Somewhat Disjointed Thoughts on Barack Obama
Just finished watching Obama's acceptance speech, and am trying to get some thoughts down, so bear with me if these aren't fully formulated yet.
Here's the thing: I know that Barack Obama will disappoint me. I know that he will sign bills and stand for policies that I disagree with. I know that there will be plenty of times when I think that he's just not going far enough.
He's going to be someone I will actually be proud to have as my president.
This is a historic candidacy, and a historic moment, and while his stance on policies will at times disappoint me (and, in fact, already has), he is a candidate I actually believe in; this is someone I think has basically the right ideas, and the right priorities (and you know, I think he really believes the things he says).
Listening to his acceptance speech earlier, there were a couple moments where I teared up, especially at the end, when his family came out, because suddenly, it was real, and in January there might be an African American family in the White House. That's pretty damn amazing.
I also was thinking about what I always used to say - "The first Black president is going to be a Republican." I figured that the mathematics of race and racism would never allow a progressive African American candidate to be the first. And of course, given today's anniversary
, I was thinking that 45 years ago, marchers in the civil rights movement faced white Americans - Democrats and Republicans - who fought tooth and nail to deny African Americans access to voting rights, education, and public space.
It amazes me how far we've come, not just since 1963, but even in the past few years. We have a candidate who gave a speech about race in America
that was astonishingly honest and insightful - a speech I never would have thought any candidate would have the courage to give. It's no longer unimaginable that we might have a progressive African American president. We also have a candidate who, in his acceptance speech, asks Americans to support the right of same-sex partners to visit each other when they are in the hospital, and who speaks about the need for equal pay for equal work, who acknowledges the need to support working class Americans. You look at his daughters and you can see some of what motivates him; he wants his daughters to know that they, as African American women, will have a chance to do whatever they want, and that they should be able to succeed whether their father is the president or a teacher or a mill worker or unemployed.
Clearly, he's not going to be able to even the playing field for his daughters or for any other children to the point where their race, class, gender, and sexuality won't impact their opportunities. But I believe that he will try his damnedest to do it anyway, and that's exactly what we need.
Realism tells us that these problems are not going to be solved in one presidency, or one lifetime. Realism tells us that Obama will not live up to all of his promises, and realism tells us that there will be compromises that many of us won't like.
But sometimes, we need to ignore realism for a moment, and believe that maybe we could
solve these problems now, today. Because those moments - moments where you listen to a candidate and you want to believe that, yes, these things are possible - those are the moments that give us the strength to fight against the odds, the strength to fight against all realistic expectations, for the changes we need.
And you know, it's really hard to end this post with something that doesn't sound like an Obama campaign slogan, because it is all about change; we need a candidate who believes that he can change fundamental things like the way we think about race or the way our political system favors corporations over people. We need someone who understands that even if the change will not come tomorrow, we have to fight for it as if it will.
We need hope. We need optimism. And even if you know that you'll be disappointed, it's still OK to believe.