Thursday, September 4, 2008

An antidote to the Republican National Convention

First, if any of you haven't noticed by now, I am a liberal. Now that the word liberal is a dirty word, I feel uncomfortable even saying it. I listen to too much hateful talk radio, and I confess, they get to me. So has the Republican National Convention, where the loudest cheers have come from the most divisive words. Earlier this evening, Bill Frist gave a corny, stilted speech which actually held some wonderful ideals, yet the crowd barely listened. The folks who listen to talk radio, and who McCain is now pandering to, are moved only by fear and anger.

I am sad that McCain has sold himself out. I had believed, wrongly, that with Obama and McCain running against each other, we'd finally be done with ugly politics. I'm sick to death of it and I thought that most others were, too.

So, tonight, instead of live-blogging (with a hefty dose of Chanel cologne on to buoy my spirits), I am posting something I wrote for the Obama website, way back on January 27th. Yeah, it's corny, but I wanted to remind myself that there are other values than the so-called values that the religious right stands by. In spite of wanting to make some changes to this piece I wrote on that snowy night in January, I'm presenting it as it was written. Here it is - "Daring to Hope Like the Child I Once Was":

Throughout my life, my “dirty little secret” has been that I’m a patriot. Intellectually, I think nation-states are an anachronism, and I do believe that one day a time will come when they will be obsolete. But we’re not there yet. Not by a long shot. And one reason for saying this in such an off-handed way is that these United States can’t even “get along”.

During my lifetime, I’ve seen politics get uglier and uglier and though I do vote, I have done so with only the attitude of “well, at least this guy might not be as bad as the other guy”.

This is not the America I grew up in. I grew up in an America of promise. I grew up in an America of change. I grew up in an America where there was a vision of each generation being better off than the one before it. I grew up in an America where we went to the United Nations every year and felt proud that we were part of the world community. I grew up in an America where we envisioned a future where there would be no poverty, no racism, no hunger and an end to war.

This was an idealist place indeed.

And as I grew up and into adulthood, I grew to see these ideals as fantasies, the stuff of childhood and a past when “America” was na├»ve.

Barack Obama has changed my mind.

This morning when I watched Obama speak to the people of South Carolina, a crowd of diverse people indeed, I got choked up. The first time the camera pulled away from Barack and I got a glimpse of a middle aged black woman standing next to a young blond white girl, both with smiles on their faces and hope in their eyes, I succumbed to the “audacity of hope”. It IS audacious, in the face of what politics have come to. It is audacious in the face of all the pundits and naysayers, and dare I say it, other politicians.

I was brought back to a time when I was very young, too young to understand what was going on. My parents and I were at a rally for Robert Kennedy in Queens, New York during a time of great racial tension. I was scared, ‘cause I was a little kid and it was intense. But I learned later what a great event I had been to. I learned, too, that I was at many a march as young child, a baby even, in a stroller, for my mother was an activist.

But it all changed. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. The civil rights movement just faded away (at least for middle class white families like mine). In my eyes, the once idealist youth of the 60’s either dropped out or became wealthy and preoccupied with their money. For others, life became harder.

I look back to the year I first voted for president. It was 1976. I had a job then, typing in an office. I made 8 dollars an hour. If I went out looking for the same job now, I would be lucky to find it and I would be lucky to make that same 8 dollars an hour. It is 32 years later! I can’t afford to heat my house. I don’t have the money to pay my taxes.

Am I a failure or has my country failed me?

I have gotten a bit off topic, but it’s interesting in a way, because politics ARE personal. Obama has said in a few of his speeches that fathers and sons are competing for the same 7 dollar an hour job at Walmart. How does that make these fathers and sons feel? How do I feel, not being able to make any more than I did when I was 18 years old?

This morning, when I watched Obama speak, and I shed tears as I saw the hope in the eyes of that diverse crowd, I felt what I did when I was young. I forgot the pains of not being able to pay my bills. I forgot myself completely. I felt united with others for the first time in years. And I felt united with a politician – a politician! – I felt hope. I felt pride in the possibility of a renewed America. I felt lifted above the workaday world of debts and bills and problems and saw the possibility of a future where we all saw each other as equals, stopped squabbling for a piece of the diminishing pie and instead saw ourselves baking new pies. Yeah, I’m getting sappy. I’m thinking of a time when there were pies left to cool on the window sill, the window open, and noone thinking there’s someone gonna come by and steal that pie. A time when kids played outside together, a time when we all dreamed together, even if some of us were Republicians and some of us were Democrats.

‘Cause that’s what it was like. I grew up next to a bigoted family but I we got along. I grew up when there were still clubs my family couldn’t join ‘cause we were Jews but I knew that someday that wouldn’t be true any more.

Let's give the children of this nation the hope that they deserve. It's scary to put our cynicism away. It's easier to believe that the status quo is too strong not to win. But I'm daring to hope and dream that it can be done, and I know, if you're reading this, you do too, somewhere inside of you. Let's get out there and give this message of optimism to others.

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