02 November 2008

Layings on of Hands

The photographs this fall made me remember what Rebecca West wrote about the 1934 assassination of Alexander I of Yugoslavia:
Innumerable hands are caressing him. Hands are coming from everywhere, over the backs of the car, over the sides, through the windows, to caress the dying king, and they are surprisingly kind. . . . they stroke his cheek as if they were washing it with kindness.
When President Reagan was shot, the videos showed the same thing, showed over and over men's hands moving in tenderness, men's hands offering comfort. Pictures show hands touching Bobby Kennedy that way, too, but it was too late.
That was forty years ago -- is it possible this man who was our sad younger brother could ever be seventy-nine years old? The hands were reaching out to him that year grabbing, demanding, wanting a piece of him as if touching him could make them gold. That year we learned to be afraid. Too many people we loved were killed, and the vintage of the grapes of wrath flowed through our streets.

It is not inappropriate here to write of death, because to think about death implies that we have some requirements for what life must mean if it is to be more than simple biological functions, and that we have some need for lives to have meaning. Surely few things show how individuals create meaning in their lives more than do political campaigning and the ways campaigns are understood
Barack means "blessing," and picture after picture shows people responding to him in just that way, show him receiving gentle hands, and in the one here he is covered with a feathering of hands. These are hands with grace, not grabbing hands, not grieving hands, but hands with joy. In this Fall of 2008, hands reach out to Barack Obama -- passing him strength, giving him blessing.

Take note of this column.

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