Another White Woman for Obama
Confession: I used the Picassa "glow" effect not to make myself look whiter, but to blend in the shine on the end of my nose.
I meant to write a post like this weeks ago, but never got around to it. Now, it's almost too late since the Ohio primary is in just a few days.
I began to consider Obama as a serious contender about a year ago, when I flew out to California to visit my family. My oldest brother picked me up at the airport and asked right away which candidate attracted me. I just shrugged.
"I'll tell you who I'm going to vote for," he said. "Barack Obama."
Why is this significant? Because he's a Reagan Republican who has voted the party ticket as long as he's been voting, who voted for George Bush not once, but, I fear, twice. He's certainly not a liberal, but he's been an increasingly uneasy Republican. More than that, though, he's repulsed by the endless battling and posturing and sniping in Washington, where differences along party lines mean that nothing ever gets done and when it does, it's rarely the right thing. My brother felt that Obama's natural inclination is to reach beyond party affiliation, beyond the liberal/conservative labels, beyond race and religion and all the other categories that divide us to build consensus and work on this country's problems.
I was amazed that Obama had the power to pull my big brother from the Republican orbit, and I agreed with his reasoning. I've not had any reason to rethink that part of my support for Obama.
Big Bro is still plugging away for Obama, along with (I think) all the other 30+ members of my extended family. For those who slice and dice by categories, we're mostly white with a growing Asian minority.
But I'm frankly sick to death of the slicing and dicing, although I'd plaster a bumper sticker with "Another White Woman for Obama" all over my car if there was one. I have friends who'd be happy to put "Another White Jewish Woman for Obama" on their cars-- that would really bust the categories.
Many people pose this as a historic election where we can choose to put either a black man or a woman in the White House. Many people say that sexism trumps racism in this country, that gender distorts our vision of someone's competence and character more than race does. I agree, and I think the discussion about these issues has been hugely valuable. I know I'm a lot more thoughtful about race and gender than I was just a year ago, and I was fairly thoughtful about them back then. I hope this discussion continues and sharpens, especially around sexism-- the most hidden and pernicious of the isms.
But this isn't just an election about categories; it's about individuals of merit. I think Obama is an extraordinary individual who brings not only civility and idealism but fresh, smart thinking to politics. Remember how the old Washington hacks guffawed when Obama said he would meet with dictators (at least, the ones we don't usually meet with) without preconditions? But why should they laugh? Perhaps this kind of new thinking can begin to salvage our relationship with the rest of the world.
I don't think Clinton is extraordinary. Brilliant, hard-working, adaptable, yes. Perhaps even visionary under that carapice of political machinery. But not extraordinary in her thinking or in her ability to inspire people the way Obama does, from my Republican brother to my formerly apathetic teenaged stepson.
The Bush administration has made a mess of so many things, but the thing that I worry about the most is our relationship with the rest of the world. Obama brings not only his brilliance and fresh thinking and civility to this, but also his category-shattering self: he is black and white, Christian and Muslim (on his father's side), American and Kenyan. He can put a face on America that looks something like the whole world stirred together.
Human rights lawyer Lisa Gans wrote something for The Huffington Post called, "Why I Think Obama is the Best Candidate on Foreign Policy
." It's a great piece and expresses my thoughts exactly.