Jesse Who?

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told me once that he once returned to his hometown, Greenville, South Carolina, where he had been known as “Bo.” By this time he had marched side by side with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his picture had been on the covers of Time, Newsweek and Jet magazines, he had frequently appeared on the Nightly News and on various Sunday interview shows.

When he walked through the streets of Greenville folks who remembered him would shout: “Hey, Bo! Where you been? What you been doing?”

That Rev. Jackson. Such a sense of humor.

Then, he went on and ran for President of the United States, winning the 1984 presidential primary in his home state, and earning more than 7 million votes all over the country. And the rest, as the expression goes, is history. History because in 1984 the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke other than the truth in a desperate ploy to save that political campaign, when he said he had never used the term “Hymie-town.”

I heard The Country Preacher use that very expression four years earlier, off-camera, after a 1980 taping of the TV show “America’s Black Forum.” As long as I’ve known him, he has been a “plain spoken” man, in the old Central-Avenue-Barbershop kind-of-way…sort of like the Country Preacher-version of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

That Rev. Jackson. He’s still got that sense of humor. Like he really thinks he could manhandle Barry Obama, the U.S. Senator and presidential candidate who is 19 years his junior. Ha. Ha. That Rev. Jackson.

But the joke’s on him. In 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton managed to “Pimp Slap” the Rev. Jackson at the Rainbow PUSH-Coalition convention, by upbraiding Sister Souljah at the meeting. That earned Mr. Clinton points with the so-called “Reagan Democrats” (aka Mr. Joe Six Pack).

This year, with his whispered comment about what he ought to do to Mr. Obama for “talking down” to Black people, the Rev. Jackson managed to “Pimp Slap” himself. Nobody wins. No rhymes.

What was he thinking? Or was he just being his old, jocular, scatological self? Truth is, there’s a couple of entire generations of Black people in this country who have come of age, and for whom the Rev. Jesse Jackson is literally: “Jesse who?” You can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy.

After all, the Rev. Jackson has got a son who is already a “veteran” member of the U.S. Congress, but it’s hard to look at him and think “over-the-hill,” out of the picture, but sometimes he just behaves so badly.

But we live in a world where Robo-Armies, and Mega-Armies, Techno-Armies, Bio-Armies, Private Armies, Mercenary Armies are roaming the earth, plundering all the natural resources in the name of Exxon, et al. Where truth is forever on the scaffold, wrong is forever on the throne.

A world where we don’t need old-fashioned “Civil Rights Leaders” anymore. The Rev. Jackson is so low-analog, so 20th Century, so 1960s.

“But that scaffold sways the future, and beyond the dim unknown, standeth God, keeping watch upon his own.” So we need a digital Rev. Jackson and others who represent the wants, needs, and aspirations of those who are descended from America’s slaves. We need a strong, mature Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.

The moral arc of the universe is aligning itself with values that the Rev. Jackson, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright always advocated, no matter what the talking heads declare about Jesse Who?

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