I stood outside today, after reading the New York Times Sunday edition, and puffed on what was left of the stogie I’d started smoking when I began reading the paper. Almost half the articles in their "Week In Review" section either wondered what was wrong with the president, or tried to predict how much of the healthcare reform law could be repealed by the new Republican majority Congress that would be seated in January 2011.
As I looked down from the back deck at the dead leaves that had accumulated like orange and auburn colored snowflakes over what was left of our back lawn, oddly enough, I thought back to last spring, when everything was new and green, and reminisced about a particular weekend we’d had seven months ago…
This was a spring weekend when there wasn’t much TV watching or newspaper reading or web surfing going on in our house. Nope, this had been one of those weekends where instead of cobbling together an extended profane political polemic like “Christine O’Donnell Got 99 Problems But Telling Lies Ain’t One”, back when she was running in the GOP primary, S. and I were eagerly working in the yard, cleaning away dead leaves, pruning trees and bushes, and spreading a black velvet colored mulch around the yard. Okay, “eagerly” is probably the wrong word for the attitude I had—“sourly” is probably much more accurate.
Then a friend of mine from across town showed up that Sunday afternoon with his two boys and their friend after attending a soccer game just around the corner. Two four year olds and a nine year old, they were the Three Musketeers—one mini afro, one mini fade, and one Mini Wheats colored shock of blonde hair that kept disappearing around corners and behind cars, at least until the kids from next door came outside.
The family next door were Russians, as in Russians from Russia, with heavy accents like they have in the movies and an insane obsession with cars. Their daughter was in the second or third grade, and their son, who speaks a totally unintelligible polyglot of Russian and English fragments, was three. In twenty minutes, I’d gone from being a lone field negro bagging dead leaves while breathing through a makeshift turban to starring in a cast of characters that included my better half with the dog, a bowl of popcorn, three pre-testosterone age boys following the Russian princesses every move, and a three year old I had to do sign language with, who hollered every time he saw a bee.
In the midst of all this chaos, my buddy remembered the brace of cigars he’d brought over, and pulled them out of his pocket. A word to the wise—if you ever get to choose your friends, choose the kind that are apt to pull a handful of Romeo Y Julieta double coronas out of their pocket . They are even better than the occasional bottle of hooch when it comes to making a friend's flaws recede into nothingness.
By the time this was all over, I had been forced to pull out my Super Soaker to defend my manhood. The kids had dropped so much popcorn on the paving stones, the dog had simply given up trying to eat them all. The neighbor’s pink Barbie Escalade had run out of power after careening around the cul-de-sac loaded down with passengers. And young Master Mini Wheats surprised himself by yelling “I love you” to the Russian princess from the backseat of my friend’s truck as he pulled off…
Why was I thinking about this today, with winter just around the corner, as I stood in the stillness of the crisp fall air? Because I wanted to know why the crazy folks who swear Barack Obama is an alien life form don’t see what my neighbors see.
I mean, my better half is tall, and is a lawyer, like Michelle. And I like to talk a lot, and I'm biracial myself, just like the president...
...okay, maybe being half black and half Geechie isn't exactly the same as being half black and half white—more like half black and half rice—but you get where I'm going with the general theme.
Smart, well educated, well behaved, well mannered black folks like us have been goodwill ambassadors before anybody even knew who the Obamas were. We have always done what we could to bridge the gap between the ignorance of long held racial stereotypes and the reality of our existence.
It took more than another couple of puffs on this cigar that was slowly coming to an end this afternoon, however, to think about the disconnect between my neighbors, who expect to see me and know who I am, and the weekenders touring the neighborhood whose eyes often jump when they spy me trimming the hedges in my “Obama” t-shirt while puffing a trusty stogie. To think about the disconnect between me and millions upon millions of other Americans and that dynamic duo, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, who have decided to dedicate the next two years to dismantling his healthcare reform bill because it is a symbol of social justice, a political mindset with which they do not agree.
By the time I finished my stogie, though, I had decided that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
And sometimes, healthcare reform is just healthcare reform.