Wednesday, November 05, 2008

America has a good case of B.O.

...And the world has caught it too. I find this entry particularly important because I want to display to any relatives that see this in the future my joy and my consternation of the events of November 4, 2008 when Barack Hussein Obama II, the junior Senator from Illinois was elected the 44th President of the United States. It is not my country, not my President, not my people, but I'm both a forward and a backward thinker -- as is the President-elect -- I understand that we all came from the same place and we'll all end up in the same place so I'll offer this perspective as an opinion simply from an invested fellow human being as to what this all means.

First, America's case of B.O. is the result of 200+ years and counting of really arbitrary racial interactions throughout the world. That sentence holds the two very important ideas of 1)...and counting, suggesting that its not over and 2) really arbitrary, suggesting that its largely under the discretion of people, versus physical laws of the Universe. To all those who say they aren't racist, that they passed some test yesterday by voting for a candidate of color because he was best for the job, that they've confronted their assumptions and used reason not sentiment as their guide, America I have bad news. You didn't elect your first African-American President yesterday. You elected the first half-African, half-Caucasian American President, but you wouldn't know it the way you reacted. And this fact ties both the enduring nature of racism into its arbitrariness.

Plenty of people who didn't vote for Barack because he was black, in a perfect world, could just have easily voted for him because he's white. Because he is, and that's not an insult. It's a fact. His mother and maternal grandparents, as Kansan white as they come, were the driving influence in his life. But he has a big nose so he's black, and we'll think of him that way. This world, on November 5th, 2008, in America, in Canada, everywhere is and will continue to be a world of racial assumption as long as people think with certainty that Barack Obama is black. To not see how simplistic and insulting that characterization is to the man, to his family and then pat yourself on the back for ignoring who he really is and congratulating yourself for your supposed the midst of all of this deserved joy...I find that to be disgusting. He's not black. He is the utter definition of a half-black, half-white man. Should we all be subdivided into our respective constituent percentages? No. Should we acknowledge a racial heritage when it's fucking 50%?!? Yes.

Second, I saw Sheri Sheppard on the View crying today about trying to explain the significance of having a person of any considerable black ancestry as president and an idea crystallized in me that I hadn't been able to articulate until now. Here goes. Racism is largely supported by assumptions and excuses. To the people who feel that the chronic over representation of black Americans in prisons and their underrepresentation in higher education are simply symptoms of an enduring African-American self-perpetuating inferiority complex (that its basically all in their heads and they can actually do anything they set their minds to), B.O.'s election seems to suggest that "Yes, You Can" be anything in the country if you are savvy enough. To all those who know that racism has institutional roots extended deep into the foundations of their 'perfecting' Union, roots that color the mindset of people in positions of authority as to whether they'll 'take a chance' on a black guy or gal, B.O.'s election (should) force anyone who has a general widespread image of African-Americans in their head to reconcile that image with the image of the dignified, brilliant, articulate, compassionate, erudite leader of the free world and maybe consider giving that black guy or gal a second look. No more excuses. Barack Obama is qualified to lead the country, maybe this black woman is the woman for the job. Barack Obama can lead the world, so maybe I determine my own fate. In a perfect world...

Finally, to end on a somber note, while they pat themselves on the back, and the world praises their good judgment, why don't we take a look at what it actually took to elect a good man president (because I would argue that back in 2000, John McCain and Al Gore were good men and neither of them could get elected, what with the former being an actual war hero, and the latter eventually winning a Nobel Prize).

To get a good man elected president in 21st century America he had to be, first off, a genius: a person who read the times masterfully, almost as if he could see the future. That person had to be an orator of superlative quality: one of the best public speakers in the history of human language. That person had to basically bridge the racial divide singlehandedly through wit, patience, courage and above all else, steadiness. Perhaps not so surprising as the Republicans might think, that person had to have next to no experience in politics, so that the muck of the dirtiest profession in the world wouldn't drag him down with each character attack that would be unleashed upon him. That person had to revolutionize the way a presidential campaign was run, redesigning it from the ground level, applying lessons from community organizing days, using text messaging, the internet. That person had to master a group of voters who had never really shown up before, the mercurial youth. That person had to have volunteers knock on every single door of a voting age person in the country and if need be, drive them to the voting booth. That person had to raise a staggering, unimaginable amount of money: $800 million as far as I know.

That person had to follow an incumbent President of the opposite party that would leave a resume of the following: 3,000 American citizens killed in the worst single day attack in U.S. history; Two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that will be unresolved when he leaves office 8 years later with 5,100 servicemen dead, 43,000 wounded (and there's no point really in mentioning actual Iraqi or Afghan deaths); the shameful and shameless production and manipulation of intelligence to justify the sham Iraq War; the utter failure to find the Weapons of Mass Destruction that justified the war; shredding international relations and the Geneva Convention; the failure to secure ports and the border; nominating his friend, Harriet Myers to the Supreme Court, just because; an attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, that fired federal employees because they might one day vote Democrat; a Vice President and his chief of Staff, Scooter Libby outing a CIA agent (treason, anyone); the abominable image of the President flying over Louisiana on his way to a fund raiser while people were dying in the flooded streets of New Orleans following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina; the inspiring performance of FEMA, the disaster relief organization that would come to America's rescue in the case of another homeland attack (interesting to note, Chris Carter in 'X-Files: Fight for the Future" actually posits FEMA as the clandestine, uber-capable "government within the government"... go figure); the FISA bill and the Patriot act, two pieces of legislation that alone could inspire the Founding Fathers to burn Washington down and scatter the ashes into the Potomac, that allows the federal government to wiretap any phone without a warrant, search mail without providing cause, hold people indefinitely without charge or trial, destroying utterly that bedrock of U.S. military and civil jurisprudence, habeas corpus; Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib; the little known fact that Americans now transfer 'people of interest' like Canada's Maher Arar to places that torture people (Syria), so that they can be tortured....and after doing all that in the name of keeping Americans safe, the man chiefly responsible for the shape of the world and events of the first decade of the 21st century, the lunatic mastermind behind the September 11th attacks, Usama bin Laden, is alive and kicking. HE'S STILL OUT THERE SOMEWHERE DOING TWO THINGS HE SHOULD HAVE STOPPED DOING YEARS AGO: WALKING AROUND AND BREATHING!!!!!

To elect a good man in America, that good man would have to 1) run the perfect campaign, 2) follow a president like Bush and 3) be touched by fucking divine providence by having the domestic housing market and global financial market reach a state of crisis not seen since the Great Depression. And I'm serious as a heart attack, if Lehman Brothers doesn't fail right at the most crucial time in an election campaign, just before the debates, just after the Conventions, can anyone honestly say that we wouldn't have seen President-elect John McCain?

People losing their jobs. People losing their homes. People losing their livelihoods. People losing their freedoms. People losing their rights. People losing their lives. Not in Zimbabwe. Right there in the United States of America.

And if all those things break just right, America might hire a good man -- a man who's basically pledging (and very-very-very likely, risking) his life to put the country back together again -- to be president by say, a 52 to 47 margin. Half the country still won't be convinced.

Yay, America!

ps: I’m voting for Barack Obama this November for a very simple reason. It is hard to imagine a more disastrous presidency than that of George W. Bush. It was bad enough that he launched an unnecessary war and undermined the standing of the United States throughout the world in his first term. But in the waning days of his administration, he is presiding over a collapse of the American financial system and broader economy that will have consequences for years to come. As a general rule, democracies don’t work well if voters do not hold political parties accountable for failure. While John McCain is trying desperately to pretend that he never had anything to do with the Republican Party, I think it would be a travesty to reward the Republicans for failure on such a grand scale.

Francis Fukuyama


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