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My God. It is true... it is darkest before the dawn.

I never thought I could feel that I had seen the kinds of sweeping changes in the world that my recently deceased father-in-law did. He died just under a year ago at age 102. Politically, my F-I-L was active until his last couple of years... an ardent Democrat, who felt his future and his family had been saved by FDR. He loved Bill, and Gore. He was a good, honorable, loving, generous man. He was also a bit of a bigot, though to his credit those tendencies all but disappeared as he got older.

Having been born in 1905, my F-I-L saw changes in our way of life that most of us would find hard to imagine. Mostly, I'm referring to changes in technology, and to our material way of life. But those are not what this post is about. The changes I feel so grateful to have witnessed don't have to do with technological advances. They have to do with race.

I'm only 53. To me, that doesn't seem like a whole lot. But I've seen a whole lot.

- When I was 8 years old I saw my (third grade) teacher get interrupted by the principal. He asked her to step out into the hallway, and when she returned a moment later, she was in tears. She told us that our President had been shot. We all cried, though we didn't understand. (That was the same teacher who led us in drills during which we were to crouch under our desks; preparation for possible nuclear attack.)

-I was 10 years old by the time the voting rights act of 1965 was enacted. Yes, for the first ten years of my life, African Americans did not have the right to vote. I remember being horrified, and embarrassed for my country, the first time I realized that.

-My 13th year was marked by a terrible spate of violence. Not to me, but to my country. First, I watched the reports of the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. Only a couple of months later, Bobby Kennedy was killed. Two months after that, I watched the 1968 Democratic National Convention on television. My father was angry at the protesters. I was shocked at the beatings they received.

-Two years later, I watched reports of the killings of students at Kent State University, whose crime was protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia.

I grew up abhorring violence. As a school child, I knew about the Klan. Racism, assassination, war... these shaped me. In high school I played soccer. In one game, I was sucker-punched by a player on the opposing team. I stood with my hands at my sides... didn't retaliate. The other player was ejected. I thought I'd done right, but when I reached the sideline, my ex-marine coach was enraged that I hadn't fought back.

In my adult life, I did fight back... in my own way. In the mid eighties, I was driving home from work one day. We lived in a small central-CT town. As I passed my daughter's middle school, I saw three Klansmen standing out front, waving over passing drivers and handing out literature to them. I rushed home, found a can of spray paint and a piece of cardboard, and painted a big arrow under the words, "Full of Crap!". I hustled back to my daughter's school and stood with my sign right next to those three Klansmen - the arrow pointing straight at them. There was a traffic light in front of the school. People who were stopped at the light pointed, laughed, honked. One of the hooded "men" said "You should be proud of your race." I replied, "I'm ashamed of you." After I had been there only a few minutes, they left. The Klan hasn't been back to our town since.

All of this is to explain who I am, what I've witnessed, and why it is that I am so amazed, so moved, so proud, so thrilled to see what is happening... what this man has brought us, and promises to bring.

In March of 2005, a good friend of mine gave me a birthday gift. It was a book entitled "Dreams From My Father". Inside the front cover, she had written, "Happy Birthday. Maybe this will be our next president!"

My God. It is true... it is darkest before the dawn.

Originally posted to meloomis on Fri Jun 06, 2008 at 03:24 PM PDT.

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