≡ Menu

The Lincoln Connection

People are flawed and so I’m not much for hero worship. When even Christmas is watered down to be more about buying out the Walmart toy aisle than it is about Christ, it seems to smack of political correctness to choose Martin Luther King, Jr., as the only human on the planet deemed worthy to have his very own official US holiday. (OK, except Columbus Day, but does anyone celebrate it even the mailmen?)

But this year Martin Luther King, Jr., day stuck in my mind more than usual. The fundamental idea of fairness is very significant to me and Dr. King’s mission and his life’s work has stands out as a shining example of being willing to sacrifice for a greater cause. Coming on the eve of the inauguration of our first black president makes these things seem very powerful.

Obama still scares the beejeebers out of me. I struggle daily with being thrilled at the breakdown of a longstanding barrier of fairness and goodness and being horrified that the majority would vote for anyone man or woman of any color who stands for the particular ideas Obama promotes. But I’m trying to move my focus at least for tomorrow on the thing I find positive and wonderful: we are truly learning to be color blind.

As a child I was raised in mostly white Utah. My parents made it clear, whenever such situations arose, that racism was wrong, illogical, and just plain stupid. My best friend in 2nd grade, Nora, was hispanic. My best friend in 6th grade, Ella Mae, was Navajo. Since I didn’t see racism in my little world, I thought of it as something from the past, as something that people “in the olden days” (who didn’t know better) did.

I was embarrassingly old when I found out differently. I was watching a documentary about the Freedom Riders. And then the date flashed on the screen. May 4, 1961. 1961. Only three years before I was born.

People killed people over skin color in my lifetime? I could not believe it. I sat on the couch with tears streaming down my face.

Racism is something I don’t understand. Sexism, too, though it’s a bit more murky in my mind because I acknowledge that there are fundamental gender differences. But all in all it seems like a basic, common sense, decent, civil rule that people should be judged “by the content of their character.”

After the inauguration, maybe we can get back to that. What is the character of the American people? our leaders as well as the citizens at large? Is it what God would want from us?

As Abraham Lincoln accepted the Republican nomination for president, he said these words:

A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure half slave and half free. I do not expect the union to be dissolved. I do not expect the House to fall. But I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.

As the calls for hope and unity abound, we should remember some fundamental truths. Hope in incorrect principles, won’t save our country. Being unified in the chaos of amorality, won’t keep us free. It will only be by becoming “all one thing” in truth and righteousness that this country will be all that it can (and should) be.

{ 49 comments… add one }
  • agardner January 20, 2009, 10:41 am

    I love your last paragraph especially. I’m going to be hopefully optimistic about all of this. I disagree with Obama on most things, but he does seem to have a great ability to unite people. Hopefully this will finally be what puts the injustices of the past forever in the past.

  • agardner January 20, 2009, 10:49 am

    Just read Parker’s column. I love what she said about moral problems being the base for the economic problems (and I would say more than just the economic problems. Pretty much all of the problems we have either as individuals or as a country are because of moral deficits in one way or another).

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2009, 12:12 pm

    Thank you, Angie. I agree. I hope we can move beyond race and, eventually, gender, too. (Wow, if only we could elect a woman, one day, who actually values life, etc.) I think in those areas it’s getting better all the time.

    This morning we watched the inauguration. Did any of you? What did you think?

    There was plenty of crumb-throwing to special interests and some partisan rhetoric, but some of it I really liked. He talked quite a bit about personal responsibility (as opposed to government lifecare), which is not a hallmark of the dem party. I really, really liked his “price and promises” bit–which stand right along with the “rights and responsibilities” idea I am constantly trying to get into my kids’ (biological and in my classes) heads. Great thoughts.

    The prayers were a bit much to me. OK, and I nearly choked on the poem. I’ll have to read it myself to see if I can stomach it. The reading was probably the worst poetry reading I’ve heard in my life, 4-H oral presentations included. Robert Frost is one of my favorite poems, but his readings (of his own writings) were just awful. Maybe that’s inherent in poetic genius?

    The singing of the national anthem by the Navy Sea Chanters just gave me chills. The performance was fine but honestly not incredibly outstanding, it was just this great anthem sung be real military heroes that was so inspiring.

    God bless America.

  • nanacarol January 20, 2009, 12:26 pm

    I enjoyed the morning activities. Have thought long and hard about all of this over the weekend knowing that today would come. Like you Alison, the man still scares me. But I want to be so positive about everything because all around me life is getting harder. We have been hit by the downturn of the ecomony. My husband is hardly working and we are scared to death what is going to happen to us. He is looking for more work. I have a chronic illness that prevents me from working. I have been putting off my filing for SSI but will have to soon. so I hope and pray for better times!

  • jennycherie January 20, 2009, 2:35 pm

    Posted By: Alison Moore Smith
    This morning we watched the inauguration. Did any of you? What did you think?

    I did not watch the inauguration (too much to do in my one weekday off!), but I listened to what I could as I puttered around the house and ran errands. I really felt like this was a pretty good transition speech. It was not the hope/change filled campaign speeches he has been known for (which would have been a real turn-off to me) and I appreciated that. This may have seemed a bit dry or dull for those who preferred the campaign speeches, but I think it was a good middle-road (possibly unifying) way for him to go. I also really appreciated seeing him change from the “I” of a campaign speech to the “We” of a leader. That was important, in my opinion. There were a few good lines here and there, though nothing spectacular. I did not notice any particular parallels to President Lincoln (or Dr. King), but I have heard others say there were (and as I said, I was doing other things as I was listening).

    The highlight of the day for me was discussing the inauguration speech with my daughter’s class today. I was supposed to help the teacher in the classroom, and I nearly left because it looked like they would be watching the speech the whole time I was there and the teacher had nothing for me to help her with today. Fortunately, I did not leave and so I was there while the class discussed the speech. My daughter’s class is known to be a particularly rough and difficult class. The teacher is frustrated and feels like she is not making a difference and my daughter complains a lot about her classmates. It was great to have the opportunity to visit with just a few of these children and see what is good (and great!) about them. I was impressed with how much they understood and remembered from the speech. Several expressed that they were excited to have a black president and excited because they believe he will really help our country. I was also surprised to hear them express (after hearing the news commentators droning on about people boo-ing President Bush) that they did not think Mr. Bush was a bad president, but they felt removed from him. They feel like they can relate to President Obama. Anyway, politics aside, I really enjoyed hearing reactions from 5th graders.

    Also, the other thing that I really enjoyed today was hearing about the friendly manner between former-President Bush and President Obama. It is a great thing to have a peaceful transfer of power. I feel blessed to live in this nation.

  • agardner January 20, 2009, 3:07 pm

    I watched. Some of the commentating was annoying, but I enjoyed watching the process. I loved Aretha Franklin singing “My Country Tis of Thee” and I’m a Yo-Yo Ma fan so I really enjoyed that number as well.

    The oath was funny. You’d think that knowing for two months that this was going to happen, Roberts and Obama would have been more prepared with how it went. I had to chuckle.

    I liked Obama’s speech. It was much more low-key than I expected. There were a couple of times that I didn’t agree with what he said, although I can’t think of them off the top of my head and will have to listen again. Overall, good.

    I’m really impressed with President Bush. He has taken so many hits in the press lately, and he has been taking it like a man. Very gracious. I wish him the best.

    Jennie, I agree with what you said here and on facebook – watching the peaceful transfer of power makes me proud to be an American.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 4:16 pm

    I didn’t watch it– I was subbing today for music.
    But honestly, I wouldn’t have watched it even if I was home.
    Other than the fact that I’m glad to see a black person becoming president, I’m SOOO thoroughly in disagreement with the platform and plans of Obama, that I just had absolutely no desire whatsoever to watch.
    I have to say though– that while I AM glad to see a black person in the oval office and understand the significance of that, I’m sort of disgusted with the fact that it’s ALL anyone is talking about, and all anyone seems to care about.
    Skin color isn’t supposed to matter– but it’s been the entire focus, and from all the little clips I heard on the radio and on TV since I’ve been home from work, it’s ALL anyone is talking about.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 4:20 pm

    Oh, and it makes me sick to my stomach that he’s trying to make himself out to be another Abraham Lincoln. He couldn’t be farther.
    And the only reason he’s trying to adopt a heroic personna, is because he hasn’t DONE anything to have made himself his own. Except now he’s the president and he’s black. THAT’s his personna– so he thinks that attaching himself to Lincoln gives him credibility.
    Yeah, and I’m a size 2.

  • jennycherie January 20, 2009, 4:44 pm

    Posted By: agardnerSome of the commentating was annoying,

    so true! I got one bit of a commentator saying, “everyone who is anyone is here!” . . .hello, is this prom? the homecoming keg party? what? EVERYone who is ANYone is here?? bleh.

    Posted By: facethemusicI’m sort of disgusted with the fact that it’s ALL anyone is talking about,

    totally agree – that is what frustrates me about all the people saying this is Dr. King’s dream come true. Dr. King’s dream come true would be when no one CARES what color the person is, when we are only judged by the content of our character. It is one huge step forward, but we can do so much better.

    Posted By: Alison Moore SmithThe prayers were a bit much to me. OK, and I nearly choked on the poem.

    I forgot about this part. I was in the van driving during the last few minutes of the prayer. Yikes. I hate to feel that way about a prayer – if he prays what is in his heart, how can that be wrong? And yet, I felt like I was listening to a sermon that was insisting we still live in 1963. . . all divided and assigned a characteristic or a job by our race alone.

    as for the poem, I only heard a few lines and I was lost.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 4:50 pm

    The benediction prayer wasn’t just “a bit much” it was disgusting, flippant, disrespectful and racist.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2009, 5:17 pm

    Posted By: jennycherieAlso, the other thing that I really enjoyed today was hearing about the friendly manner between former-President Bush and President Obama. It is a great thing to have a peaceful transfer of power. I feel blessed to live in this nation.

    Yes. Did you hear the commentary about this? They were surprised that the Bush’s were so cordial to the Obamas, because the Clintons hadn’t been so when they left office.

    I think Roberts blew the oath. He should have stopped the first time Obama started talking over him. After that it was just fluster. Roberts misspoke once I think, said too much at once, and it felt like an eternity (to me!) when Obama obviously couldn’t remember the next part and waited for a prompt. Of course, Roberts may have just been flustered, too, bu I felt bad for Obama and said, “He’s probably thinking, ‘DO OVER!'” :shamed::sad:

    Posted By: facethemusicSkin color isn’t supposed to matter– but it’s been the entire focus, and from all the little clips I heard on the radio and on TV since I’ve been home from work, it’s ALL anyone is talking about.

    That’s a tough one. In overcoming our racism, we are focusing on race. True. I think it’s absolutely true that Obama was HELPED by his race in this election, because Americans are at a time when they WANT to prove something about race. And they have. They, collectively, were willing to vote for a black man. I believe a black man could have been elected somewhat earlier–had an amazing candidate presented himself. (Colin Powell definitely had a shot, although I’m less than enamored with him.) But it could not have happened in the 60’s. No way, no how.

    Whatever else is involved, we have come to a point where race is not THE deciding issue and I think that’s wonderful.

    Posted By: jennycheriegot one bit of a commentator saying, “everyone who is anyone is here!” . . .hello, is this prom?


    The invocation was one of those moments (as happens in church on occasion) when I’m thinking, “If they wanted you to give a SPEECH they would have asked you.” Monica’s eyes burst open and she said, “Is this a prayer?” I wasn’t in the room for most of the benediction. But you’ve gotta watch the poem. Holy cow.

    Belinda just walked in and saw this:


    She said, “What is he swinging? Underwear?”

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2009, 5:18 pm

    Oh, Tracy, you should read the Star Parker column. I think you’ll like it.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 6:13 pm

    I’m curious about this “poem” that’s been mentioned… I haven’t heard any clips of the poem. . (Unless you’re talking about the 1st grade, juvenile, racist garbage of a poem that the Rev. Lowry used as an ending to his so-called prayer.)

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 6:18 pm

    Just read the Parker article— spot on!

  • agardner January 20, 2009, 6:26 pm

    Oh gosh, I had forgotten about the so-called prayers. Yikes. Especially the benediction. What was all that “When the yellow man is mellow, when the white is right”….or whatever that was.

    The applause during the invocation was also obnoxious.

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 6:27 pm

    The prayer was heartfelt and sincere, even if the style was very different than what is typical in church.

    One of the most moving prayers I have heard in my life in a Sacrament Meeting was offered by a black man in our ward who is a former minister. It was closer to this prayer than to 99.9% of those we normally hear in that setting, and the spirit was so thick I felt moved to tears.

    Finally, the references to color were quotes from a well-known statement in the African-American community. I immediately recognized it – and understood its significance and relevance to that situation. If you know about his background and what he has endured to work for and maintain positive relations between white and black America, I don’t think “racist” would ever enter the conversation regarding a prayer he would utter.

    Face, I admire and respect you GREATLY, but I couldn’t disagree more with your characterization of the prayer – and, by implication, the wonderful man who said it.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 6:37 pm

    The prayer was heartfelt and sincere, even if the style was very different than what is typical in church.

    Ray, this wasn’t about “style”.
    I spent half my life in the south and went to church repeatedly with my black friends.
    I’ve heard plenty of black ministers give sincere and moving prayers, despite a different “style”.
    If you want to call disrespectful and racist “heartfelt and sincere”, then by all means, go ahead. The people close to the mike could be heard LAUGHING– it sounded like a JOKE for heaven’s sake.
    “Let the yellow be mellow? ” Please….

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 7:25 pm

    Face, people have different expectations regarding prayer. My mother is incredibly spiritual, and she has shared jokes in prayer more than once. I’ve heard her laughing while praying more than once. I have no problem believing that God can handle a good joke in the middle of a prayer. Also, the vast majority of those laughing during the prayer were laughing with him – not at God or out of a sense of disrespect, but simply because it was funny. I’m fine with that.

    The statements regarding white, black and brown were verbatim a famous quote in the African-American community. He took that very heartfelt expression and added similar lines for other colors. Wise in that context? Perhaps not, especially since not all listening were black and would understand. Tacky in the actual words used? Yeah, I can accept that. “Racist garbage of a poem” – “disgusting, flippant, disrespectful and racist” – Not in the slightest, imo. The poem itself expresses despair over the unequal (racist) treatment of racial minorities in the country. The actual message in the way he used the poem was to turn that on its head and pray for a day when those things would no longer be said.

    Go back and read the entire prayer again, minus the visceral reaction to the presentation and the cultural response. (Margaret Young posted the entire wording on By Common Consent.) Read the words and parse them for what they actually say – removing your immediate reaction from your reading. There really is NO racism in the poem; it actually is praying for the end of racism – for God’s help in eliminating racism. The message of the prayer is POWERFUL – and although I would deliver it in a very different way, I would be honored to be able to express what he expressed as eloquently as he expressed it. Seriously, please read the words themselves and see if your perception changes at all.


  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2009, 7:52 pm

    Ray, I agree mostly, but that last part curled my toes. All the colors are supposed to chill and have a great life. Oh, except old whitey over there. Ghosty needs to “embrace the right.”

    If he was just calling for an end to racism, he wouldn’t just be pointing his finger at one group.

  • agardner January 20, 2009, 9:14 pm

    A really good reason might be, “A meteor is hurtling toward my head.”

    Lowery wants us to beat our swords into tractors. He should have said eco-friendly hybrid tractors

    Okay STOP! You are killing me. 🙂


  • agardner January 20, 2009, 9:16 pm

    I’ll be honest, both of the prayers bored me to tears more than anything. My ears did perk up at the end of the benediction though, because I thought it was really inappropriate and well…kind of stupid. I mean, we (meaning the collective we) elected him as president, did we not? And over a million people showed up to witness the event – they certainly were not all black. I just thought – you know, maybe you could show a little more GRATITUDE and a lot less racial separation.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 9:41 pm

    I have no problem believing that God can handle a good joke in the middle of a prayer.

    Possibly, but I’m not so sure about that– and that wasn’t the point, either. I don’t think it was MEANT to be a joke.

    .Also, the vast majority of those laughing during the prayer were laughing with him –

    Ray, YOU’RE the one who JUST SAID it’s a famous poem expressing despair — so even according to YOU it wasn’t a joke– you said it was heartfelt and sincere, so why are you defending it as though it was joke that God can handle? And why are you saying they were laughing WITH him, if it’s supposed to be expressing despair? Come on Ray– you’re not even making sense. You’re trying SO hard to sound “tolerant”, that you’re sounding incoherent.

    The statements regarding white, black and brown were verbatim a famous quote in the African-American community.

    And your point is… what? Just because it’s common or famous in their community, that makes it okay?
    It’s racist– pure and simple. Maybe he should have quoted Jeremiah Wright’s
    “@%**&% America” speech as part of his prayer— it’s famous now, too.

    The actual message in the way he used the poem was to turn that on its head and pray for a day when those things would no longer be said.

    No…. I DID read it… it is NOT praying for a day when those things will no longer be said…..

    “Lord, in memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in joy of a new beginning, We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to give back…”

    And blacks shouldn’t give back because……?

    when brown can stick around”
    when yellow will be mellow,”

    What in the world is THAT supposed to mean? Asians are all high-strung and uptight and need to take a chill pill?

    when the red man can get ahead, man
    and when white will embrace what is right,”

    He did NOT say—
    “Lord, we ask you to help us work for that day
    when people will no longer say…”

    (And hey– that still would have fit the cheesy rhyme scheme)

    The prayer was HOPING for a day yet to come, when black people won’t be asked to give back,
    when yellow will be mellow and when white will embrace what is right”

    You’re spinning it so hard you’re making yourself dizzy.

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 9:42 pm

    Angie, all I can say is to read the prayer. There is a LOT of gratitude in it and very little racial separation – if any. (The poem can be seen that way, but I don’t get that message at all in the actual words.) In fact, gratitude and a plea for help to be unified are the central themes of the prayer (including the poem) – and he repeated them over and over and over again. Again, the poem might not have been the best choice for those who wouldn’t recognize it, but it really is a plea for help being unified – and the addition of other colors to the historical statement, ironically, was an (perhaps lame) attempt to be more inclusive – to not pray JUST for white, black and brown. That really is the irony of this discussion, imo.

    I really do think that much of the reaction will wash away if you read the words without having to listen to the voice – if you judge it solely on the words themselves. Just remember, prayer is a participatory event in many congregations, and sometimes the participation gets in the way of the message for those who do not pray in that manner.

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 9:53 pm

    Face, you misquoted the prayer – in about the worst way possible.

    1) It said, “when black will not be asked to GET back”. That’s a HUGE difference, and surely you must understand the significance of that phrase. Your mistake literally guts the entire prayer and turns it into something totally different, but I’m not going to accuse you of being illogical in your view. You simply made a HUGE mistake.

    2) Perhaps “joke” was the wrong word. Perhaps “humor” would have been better. He tried to include other races in a humorous way to not leave anyone out of the prayer. I’ve already said it probably was lame, but it wasn’t racist and disgusting.

    I’m bowing out now. Dizziness does that to people, especially when they aren’t spinning at all.

    Try reading it correctly next time – the entire thing for the entire context. I can’t do it from my disoriented, incoherent condition. Maybe my spinelessness and over-tolerance is affecting my brain.

    Finally, I’ve never once in all of these conversations said to you what you just said to me. Please, take a deep breath and realize I’m not the idiot your last comment paints me to be.

    Good night. I really do admire and respect you. I just think you are dead wrong on this one.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 9:55 pm

    I quoted it right from another website— copied and pasted, actually, so if I quoted it wrong, it’s not my error.
    If “get” was the actual word, then of course I understand the meaning. It doesn’t make any difference though. Either way, the poem is STILL racist.

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 10:08 pm

    “It’s not my error.”

    “It doesn’t make any difference.”

    I don’t know how to respond to that. Good-bye.

  • facethemusic January 20, 2009, 10:15 pm

    Please, take a deep breath and realize I’m not the idiot your last comment paints me to be.

    Ray, I’m HONESTLY not saying you’re an idiot… and I don’t know where you got “spineless” from. I’m saying you’re not making any sense.
    First you said it was heartfelt and sincere and was part of a famous poem in the African American community expressing despair over racial intolerance.
    Then when I mentioned that people laughed, you said that God can take a joke and people were laughing WITH the Reverend, as though he was just telling a joke and being funny.

    So was he being sincere and heartfelt or was he telling a joke?
    Were people laughing WITH him because the joke was so darn funny, or were they laughing because it sounded so silly?

    Then you said that he was actually trying to say the opposite… that he was hoping for a day when those things would no longer be said… but I READ the entire prayer at common consent(missing the difference of give and get) and NO WHERE is there any indication that he meant he was hoping for a day when people would no longer say those things.
    He said “Lord, we ask you to help us work for that day… when white will embrace what is right.”
    It’s pretty clear– to him, whites don’t embrace what is right. And apparently all the Asians have OCD— who knew?

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 10:42 pm

    This really is the last, because if I keep going I’m going to say something I really regret.

    So was he being sincere and heartfelt or was he telling a joke?

    I just answered that. It was both – a very sincere and heartfelt prayer with some lame humor that most there understood as such.

    you’re not even making sense. You’re trying SO hard to sound “tolerant”, that you’re sounding incoherent.

    I’m not “trying” to sound tolerant. I’m not avoiding taking a righteous stand (being spineless) in a mistaken attempt to be tolerant. I’m trying to be honest. I’m also trying to not to take one little part and treat it as if it defines the whole prayer as racist. It doesn’t.

    I’m also not sounding incoherent. I’m making a very coherent, nuanced point. I don’t see it in as black-and-white terms as you do, no pun intended. I’m separating lame humor from a very powerful prayer and trying to explain why the prayer is not “racist garbage” and “disgusting, flippant, disrespectful and racist”. That’s how I see it, and I guarantee that’s not incoherent. Not agreeing or understanding doesn’t make someone else’s view “incoherent”. It just means you don’t agree or understand.

    Maybe he should have quoted Jeremiah Wright’s “@%**&% America” speech as part of his prayer— it’s famous now, too.

    I have no words to respond to that. None.

    You’re spinning it so hard you’re making yourself dizzy.

    That’s probably the most insulting thing anyone has ever said to me on this blog. Deeply, profoundly, incredibly insulting. Re-read the quotes I just cited and tell me how you would have reacted if someone had said those exact same words to you. Then tell me they aren’t insulting.

    I really am gone. This is going nowhere, and it’s not going to go anywhere. We simply see this VERY differently.

  • Ray January 20, 2009, 10:52 pm

    I probably will be taking a bit of a sabbatical for a while. I like everyone way too much to stay and end up as frustrated as I am right now. It’s one thing to disagree; it’s another thing to not listen at all.

    I have no idea what’s going on with face, but she’s swinging both fists at anyone who disagrees with her, and she can’t even see that she’s doing it – much less back up, breathe and exam her comments. I don’t want to fight; that’s not why I blog.

    As the admin, I owe you the courtesy of letting you know, so you aren’t surprised by my absence.

  • agardner January 21, 2009, 6:00 am

    We’ll just have to respectfully disagree on this one. I think the ending of the prayer was really inappropriate. What it shows me Ray is that there are racists of all different colors. If this is a well known poem in the black community, I think it’s one that should stop. For one thing, just calling people red, yellow, and brown – those aren’t the terms that those ethnic groups prefer. It was just wrong to use it. Period.

  • Ray January 21, 2009, 10:05 am

    Angie, I am whispering this to you because I really don’t want to continue the public discussion – but I really respect you. This will be long, because I don’t want to hash this continually. Please forgive that.

    I’m going to repeat something just to empahsize it. The reference to white, black and brown is part of the historical statement that is well-known in the commnuity. It goes WAY back to the time of strict segregation – when blacks were told all the time to “get back” (like on the bus), while “browns” were told to “stick around” (since many people would hire someone of a “brown” skin pigmentation but not someone who was black – but also when those “brown” people often would wait all day long and never be given work). It is 100% accurate as an historical statement, so it really resonated in that community – and still resonates, unfortunately, in some areas.

    This man is 70. He was raised with blatant racism at its worst. Martin Luther King, Jr. asked him to lead the Selma march, so he has seen and experienced stuff I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. I think his advanced age and what he has suffered gives him the right to be cut some slack – to have people not react emotionally but try to understand his heart and what he is trying to express.

    The additional of yellow and red was a lame attempt at inclusion – to bring everyone into the prayer. He was trying to be more inclusive – to bring everyone no matter what colow into the plea from his life that previously had been limited to black and brown. By our own 2009 standard it was insensitive – using terms (“red” and “yellow”) that sound ignorant. However, in his day (for decades), identifying people by their color simply was how it was done. It was common, and it wasn’t considered racist at all. Attaching other qualifiers to the color was different, but simply identifying someone by their color was not.

    Please, do me a favor. Ignore the last paragraph and read the prayer again. Literally skip the last paragraph. See what kind of spirit you get from the words. Think of this:

    it is addressed to God and never wavers in that. There is nothing in it but “Express thanks and ask for the blessings you need.” There are no vain repetitions whatsoever. The central message is a plea for unity. Take out the last paragraph and the general delivery style (eyes open, for example), and it follows the standard Mormon format amazingly well.

    Honestly, Angie, I think a large part of the rejection many feel for the prayer is a lack of understanding of the man – of what he was trying to do in the last paragraph. Again, it was a lame and unfortunate attempt, but he was trying to include all other colors in something that previously had been reserved for his own, black community. He was trying to reach out and speak to the entire specturm of color – to include them in the plea for unity that courses through the rest of the prayer. Perhaps he botched it due to his age and lack of understanding about how the use of racial words has changed over the years – but he’s 70. My father is a wonderful man, but sometimes the way he says things makes me cringe a bit. He doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, but he just doesn’t know that the words that were used throughout his life aren’t used any more.

    I apologize for the length of this message, but I wanted to try one more time to explain why I honestly think the criticisms of the prayer are unfair and overly harsh. I understand why people would react as they did, especially to the laughter at the end, but I just can’t read the prayer itself and its sincere plea for unity and chalk up the last part to racism – and I especially can’t call it disgusting. When you take out the last paragraph, it is moving and profound. His lame attempt to include all in the last poem shouldn’t cancel out everything that came before it, imho.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 21, 2009, 11:43 am

    Hey, Tracy, I see your points, but think the reaction is on the way strong side. And I think Ray is trying his best to remain civil and responsive. You all know I don’t mind debate, but NO ad hominem please. No place for it.

    As for the prayer, like I said before, I thought most of it was fine. In fact, I can’t see how anyone could be offended or bothered by most of it. I have no reason to believe it wasn’t heartfelt. I don’t know the man at all, but have no reason to believe he’s malicious.

    As for the humor, I think the poem is a poem of despair, but he tried to infuse humor. That’s not all that uncommon and not contradictory. Although why he’d include a poem of despair seems odd to me.

    That said, I think there’s only one way to reasonably interpret the racial rhyme at the end. He prayed “to help us work for that day” when “black will not be asked to get back…and when white will embrace what is right.”

    Aside from using a poem well-known to a minority of the population at a NATIONAL event, the idea that he would bring up this polemic when the BLACK man beside him had just been made THE MOST POWERFUL LEADER IN THE WORLD by a country of MOSTLY WHITE VOTERS is rather astounding. Or did he miss the fact the Obama (and a disproportionate number of those involved in the inauguration itself) is black?

  • agardner January 21, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Interesting tidbit today. I subbed, and on my way to work I was listening to local talk radio. For those who don’t know, I live near New Orleans – heavily black, in other words.

    Their poll question this morning was something about this prayer (specifically the ending), and if it was racist. Over 70% of the responders so far said that it was. It was interesting to listen to those who called in. Some had heard this poem before, most hadn’t. But pretty much the general concensus was that this was a step in wrong direction.

    Alison, you make a great point in your last paragraph. We just elected a black president. That is a huge step forward. It’s a time when people are trying to unite, and this kind of racial seperation does nothing to unite us or help us in any way.

    I listened to the prayer again last night on You Tube. Other than being incredibly long (over 5 minutes) and in my opinion dull, it wasn’t offensive. Even this little bit of poetry wasn’t necessarily offensive, I just thought it was really inappropriate and not helpful at all. Little sayings like this have had their day, I believe and we should MOVE ON!

    That’s what most of the callers were saying this morning, and that’s what I believe. These were mostly black callers, and they thought that we were far past this point and we should move forward without this kind of “crap” (in the words of one caller). I can chalk it up to his age, his background, what he’s lived through. I respect that. However, it just makes me wonder – how long are we going to keep these racially charged statements go on before we really decide to move on??

  • agardner January 21, 2009, 2:38 pm

    Ray, I appreciate the history lesson, I really do.

    The civil rights movement occurred before I was even born. Never in my lifetime have black people as a rule been asked to “get back”. Between the time just before I was born and today, our country has made HUGE strides towards racial unity. For the life of me, I cannot understand why someone would want to take a step backwards by including this. I especially can’t believe it got by the censors that certainly went over every word that was said yesterday (or at least you’d think someone was looking at the material first, since it was timed down to the second practically).

    If you are still reading this thread, you’ve read my last post. Here in New Orleans where a great percentage of the population is black, very few callers had ever heard this little rhyme. To me, that’s a great sign that we are moving on.

    We can chalk the statements up to his old age and his life experience. I certainly respect what he has been through and the battles he has fought for civil rights. That doesn’t change the fact that this was an inappropriate and completely unhelpful thing to do.

    I’m not losing any sleep over it. Honestly, I’m far more concerned that Obama aligned himself with Reverend Wright for so many years than I am about allowing Dr. Lowery to have a senior moment. I didn’t vote for Obama, but I’ll support him as my president. I certainly hope and think that he’s far more enlightened in the racial climate of today than Dr. Lowery is.

  • agardner January 21, 2009, 2:44 pm

    You know, I just watched Dr. Lowery’s prayer again.

    Not just speaking of the benediction, but also the invocation, the inaugural speech, and other things that were said yesterday: Didn’t you just love all the little jabs that were taken at President Bush? I don’t have time now to go through the text of everything that was said, but I did watch the whole thing and there were several times where I kinda cringed because there was just a little jab here, a little jab there. Bless President Bush’s heart, he sat there and took it like a man. He’s been very gracious through this whole thing. I can’t say the same for some of the Obama supporters – namely Oprah for one. Jab jab jab.

    Bless President Bush and President Obama. President Bush because he gave the best service he could in extremely difficult times. We have a lot of problems right now as a country, and very few are his fault, yet he takes the fall. How he could sit there through all of these little pokes and jabs I don’t know.

  • Amy E January 21, 2009, 3:08 pm

    Posted By: agardnerHow he could sit there through all of these little pokes and jabs I don’t know.

    The thought that runs through my mind is that President Bush is a true Christian and genuinely tries to show by his actions what he believes. Makes me think of Elder Hales’ talk about Christian courage, knowing when to speak up and defend yourself and when to just let it go. I know I appreciate President Bush’s example in this situation.

  • agardner January 21, 2009, 3:47 pm

    That’s true Amy, he’s a better example than I am, for sure!

    An example of this jabbing…watch Oprah today. Jon Bon Jovi said something like how Bush failed to unite us as a country after 9/11. It’s just a little of this and a little of that, and in a nutshell, WHY AM I WATCHING OPRAH?? Ha ha.

    I hope the day comes soon when we stop worshipping Obama and instead just support him and let him get down to business.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 21, 2009, 4:27 pm

    Posted By: agardnerand in a nutshell, WHY AM I WATCHING OPRAH??

    Well said!

  • TheWallruss January 21, 2009, 7:16 pm

    Racism and bigotry as ugly as they are, they are a part of this world just as alcoholism, AIDS, syphilis and the many other nasty sicknesses and diseases out there. They have been around for longer than recorded history. And as long as man has free will they will continue to thrive.

    They are ingrained into every culture and ideology we can think of. Mormons are not immune and neither is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It is sad and sickening but it is also true. Some of us learn to rise above the most of it, but very few of will, if ever in this lifetime, ever be completely free of it.

    I did not vote for Mr. Obama. I do not agree with him politically. But as a fellow human being, and son of God, I respect him.

    I was taught by very loving parents that in life we, all of us, are called upon to make judgements on a never ending bases. However I was also taught that I should make my judgements of persons on the individual himself. (or herself) Not his colour, not the cut of his hair, his clothing. Not his origin of birth or culture that he lives by. If I may make the paraphrase, by their fruits ye shall know them.

    I grew up it the Tooele Vallie. For those not acquainted with the north central geographic of Utah. It is about 30 west of Salt Lake City. I grew up in a neighborhood known as Tortilla Flats. Anyone who knows the history of Tooele knows that it was anything but a race free environment. The late 60’s and early 70’s are often referred to as the “Mexican American War”. I lived through that war. Having friends on both sides of the battle lines it was tough. The Cholos and Chicanos were my friends. So were the Cowboys. Along with the Seminary Goody-Goodys and the drunken Hell Raisers. The Poindexters and Dummys,
    The Somebodies and the nobodies. I must admit that at one time or another I fought with all of them. Either side by side or face to face. Defending anyone of them from the bigotry of the other.

    Now forty years later. They, the ones who survived that war and the wars of life after high school, seem to have matured. They yet carry a wee of their old “colours” but most of the bigotry and racism seems to be gone. Maybe worn out. I live and work in the city I grew up in. I see these people everyday and all of them go out of their way when they see me to smile and say hi. To shake my hand and remember me as a friend. The one who did judge fairly. Co-workers, bosses and close friends have all said to me that it is amazing how I know and am friends with everyone in Tooele. And the old timers who were alive to remember my father tell me that I am just like my father. ( my most endearing treasure ) And I think to myself “of course I am, he taught me and he was the greatest teacher in the world”.

    I am not bragging here or telling you to look at me. You have no idea who I am so that would be pointless. What I am telling you here is that the only real defence we have against the ugly plagues of bigotry and racism is teaching and example.

    I have traveled throughout the world with the military, the Church and my work. I have lived the teachings and examples of my parents. As a result I have found friendship and acceptance everywhere I have ever been. I did not do it, my parents did it. They are responsible. I just followed their teachings.

    Another thing I found “out there” in the big bad world was this. Every where in the world I have gone. I mean this literally. Someone upon learning my name knew exactly who my father was. They knew the man and told me he was the kindest most caring man they had ever know. He was the greatest teacher they had ever known.

    I am sorry if I am rambling here. This thread brought a deep introspect into my heart. It touched me deeply and I felt the need to share. It is a part of my testimony. A testimony of how important we are to the world around us in every detail of our lives. Someone is watching and learning…. Always. We are teachers…. Always.

    Thank you all for sharing and letting me share in return.


  • facethemusic January 21, 2009, 7:41 pm

    I’m also trying to not to take one little part and treat it as if it defines the whole prayer as racist.

    Ray, you’re misunderstanding me. I never said the “whole prayer” was racist– I was talking about the “poem prayer” at the end. Most of the entire prayer previous to the poem at the end was fine. I was strictly talking about what he said at the end.

    And Alison, I realize Ray is trying to be “civil” — but I promise I wasn’t trying to be “uncivil.”
    I agree with Ray 90 % of the time around here– and I’ve praised him up and down many, many, times for his brilliant and keen insights. I would have hoped that by now, he’d know the high regard and respect I have for him. Just because I disagreed with him here, and couldn’t make sense of what he was saying, in no way did it mean I thought he was stupid or spineless.
    I didn’t mean any disrespect in any of my comments, I was just being honest in how things appeared to me. I said “incoherent” to mean “not making sense” because of what seemed to be complete contradiction from one post to the next– but when I said ‘incoherent’ he interpreted that as stupid and idiotic. But that’s not at all what I meant.
    I’m sorry that I misunderstood, and from his last post, now I understand why.
    He was talking about the WHOLE PRAYER and I was STRICTLY talking about the end. I wasn’t talking at ALL about what came previous.

    Either way, I’m very sorry that my comments were interpreted so viciously when I truly didn’t mean them that way.

  • Ray January 21, 2009, 10:57 pm

    Face, I was reacting to the following comment:

    The benediction prayer wasn’t just “a bit much” it was disgusting, flippant, disrespectful and racist.

    Given your last comment, I’m sure your fingers just got ahead of your brain. That’s happened to me often. It’s cool. I really do understand negative reactions to the poem. I just tend to cut old people a lot more slack than younger ones. :bigsmile:

  • Ray January 21, 2009, 11:03 pm

    Thanks, Angie. I really do understand that.

  • Ray January 21, 2009, 11:05 pm

    Thanks, Alison. I read Face’s comment, and I’m fine with everything. It just proves how difficult communication can be.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 22, 2009, 8:23 am

    Amen. I know that all too well. 🙂

  • davidson January 22, 2009, 8:51 am

    Ah, the AGE bigotry again! Ray, kick your aging pockets! :crazy:

  • Lewis_Family January 22, 2009, 9:35 am

    Random tangent, but it is so true, olds get a lot more slack. There was an old guy on the basketball team my hubs’ team played last Saturday and they wouldn’t call stuff on him. Like he got a 3 pointer at the end of the game that brought there loss up to only by 3 instead of 6… but he jump to shot, came back down and then jumped to shot again… and they counted it! I don’t know if I would want that, maybe if I am too old to know you gave me favors, but if I am still aware don’t give me extra favors 🙂

  • Alison Moore Smith January 19, 2009, 9:51 pm

    Yesterday I read Star Parker’s syndicated column. She had written an article titled, “Obama Has Little in Common with Lincoln” that gave this quote. I thought about it all day yesterday and then started writing. I’m not completely pleased with the way this came together, but wanted to publish it on this holiday anyway.

    My apologies for the lack of fluidity. Hope someone gets something from it– or at least Parker’s great column.

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2009, 6:55 pm

    Here’s the poem “Praise Song for the Day.”

    Someone commented on this on YouTube. They said:

    So let me get this straight. To write poetry, you take magazines, cut out all of the words and drop them into a bag, shake the bag, draw them out one at a time and put them into sentences?

    Yea, kinda. But I really have to read it, because I’ve heard poets make absolute gobbledy-gook out of their own stuff. Either she ruined the poem with her delivery or it was just kooky nonsense to start with. Or both.

    Watch Obama at the end. He’s thinking, “Flip. I shoulda picked Willy Nelson.”

    I’ll have to see if I can hear the benediction myself. I thought the invocation was enough. But really, I”m just a “short and sweet unless you’ve got a REALLY good reason” kind of public prayer person. A really good reason might be, “A meteor is hurtling toward my head.”

  • Alison Moore Smith January 20, 2009, 7:37 pm

    Here’s Maya Angelou’s “poim” for comparison. OK, I didn’t like it much either–delivery or content–but I think it beats todays poem. Probably. Except for the speaking trees and rocks–made me want to sing Colors of the Wind.

    When she says, ” ?mark the mastodon, the dinosaur, who left dry tokens of their sojourn here ?” did anyone else wonder if she was talking about ancient elephant pies? :shocked: And look at Clinton. He’s checking out one of the ushers.

    OK, I found the benediction. I found most of it thoughful if way too scripted for my personal taste. (I just don’t need rhyming in prayers.) Here are the parts that I thought were less prayin’ and more preachin’:

    Deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, or the least of these.
    From the favoritism of the rich, the elite of these.

    OK, so ya’ll know that by the standards thrown at Mormons, Martin Luther King, Jr., would NOT be a Christian, right? And since most of the “black church” preachers that get the most press (Jackson, Sharpton, Wright, etc.) rarely preach religion, but mostly preach politics, I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be true for the majority of them.

    So I hear this and I’m thinking, for crying out loud, Reverand, the gospel says “Deliver us from EVIL!” Why not actually throw a word or two from GOD into the prayer instead of playing the class envy card. Oh, but then we’d have to actually admit that some things ARE evil and that, well, that would be offensive or intolerant or something.

    And we’d also have to maybe admit a few thing Obama actually said about, oh, personal responsibility.

    Oh yea, and does he include the unborn as “the least of these”?

    The other part that irritated me (and I brought this idea up on T&S just yesterday) was this:

    Let us make choices on the side of love not hate,
    on the side of inclusion not exclusion,
    on the side of tolerance, not intolerance.

    It makes me nutty when these ideas are presented without context as if they are inherently good. They are NOT.

    One last thing about the prayer. Lowery wants us to beat our swords into tractors. He should have said eco-friendly hybrid tractors.

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge