Forward is the Only Direction
This isn’t a highbrow endorsement of the President, nor do we at 40 Acres possess the hubris to believe that an “endorsement” on behalf of our blog means anything beyond an extra couple hundred words fired into the cyber ether. I’d gather that finding an endorsement for President Obama here would rank among the least surprising things you read today. This isn’t an exhortation to change your minds, nor is it a plea to get out and vote. Even for mightier outlets with more sway, the time has passed for those things. I’ve found that writing here from a deep personal space resonates, and so this is a personal exploration of why I believe there is one, and only one, choice for President for people who actually believe in the promise of this country and its people.
I learned how to read and also picked up my love of storytelling by reading newspapers to my great-grandmother, who I affectionately called “Granny,” and listening to her tell stories about her life as a young woman. A coming of age in an era with separate water fountains and lynchings that seemed about as far away as prehistory to me. I remember not being able to reconcile my understanding that voting was just something adults did in my school gym when they were old enough with her stories of fearing for her life while attempting to do the same. I remember not understanding why she kept calendars of white men on the walls (I would later learn those men to be John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson) among the images of Civil Rights leaders. I remember the photos alongside them of her and her remaining living friends at the time (all over 90 years old at the time) all voting in 1996 with deep smiles on their faces. I remember her looking at me and pointing to the calendars and saying “that will be you one day.” Those memories were part of the emotions that shaped my world on a cool morning in 2008, my first time casting that ballot that marks our full-time entry into the world of full personhood, as according to the Foundational documents.
Granny passed away in 1998. It would be another full decade before the streets danced in hope over the election of the first man to truly represent the full breadth of the promise of equality of this country; a half-white, half-Kenyan man with an origin story implausible enough to be a tall tale. Another decade until someone who was fully privy to the identity struggles and setbacks that form the most salient of common bonds between the races, classes, and groups considered as strangers on the periphery of the American dream. I know she would have been delighted to see what transpired on that evening, and as I danced in celebration, I said a prayer that she would look from wherever she rested and be happy and proud.
These emotions shaped my view of ensuing four years, as I came of age and began to truly build an understanding of the things that make this country tick. Thus, I cannot pretend to divorce my personal feelings about the President and what he means to me from my assessment of how well he did his job (and I believe it is foolish to do so). I saw my President, like all Presidents before him, make compromises that I wish he hadn’t on positions that I wish were uncompromisable. I’ve seen him order death and destruction of innocents abroad and pursue a policy of colonialism when it suits us to intervene and disturbing passivity when it does not do so. My only defense of his office in this regard is that it seems to be an evil that is par for the course for the President. I’ve seen a recovery that is slower than what I would have liked, with policy creation hampered by his inability to often see past his own opinion, and his reluctance to engage in actually having to prove his positions beyond what he believes to be prima facie self-evidence. I’ve been frustrated by certain failures of leadership, and while I believe we set too high a bar in our optimism in 2008, when one runs as a demigod, one is expected to do the extraordinary.
But the President has accomplished a great number of things; things which I think rival the accomplishments of ANY four-year term in our history. Our economy is back from the brink. Our troops are coming back home. We are respected internationally after eight long years of being laughingstocks. The President is finally taking a shot at the long (beyond the scope of even his power) battle of inequality in this country, often to the detriment of his own chance of reelection. While things aren’t going so rosy now for people on the margins, he has built serious infrastructure for change, whether he sits in the Oval Office in 2013 or not. Things like the Affordable Care Act will cut health care expenses for the poor (which can eat up to 1/3 of their yearly income) and provide inroads for better health among minorities. For those who short-sightedly ask what he has done for Black folks, we’ll find in 2014 that providing affordable health care and eliminating astronomical bills for the almost 40% of Blacks that will find themselves eligible (often times providing care for our elderly relatives), probably qualifies as the single-biggest policy advancement for Black people since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That’s in addition to the numerous policies he has instituted for Women’s Rights, LGBTQ Rights, and the overall rights of people without means. He has done more than any President in decades to ensure access to the American Dream for people who aren’t White Males. It’s as simple as that.
The more visceral emotion that this Presidency evokes in me cannot be ignored either. Frankly, this election gives me hope for my own ambitions, as well as for this country’s. Despite the backlash and the construction of the “post-racial fallacy” as a result of his Presidency, the fact that we elected a Black man to our highest office is huge for our country, one that is still viewed curiously worldwide for our public displays of intolerance. It’s huge for me, because I truly know that my ambitions, whatever they may be, are possible, racial barriers be damned. It’s huge for the kids growing up now. It’s huge for my future children, if I will be so blessed to have them. To see the President lose his bid under the pressure of what seems to be a largely racially-motivated backlash to his offending presence in the office would be a serious blow to those gains, and most certainly to my sense of identity.
And to the opposition, how could a rationally-thinking person who truly believes in the principles of this country embrace a party and a candidate that seems to either implicitly or explicitly endorse open race-baiting, voter suppression, and a return to pre-1965 politics that would leave a good portion of this country up the creek? How could we embrace tearing down the bridges of Affirmative Action, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, and health care reform? If Obama’s campaign represents going “forward,” then Romney’s certainly represents the reverse. It’s in the very Conservative name. This is the party of dozens of people who lynch models of the President in effigy, and while I dare not say that this comprises even a sizable portion of the Republican Party and while I certainly hate elements of the Democratic Party just as much, there is a reason why open racists are attracted to one party and not the other. While I know well that certain Conservative policies work and should be considered as equally valid ideas on how to govern the country, in a Republic, we don’t vote for policies, we vote for candidates and hope that they’ll live up to the promise of whatever ideals they embrace. Romney just isn’t trustworthy in that regard, and neither are his policies. I’ve seen an open disregard for the “47 percent” among the Right, and even deeper, a disdain for the “otherness” of those who don’t fit a 1950s-style “Leave-it-to-Beaver” image and morality. There is an open war on the self-sovereignty of women and their right to express and control their sexuality, as well as one on gays. Romney’s camp wants a return to how this country was in the 50s and 60s, and has openly stated as much. Isn’t that pretty much all you need to know?
In closing, I believe there is only one choice for people who want this country to fully live up to the promise outlined in the self-evident truth that all men [and women] are truly created equal. And while President Obama doesn’t fully live up to the extraordinary promise from 2008 and has certainly made his share of mundane and egregious errors, he represents our best shot at moving the timeline in that direction. Governor Romney does not, and his policies openly seek to exacerbate inequality and keep us where we are. I consider that unacceptable. This is why I hope the President extends his stay in the White House and begins to work to fulfill the promise that I still have optimism in.
I don’t know what I’ve accomplished in this post, aside from serving up a little confirmation bias in the elucidation and serving my own ego, but I hope you’ll keep it in mind as you perform your civic duty tomorrow. Let’s hope that we move in the only direction there is. Forward.