pressure, a skill I have yet to perfect.
I am reflecting on what Obama has done for a nation with a racial self-identity crisis that precedes The Declaration of Independence by almost 300 years. Each child, regardless of skin color, inherits a caustic racial past, but my son's identity is enhanced by the Black man in the White House.
Think of the tremendous shift in the perceived-potential for my son and so many in this country, the collective self-esteem. Though we lack complete unity, so much has been accomplished by Obama and the country that voted for him, twice. I am touched when I think back to the first time my son asked, shyly, if it was "Okay" to vote for Obama. He is empowered by the vote.
Putting aside politics, Obama has helped heal a nation and open new horizons for children like my son. I reflect on Obama's words from his powerful 1st Inaugural Address:
"America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship … with hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come; let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations."