Monday, February 23, 2009

Follow-Up to "Where's Rock Obama?"

This is a follow-up to the "Where's Rock Obama?" post from February 19...

[ I hope that you'll understand why as you continue to read thru this, but I deleted the original post and inserted it below, in blue, so that any discussion on this subject can be found in one place. ]

So, Summer has given us a lift in the past couple of otherwise heavy days... this one takes the cake, though.

(Summer) "Where's Rock Obama?" (don't you love it, "Rock" Obama)
(Me) "Do you mean, Barack Obama, the President?" (holding back laughter)
(Summer) "Yeah, he's so funny!" (with a chuckle)
(Me) "Do you like him?" (adding my own chuckle)
(Summer) "No, he scares me." (rather emphatically)

Hmmmm..... I think this kid may be on to something.

My primary concern... I don't want anything to detract from the purpose for which this blog exists... that being to let people know that grief and brokenness can and do coexist with joy and hope.

I started this blog in order to share the greatest pain Nicol and I have faced thus far in life... losing our son, Luke, to SIDS. In telling his story I've wanted to encourage others who may have experienced an identical or similar loss. I've wanted to let people know that in the midst of horrific, devastating heartache, we have found God to be more real and present than ever. I've wanted to offer my best explanation as to why I believe it's worth fighting thru the painful circumstances that come our way... after all, who is exempt from dealing with pain... and who, at some point, hasn't find themselves so low, so seemingly hopeless, so full of doubt that it's a struggle to just get out of bed in the morning? Mostly though, I've wanted to offer hope to those who have been wounded in a way that has changed their lives forever.

I have tried to be open, honest, and real about our journey... both of the awfulness of our grief and the indescribable wonder of our hope. I have invited people into our world, into the very life of our family. I have found, overwhelmingly so, that Luke's story has indeed been a source of comfort and encouragement to a lot of people. And more than that, I have found that in sharing God's faithfulness to us, many have embraced their freedom to grieve and process in their own way and according to their own needs... and some have found the strength just to make it thru another day.

My primary concern? I don't want to inhibit or squelch any of the good that God can do as we try to honor Luke's life.

That said, here are four promises... First, I'm going to let my "yes" be yes and my "no" be no. No swearing of oaths. No embellishments or superlatives. No begging or pleading for anyone to believe me. No all-caps, bolded, italicized, double-underscored explanations. Just my word and the hope that you will accept what I have to say as truthful.

Second, I will not make this personal. There will be no verbal assaults or character assassinations. I'm not looking for a fight, argument or debate, but I welcome healthy, productive and respectful discussions with anyone who is interested in the same. While I realize that everyone may not be in agreement, which is totally okay, I think that even in disagreement we can be respectful of one another.

Third, I intended nothing insensitive or inflammatory whatsoever in the "Where's Rock Obama?" post. I did not mean to offend anyone... that was the farthest thing from my mind. I was not trying to be disrespectful toward President Obama. And I was certainly not trying to convey anything in the way of a racist attitude... directly, veiled, or otherwise.

Fourth, I can assure you that the only thing I intended to do was let you in on a story, as I have many times before on this blog, about our 2-1/2 year-old daughter... a story about something she said that my wife and I found to be cute and funny.

I can also assure you of this... to read anything into that post other than that is simply not accurate.

My explanation... I'm not sure exactly which part of the post people object to. Maybe it's the "Rock" Obama part? Surely it's not the "he's so funny!" or the "do you like him?" lines. So I'm guessing it all centers around the "no, he scares me" and the "hmmmm... I think this kid may be on to something."

Let me explain... first, the "no, he scares me" part. Given the fact that on at least two occasions Summer has said, "I love Rock Obama. He's so silly." I doubt that she had any sense of what she was saying with regard to her "he scares me" statement. And, folks, come on, we're talkinig about a kid who isn't even 3-years-old yet. I took it as one of those random things little kids tend to say. Nothing more, nothing less. Sort of like some other things she said last week, e.g., "Barney and BJ and Baby Bop and The Wiggles and Miss Patty Cake are my cousins." Totally random and totally cute and funny... to me at least.

I want to come back to this part, but first let me talk about my comment that "I think this kid may be on to something" because the two are actually related. All I can say on this is what I've already said... there was not a hint of racial overtones or undertones in this statement. Not even close. I did not consciously or, in retrospect, subconciously have our President's skin color in mind when I wrote that. Again, this whole thing was nothing more than an innocent exchange.

Two acknowledgements... First, let me come back to the "he scares me" and "I think this kid may be on to something" comments.

It is entirely possible, if not likely, that Summer has heard me, Nicol, or both of us say "he (President Obama) scares me." Let me explain...

Throughout the entire election process, there were things about each and every candidate that scared us... things we didn't agree with or like. So when it comes to our President, it has absolutely nothing to do with his ethnicity and everything to do with certain aspects of his policy. I don't support everything he supports just like I don't support everything Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton or Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid or, for that matter, George W. Bush or John McCain support.

Some of President Obama's policies scare me because I don't think that they are good for our country... plain and simple. Again, it has nothing to do with the fact that he is African-American and everything to do with the fact that I think some of his positions are detrimental to this country. That doesn't mean I'm racist, it means I have chosen a different position. There's really nothing more I can add to that.

As for the "I think this kid may be on to something" comment, well, in my mind, as I just explained, some of Obama's policies are scary to me and so, when my little girl said what she said, I thought it fitting to respond as I did. It was tongue-in-cheek. It was meant to be funny. It was not serious. Perhaps it was in poor taste, and to every reader who found it to be so, I sincerely apologize and ask for your forgiveness. But please know that I meant nothing hurtful or offensive.

Second, I want everyone to know that I do not deny or dismiss or take lightly the reality of racial, ethnic, class, socioeconomic, sociocultural, etc. injustices in this country and, for that matter, around the world. In fact, if you'd like, you can read my January 19 post in which I wrote, among other things, this statement: "despite our political differences, I am thankful for Barack Obama." And I remain thankful for him and, yes, most every night before we put Summer in bed, either Nicol or I pray for him... as our President, that God would give him wisdom and protect him and his family and whatever else may be on our mind about him.

Back to my point though... history is rife with examples of injustices and prejudices that exist for no other reason than the ethnic origin of their subjects. No one can deny that and, certainly, no one should dismiss it. To do so is perhaps that greatest injustice of all. Human beings are quite naturally prone to looking at outward appearances rather than the inward substance and inherent worth of the person. Who can say that is not the case? Who can claim to never have done that? I most definitely have been guilty of making value judgments against people based on their appearance. I'm not proud of that, and I hope that I have and will continue to grow in this area, but it's true.

So let me wrap up this section with this... while I did not mean to offend anyone or communicate a disrespectful attitude toward our President or even hint at anything racial, I do understand why some would assume that I was.

Below is a quote by Michael Emerson (Ph.D., Sociology) that may help you understand where I'm coming from. Emerson is part of the faculty at Rice University in Houston and he teaches courses in race and ethnic relations, religion, and urban sociology. He is a respected author and leading expert on the subjects he teaches and writes about.

[Describing a family vacation in Sicily, where they saw Mt. Etna, he said] We were struck by its calm beauty, but we were also reminded by our tour guide that we were standing on the most active volcano in Europe. Just a few months after we left, Mount Etna erupted with such force that it could be seen from outer space. It has erupted several times since. Appearances can often be deceiving.

Race relations in the United States are like this. Often, on the surface, this nation’s mosaic of racial and ethnic diversity can seem beautiful and even awe-inspiring. People of every conceivable background working hard to achieve their goals in this free land.

But this nation is a racial volcano. We know we have had major eruptions in the past, killing and scarring many. But like tourists to Mount Etna, we often assume that such eruptions are only in the past, that below the surface is calmness, not a boiling cauldron that must erupt periodically to release pressure.

The United States has never gone very long between eruptions. Yet, not long after each one, many tend to think that should do it. The last vestiges of hot lava have flowed.

We completely misunderstand race relations when we take this view.

This is a great reminder to me that race relations are an ultra-sensitive subject and that is why I can understand why some were offended by the "Where's Rock Obama?" post. Having said that, however, one has to make some very significant assumptions about me and my intentions in order to draw any conclusions regarding my character, the way that I live my life, the authenticity of my Christianity, and whether or not I am racist and likewise instilling the same mentality into my daughter, all of which were based on an innocent story in a blog post. Please don't throw out the baby with the bath water. 

A request... I would be happy to discuss this further with anyone who so desires, but I don't want to do it in this forum. As I said earlier, that is not the purpose of this blog. But, please, feel free to email me at gsponberg@yahoo.com with your feedback and/or questions or whatever. And remember, I'm not looking for a fight, argument, or debate, but I'll always welcome healthy, productive, respectful discussions.

On a related note, I want to reach out specifically to those who took exception to the "Where's Rock Obama?" post. I think there were 5 of you, but given that there were 5 it's quite possible there were more who didn't appreciate it but chose not to comment. Whatever the case, one of the frustrating things about these comments is that I have no way to respond to them except here, publicly. Since I think it's more appropriate to sort these things out privately and directly, I would appreciate it if you would email me at the address provided above. One of you has done that and I look forward to our dialogue (thanks M.M.).

Grace and peace to all.


7 comments:

sheila said...

Kids say the funniest thing. We were out of town last week on a wonderful, restful family vacation. Whereas my husband announced, he was done being sad. Now, I know what he was meaning, but I also reminded him that we live in a fallen world and bad/sad things happen, blah, blah, blah. Moving along (not 'on' just along) we get home to find our dog missing, the next day my husband found him in the ditch across the street, he had been hit by a car. Bam, grief and sadness for the family again, for a time. 4 yr old Tommy was talking at the dinner table last night and really wants another dog and has concluded that his name was to be Daydon (his 5 yr. cousin) after we convinced him there was only one Daydon, he decided it would be 'Bling-Bling' (Daydon's absolute fav. anything). I couldn't help but laugh and also tell my husband maybe he should get him a kitten or fish first so he can use the name 'bling-bling' on them instead. I just can't picture my husband calling for the dog, with the name of 'bling-bling', lol. Have a great day. God be with you and nicol and summer. In God's Love, sheila
PS: yes, there can and is light amidst the pain.

Kacie said...

Thank you, Greg. I was uncomfortable with that post but didn't want to comment because it wasn't actually clear what you meant, and I didn't want to condemn.

I was uncomfortable because I think I come from the same circles you do. I went to Moody. My parents were missionaries. I work for a mission organization. I live in the buckle of the Bible belt. The amount of vicious gossip and character assassination that I saw towards Obama from Christians was just... jaw-dropping, and often based on unsubstaniated rumors. I chose to vote for Obama anyways because of some of his policies that I DO agree with, though I certainly don't think he or his policies are perfect.

So - that was why I and probably some of your other readers were a little uncomfortable. We've been put on the defensive. I appreciate your explanation and I'm glad that people that disagree politically can still live at peace in the body of Christ, right? Praise God!

Anonymous said...

Greg, Nicol and Summer
I continue to pray for your grief journey and appreciate the honesty you share about your loss. Thank you for being so transparent and sharing your sorrow and hope.
In His Grip, Lynnebee

Vera said...

My three year old talks about Rock Obana ALL. THE. TIME. I finally asked her teacher at mother's day out about it, to find out if they discuss him constantly at school because WE don't... and she said little kids just love to say his name and all the kids in her class do, which made sense. I never asked her whether she likes Obama or not, but one night at dinner I asked my husband "who's your least favorite president in history?" and my daugther yelled out "George Washington!" Hope that brought a smile to your face. Your family is so very much in my prayers.

Anonymous said...

Hee, hee - Your 2 1/2 year old is quite articulate! My 2 1/2 year old says Bock O'momma.

Thinking of your family around Lukey's birthday. He is just so beautiful. I love your post with Summer's road trip artwork, and I can't help but think how colorful Luke would have been if he were sitting next to her. I pray for your peace and comfort and am thrilled about the day when you'll all be reunited.

~Jen

Keri said...

My 4 year old before the election was watching Nickelodean and they had Kids Pick the President. Our daughter piped up and said, "That's who I like, Arock Obama. I don't like John Cain, he's a bad man." We were shocked and told her not to say that and asked her why she would say that and she replied, "John Cain killed his brother with a rock, so I don't like him!" I know they were saying that John McCain was old, but I really don't think he has been around that long! Once we explained that John McCain was not Cain from the Bible, she decided that he wasn't so bad after all!

Susan said...

It really makes me so upset when the "racist" card is played with those that do NOT support Obama and his policies. I personally would have loved to see Alan Keyes in the White House and I don't think skin color gets any darker than that. Its totally not about race, but it's easy to derail those that saw the direction Mr. Obama wanted to take our country in by the label of 'racist' if they don't jump on the Obama band wagon.

I believe we now need to take a stronger than ever stand or our nation will forever be even further from the founding fathers visions. Thank you for being one of those not afraid to "stand".