January 28, 2007
Fine, so I'm the last person in America to hear about Obama. I'm often behind on the latest trends, because in 2000 I took a vow that I wouldn't watch national news until Bush was gone. On the other hand, I've kept some shred of my sanity for the last six years, so I feel like it's been a fair trade-off.
So, I guess everyone loves Obama -- he's warm and charismatic and smart and a hell of a speaker. And, frankly, America really needs a leader like him; someone where we can point to him an proudly say, "See that? That handsome, intellectual man? That well-spoken gentleman? The man who seems like he's from another era; a time when politics was reluctantly performed by men who felt it their moral duty to serve our country, not a free pass to act like a tiny dictator and line the pockets of your friends. Well, that man, my friends from around the world, is OUR president. Yes, I know, you're surprised -- frankly, we shocked ourselves on this one."
Here's something you may not know, though: there's a fly in the ointment. Barack, it turns out, is black. Yes, his skin has pigment -- LOTS of pigment, my friends. And some people HATE THEM SOME PIGMENT.
Now, I grew up in the deep South. In Savannah, Georgia -- one of the thirteen original colonies, and one of those cities where that was pretty much their biggest moment. It's a place where some hicks still proudly fly a flag from a war they lost in order to keep their slaves. You'd think one or the other of these facts would be enough to discourage anyone from flying such a flag, but, hey. This is the South, with a capital S. "We got different traditions down here! We eat things called 'chitlins' with a straight face!"
Later I moved to Atlanta, Georgia: "Hotlanta," "The ATL"; a city that was one of the first in the country to have a black majority; a city whose mayor was the great Andrew Young (one of MLK's homies). Atlanta's motto was "The city too busy to hate" (I think Savannah's was "The city too fat to get off the porch and do anything about our hate.")
But even in Atlanta, in a lilly-white suburb of Stone Mountain, Georgia (there was only one black kid in my entire grade school), our neighbors to the east, our neighbors who brought us a home-made pie when we moved into our house, like you see in the movies, these neighbors kept a broom-handle in their trunk, which they introduced to us as their "n----- stick".
For protection, see. You know, in case, like, THEY break down the great wall we'd erected to the north and streamed down on us again, as THEY had so many times... Oh, wait, I'm thinking of the mongols in China. The blacks... well, I guess they pretty much just ran the city and ignored the racists hiding in the burbs.
So, can we actually elect a black man in America? Sure, cough, I'm not racist at all, and neither are YOU, of course. In fact, it's hard to find someone who's willing to stand up and say, "Dammit, I kind of fear black people, OK?" Yet we assume racists exist. We know they do -- we saw the police and national "guard" turning displaced black citizens away from white neighborhoods, at gunpoint, after the flooding in New Orleans. We saw the authorities use force to break up groups of blacks who had banded together in the ruins of their city to forage for necessities.
I'm sure each of those policeman, each guardsman, has a story that he'll tell to explain why what he did was perfectly logical. Maybe some of us even believe those stories. But you know, I know, we all KNOW that if that city had been white and middle-class, there would have been a fleet of Army helicopters airlifting every man, woman and child out of that hellhole on the first fucking day. If it had been white and middle-class, it would have been evacuated BEFORE the hurricane by a fleet of Army trucks. If it had been white and middle-class, funding for maintaining the levies would never have been cut in the first place.
We Democrats don't want to pick a guy who can't win an election. Lots of people fear Hillary's campaign for this reason -- if a woman cannot be elected in America right now, we Democrats don't want her sucking votes away from a candidate who could be elected, because at this point I think we can all agree that we'd be better of with a squeaky toy in the Oval Office than we would with another fellow named Bush, or really any other crony of Karl Rove's. At this point no leadership would be better than the inverse leadership under Bush -- a squeaky toy wouldn't have started a pointless war with a country that posed no threat when we were in the middle of stamping out a real threat in another part of the world, for example, nor would a squeaky toy have spied on its citizens, lied about it, and then tried to make it legal, nor would a squeaky toy have tortured people in our name.
Me, though, I just don't like Hillary. It's not that I fear her feminist power; I just can't stand her politics. Every time I see her getting behind some bill as a N.Y. senator, it's some crap that's sponsored by the RIAA, or it's some attempt to censor video games or some other family-friendly bullshit. Maybe she's trying to appeal to conservatives, but, damn, that's a stupid strategy. I mean, let's face it, lady, conservatives do NOT like you. They FAMOUSLY don't like you. You are pretty much the flag around which conservatives rally when they want to bond together about something they don't like.
You aren't going to win them over by talking about families and crap, any more than I'm going to suddenly become appealing to lesbians by mentioning how much money I give to Planned Parenthood. (P.S. Your daughter Chelsea is really hot and I'd love to date her.)
But back to Barack... as I said, I haven't watched the news, so I've just seen bits and snatches -- headlines about how his was the only moving speech was at the DNC convention, etc. So I went to his website, and watched his video message to American voters.
Actually, I was at the café the first time I watched it, so I didn't have the sound on. And I realized an interesting thing, just watching him and not hearing any words -- it made me focus on how he was speaking, instead of what he was saying, and it struck me: this man has EXTREMELY large ears. I mean, like, really big. Like, he should maybe grow his hair out a little more. Or think about tying them down in back somehow. Surgery should not be ruled out.
Also, possibly as importantly, he really believes what he's saying. He either wrote these words he's speaking that I'm not hearing, or he told someone exactly what he wanted to say, because just watching him speak, I believed in him. Whatever he was saying, he thought it was the truth. And he thought it was important. Wow. When was the last time a politician told us the truth?
Later, I watched him again with the sound on, and his ears didn't seem so big. Also, his words were eloquent, and his message was good, and it was honest.
And it was at this point I decided... to hell with it. This is a good man. We need a good person, right now, very badly. I'm not going to worry about Barack's skin color.
Yes, racism will be a factor. Maybe it will even be the deciding factor. That'd suck.
There have been precious few moments in history where we have an opportunity, each one of us, to define who we are simply by picking a side. There were people in Germany who opposed the Nazi party, and they got to brag about it for the rest of their lives. There were people in France who fought for the underground, and they are still held in esteem to this day. There were people who stood up and marched with MLK, there were people who drove black workers around during the bus boycotts, and their grandchildren still remember them for it.
Sometimes the most important thing in a fight is which side you are on, and not whether that side can win or not. Sometimes we just have to believe that, eventually, good will win out, and we have ask ourselves, "How will my children judge me when I tell them the story of this time?"
When my kids ask me about the first black man who really had a shot for the presidency, will I be forced to dissemble: 'Well, see, kids, at the time, I didn't think he could win, so it seemed expedient for me...'
Mr. Obama, you have my vote, and you'll be getting a fat check from me in a few days. I would have just spent that money on booze and cars anyhow, hopefully you'll do something better with it.
And, hey, if you need someone for your "President's Information Technology Advisory Committee" I will gladly serve. (Mr. Bush used to have such a thing, but he abolished it in 2005, apparently because they weren't willing to change science to fit his worldview.) Let me know what else I can do, OK?
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