Monday, November 3, 2008
But, not too busy to stay with the election.
After all, I've followed every moment since I stood in the cold with complete strangers (but brothers and sisters in spirit) at Senator Obama's Springfield announcement.
I've attended fundraisers, been in the presence of great (and extremely hopeful) people, including the candidate and his family.
I've watched every primary decision- at home in Chicago, at hotels in Springfield, at bars, parties- anywhere there was a television or a radio, I was there.
I went on the campaign trail- most notably in Indianapolis, where supporters honked their horns at us in a show of support.
I was there when he accepted his party's nomination, and the earth almost stood still.
I've worried through debates, noticing every flinch and every triumph.
We're finally at the finish line. I feel it's only appropriate that a few final observations be made.
On the Cusp of a Miracle.
Sometimes, looking through the eyes of an adult, it’s just too hard to put certain events into context. Here I was, so busy feeling jealous of my mother getting the chance to live through 1968, worried that my generation would accomplish nothing original. It never dawned on me that we had to ultimately fulfill the promise of those times. To do so is our birthright.
At the risk of waxing poetic at a time when so many are doing the same, no matter what happens with this election, I have seen immense growth in both my country and myself. I must also keep in mind that every step forward puts this country in unfamiliar territory, where new obstacles will present themselves. Case in point: many people have voted in this election who have never voted before. Perhaps it is only an exercise this year, but I hope that we all remain engaged and increase our participation in the years to come, understanding that one election does not change a person’s circumstances.
On the one hand, we are rightfully excited about being on the cusp of a miracle. On the other hand, we should continue to remember that at the end of the day, this election simply represents an opportunity. Opportunities, like most things in life, are in and of themselves neutral. One can either take advantage of, or squander them.
I’ve had the privilege of watching this man make the most of his opportunities since 2004. I’ve seen countless candidates run against him, only to fall by the wayside due in part to their own issues, but mostly due to his brilliance, amazing timing, and many, many intercessions of a “higher power”.
I’ve seen careers fall to scandal, incompetence, and mistakes that could easily rise to the level of political natural disasters. In the process, each failure has taught us a new, but hard lesson about ourselves and what we are willing to accept in our leadership.
In the aftermath, it won’t matter that you weren’t a campaign manager, a close family member, or a million-dollar contributor. The beauty is that we all own this campaign equally. Not because we may belong to the same race of the ultimate victor, or because “we knew him when”. We own it because he has promised to represent each of us. He raised his voice in the venues where our own voices have been silenced for so long.
He has shown us what oratorical genius sounds like. He has demonstrated to us what it takes to have control over one’s self, and to remain consistent in message while others change their minds with the direction of the wind.
Throughout it all, he has exuded true confidence. From him, we’ve learned that this kind of confidence can’t ever come from a position of weakness, doesn’t take the tone of arrogance, and never belittles anyone in its path. Confidence should be cool, composed and always elegant.
It’s nice that he may be the “First African-American President”, but have we ever really understood how extremely deep that concept runs? The fact that we had to wait until 2008 for this potential victory doesn’t infer a history of poor qualifications, inferior intelligence or any other deficiency. Wearing that title almost always represents the overcoming of major opposition in both mind-set and status quo. On a more basic level, it means African-Americans and other minorities were previously barred from the opportunity to do more at an earlier time in history. To see it in that light, I will be glad when we can rid ourselves of the entire idea of "firsts", because it simply does not represent our failure, but the failure of a system.
Rather than focus on that aspect, I want to take a moment to truly celebrate how this whole process came together. I will passionately celebrate every race and every person that participated in this effort- some in the face of great pressure to do otherwise. There is simply no way his success could happen without the many different colors, affiliations and factions that make up this country.
Just think! If this nation continues to live up to its promise, the stigma that belongs exclusively to a race that has had to continually “catch-up” will have to dissipate. In response, we will all have to act accordingly by setting our excess baggage down.
Are you ready for that kind of change?
Years from now, I will fully appreciate the fact that I was an adult today. Mature enough to at least begin to understand what it took for this man to endure the race of our lifetime. Ultimately however, I will always envy my pre-adolescent nieces and nephew, who are too young to comprehend it all.
Whereas I was fortunate enough to grow up with family, friends and other media portrayals such as the “Huxtables” to balance out negative imagery of my race, my nieces and nephew will grow and mature with a President who looks like them. To them, THIS is what normal will look like. That alone is my prayer answered.
They won’t understand the hundreds of years of struggle that preceded this miracle. It is up to their adult family to fill them in on that history. But for the first time, with this election as the backdrop, that history lesson will read less like a warning, and more like an illumination.
Friday, August 29, 2008
I always wished in the back of my mind that Obama would choose Hillary Clinton. In the primary, she got the votes that he so desperately needs. In my heart, I knew it wouldn't happen. It couldn't happen because it's too radical a choice. If her voters didn't come over the way he needed them to, he would still lose whatever Republican and Independent votes he could get without her being on the ticket.
You see, what I respect about politics is that if you search long enough, every move has an appropriate counter-move. McCain is unpopular with women and young voters, so he picks a candidate who fits the bill on both accounts. Obama has only a few years under his belt in the Senate, so he picks a Washington veteran. The strategy is sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious, but a good player always rises to the occasion.
For the first time, Obama took the fight to McCain. It was unexpected but still savvy, preempting McCain's inevitable attacks on his patriotism and lack of experience. I know the old addage about defense, but watching a good offense is a beautiful thing!
After my Invesco Field experience today, I have learned a few new truths: first, this country needs a Barack Obama. Whether you agree with his politics or not, the man has got something. People feel good about themselves at just the idea of him. They get energized about who they are and who they want to be. They want to catch a glimpse of him, touch him, get to know him. Many feel as though they do know him already, just because he seems so familiar. He has given people the permission they needed to start dreaming again. In response, many have awakened from a self-induced slumber caused by pain, defeat, sadness and fear of wanting what seems unobtainable. In him, they see all that they wish they could be, but never dared to try and become.
The second truth I've learned is that the country desperately needs this message of hope and change to be followed up by action. This campaign has gotten the most disenfranchised of our country's citizens involved; from the older folk, who have all but given up on ever being truly represented by the government; to the young, who have new eyes, and a spirit capable of taking on the world, but can easily be broken if let down by inaction, or "same as usual" politics. If that happens, the end result could be worse than if he ever existed at all.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
If you know anything about Illinois politics, you also know that there are some pretty big divisions amongst its big players. Not only between parties, but also major factions within the same party. Some will say that in fighting is simply a hazard of holding every major office in the State. Well, today was a first. There were people reaching out to each other, hugging, conversing, ands simply trying to bury old hatchets! I never thought I would see the day when Governor Blagojevich and Speaker Madigan would hug. That was just too much! What in the world is going on?
This has indeed been a special city. Can we attribute the latest developments to Obama's Campaign of Unity?
Monday, August 25, 2008
Wow! Are there problems in this Democratic paradise, or what. We knew it wouldn't be pretty with Clinton supporters dragging their feet all the way to the convention, but we are now at a new low where we are comparing who's minority status is worse off in 2008- African-Americans, or women. What really disturbs me is that the tone of the argument creates the image that there is some sort of prize for the worst spot! How does this kind of mentality affect the country. Better question: how about those who happen to be born as both? What's their outlook?
Comparing that with the opening ceremony of the US Open opening ceremony happening right now on USA, and you have a very interesting juxtaposition. I say that because the US Open is celebrating its 40th anniversary, putting its birth appropriately in 1968- the year of complete change and turmoil. The video tribute of past greats included the first male champion at the Open, Arthur Ashe.
What really stands out to me is that we still have to talk about how articulate and poised and calm any great African-American person of greatness is. Never is Boris Becker's aptitude celebrated, or any other non Black player for that matter. John McEnroe is celebrated for having the exact opposite demeanor. No Black tennis player could have ever gotten away with his antics no matter how talented they were.
The same can be said for how a woman athlete is consistently praised more highly if she happens to fit the American standard of attractiveness (see Chris Evert Lloyd Norman). Martina Navratilova was a consistently better all around player that America's sweetheart, Chrissie, but never as celebrated. This way of thinking really created a monster in Anna Kournikova, who never won a tournament, but is a genius at marketing her looks even today. Yet, Serena and Venus have destroyed their peers, but I fear their legacy may prove to be somewhat dimmed because of their physical appeal to the masses.
Have we completely lost it? They play a sport, for heaven's sake! I'm a purist. All I require is that they beat the hell out of their opponents. Save the parlor niceties for later.
Is there some written requirement that to be a great African-American, one must fit into a certain mold? The same question applies to women. If I have to even ask the question, perhaps we're all in the same boat after all!
I attended two major parties yesterday, and just engaging in my favorite pasttime -people watching- is amazing. Just keep your eyes opened and your mouth shut, and you'll learn more than you ever dreamed! I don't know.. This world of politics- it's a mine field! Everything you say, everything you do is scrutinized. And, I know that is the understatement of the year, but take a look at the http://www.suntimes.com/ today, and you know how serious this can be. Especially if you happen to be connected to another candidate's campaign. This game is merciless! Before you even think of trying to play it, ask yourself one question: "Do I really have what it takes?" If there is is the slightest hesitation with your answer, do yourself a favor and choose a nice quiet life.