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Another Black Savior for America?

March 3, 2013

American voters are always looking for a savior – an extraordinary statesman who will ride in on a white horse and fix things. Someone who is real, whose character is flawless, who is honest and pure and has answers. Someone who becomes The Answer, the incarnation of our hope for a better America.

In 2013, it would also help if the savior figure is non-Caucasian and/or female.

Enter Dr. Ben Carson, the brilliant, world renowned, soft-spoken, articulate and persuasive pediatric neurosurgeon, writer, and philanthropist who rocked the political world at the recent National Prayer Breakfast. His speech caused President Obama, seated two seats away,  to smolder on camera. Dr. Carson spoke Truth to Power, and Power didn’t like it.

carson at podium

He spoke of his faith, his deeply-held, traditional American values, and his personal realization of the American Dream.  He openly criticized Democratic ideologies that see the poor as helpless and ensnare them in  programs that squelch personal initiative,  ambition, and achievement. He called to task the political tactic of class warfare. He spoke out against the prevailing regime of political correctness that stifles productive dialogue on tough issues. He referenced the decline of the  moral values that once made America the most successful country in the world. In short, it was the kind of speech that people who are aghast at the current condition of our country thrill to.

Ben Carson grew up in Detroit, poor, black, and angry, and called stupid by his classmates.  His mother was married at 13 to a man she later discovered was a bigamist. As a single mother with a third grade education, she struggled to provide for her young sons.

So far, such story is legion – just another heartbreaking tale of an inner city youth, stuck in a slough of despond from which few escape.  But Ben Carson’s mother was one of those transcendent American black women of deep Christian faith, true grit, and indomitable will. The kind immortalized by great southern writers and still found in the pews and choirs of many a Memphis church.

“I had a mother who would never allow herself to be a victim no matter what bens_momhappened,” Dr. Carson said in his now-viral speech. “Never made excuses, and she never accepted an excuse from us. And if we ever came up with an excuse, she always said, ‘Do you have a brain?’ And if the answer was, ‘Yes,’ then she said, ‘Then you could have thought your way out of it.’ ”

Sonya Carson restricted television and required her two sons to read and report on two books a week. (Much later, they learned she was illiterate and couldn’t even read their reports.) Eventually, Ben Carson summoned up his own grit and determination to prevail over his circumstances. His best-selling autobiography Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story was made into an HBO movie. His latest book is America the Beautiful: What Made this Nation Great.

gifted hands

Dr. Carson’s emergence on the national political stage is causing conservatives to get goose bumps over the possibilities of a presidential run. Liberal pundits have been uncharacteristically silent, apparently scurrying madly around to find the chinks in the hero’s armor. Dr. Carson is That Which Cannot Be Named: a black conservative. Free and unshackled by the Democratic Party, he can say what he thinks. Democrat party strategists will have a tough time attacking his credibility, so expect some paid-for bimbo eruptions.

As to whether Dr. Ben Carson is what he appears to be, time will tell. His character will  be sorely tested by the political hyenas whose sole purpose is to devour and destroy. In the end, there is no Savior but one.  Humans are fallen creatures. We falter despite our best efforts.  We elect the wrong people. We expect too much. We implement programs and policies doomed to fail.

Adolf Hitler was expected by many to be Germany’s savior. Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini was lauded  because he made the trains run on time. So it goes, that charismatic leaders are raised up by the unreasonable and unlikely hopes of idealistic and/or low-information voters.

hitler with paraclete

But hope, that thing with feathers that perches in our souls, is real, and without it we would perish.  When men and women of noble intent dare to stand in public places and say, “What we are doing isn’t working; we need to rethink our policies and assumptions,” then hope takes wing. Our job as voters is to be well-informed, to separate  emotion from reason. Charisma isn’t the same as competence; charisma isn’t the same as character.

I believe that Dr. Ben Carson’s star will rise, but not because he or anyone else alone can save our country.  The values that lifted him up from poverty are the same values that guided  and inspired our nation’s forefathers. Ben Carson’s beliefs in self-determination, individual liberty, and the rights and abilities of all citizens to rise above hardship resonate  deeply within our national soul. His story is the part of our country’s history that we love the most.

Ben Carson is proof that the American Dream is not a fantasy.We need more men and women like Ben Carson to defy the stereotypes that others would thrust upon them. He’s black. He’s proud. He’s conservative.  He’s successful. May he ever be emboldened to go against the grain, to be what he is and to say what he has to say. And may we ever realize that what America is and becomes is up to us, individually and collectively.

That’s our take on Ben Carson. What’s yours?

Image from the movie Runaway Slave: A New Underground Railroad

Image from the movie Runaway Slave: A New Underground Railroad

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