Thursday, November 6, 2008

Paradign Shift

By Dennis Crews

Friends - having watched a screening of the documentary Uncounted the night before the election, my mood was less than optimistic on Tuesday morning. "Grimly determined" to fulfill my civic duty was more like it.

After having received countless anonymously written emails (and a few personally written ones) slandering Barack Obama for months on end, from acquaintances who forwarded them relentlessly to every name on their computers, as if attempting to jam America's collective capability of critical thought, I was dubious about the outcome of this election. It was easy to methodically debunk the claims made in this smear campaign, but doing so day after day would have required so much time and effort it seemed as if its intent was simply to bring everything to a grinding halt. Throw so much sand in the gears that to clean it all out would leave time for nothing else.

There were two remarkable things about this email campaign. The first was that otherwise fully functional, seemingly smart people could buy into such demonstrably false ideas (i.e. Obama is the anti-Christ, a Muslim, a baby-killer, a socialist, not an American citizen, etc); the second was that so many people I know carried such intense vitriol and resentment for a man who has never done them any harm. Unlike the current occupant of the White House, Barack Obama's actions, demeanor and policies have not cost an iota of loss or damage to the well-being, reputation or livelihood of any person I know. He has run a campaign remarkably free of mud-slinging and character attacks. From whence comes all this resentment, this need to diminish the character and accomplishments of a decent man and pour scorn all over his campaign for the presidency?

I'm not willing to call it racism, but it certainly is bigotry of some kind. Maybe it's reverse snobbery. The otherwise good, smart and funny woman who cuts my hair sneers at Obama's education and calls it of no practical use. After eight years of George W. Bush it seems a sizable segment of America wants another Joe Sixpack to be their leader - or lately, Joe the Plumber. The idea of a Constitutional scholar sticks in their craw. Anybody who's traveled abroad, who has studied foreign policy and, heaven forfend, been a Harvard Law graduate is unthinkably elitist. And if they bear a non-European foreign name and have a multi-cultural personal history - quick, somebody call Joe the Plumber and flush the guy.

Maybe I'm immune to this because my earliest memories are of growing up in India, as a child of missionary parents. We lived in Pakistan as well. My uncle was both a devout Christian and an Islamic and Arabic scholar. As an adult I've traveled on four continents and found real value in the experience. Foreign exposure is beneficial, a multi-cultural outlook replaces irrational fear of the "other" with appreciation for the complexity of life and the interconnectedness of all humanity. It is one thing when the primitive fundamentalists of Islam choose xenophobia and hatred as their default attitude; it is quite another when educated Americans do the same. To me this is unacceptable; we are capable of better and we need a leader who will help America be better than this. We need someone quite a bit smarter than Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber or Sarah the Moose Hunter.

As I have said before, God holds the ultimate destiny of nations in his hands - but we bear collective responsibility for our civic destiny. We suffer consequences when we make mistakes. After the manifold ill consequences of the past two botched elections, I feared even worse this time. But thankfully we got something better this time. As Martin Luther King once said, citing an old preacher and former slave: "Lord, we ain't what we want to be; we ain't what we ought to be; we ain't what we gonna be, but, thank God we ain't what we was."

Here's part of a much nicer email I got this morning (subject line - "My instant paradigm shift"):

[Obama's] speech was … well, everything a speech should be but often isn't. I honestly believe he will tap into the volunteer and patriotic spirit of America and inspire all of us to contribute to our collective well being. This is the person I want leading our children in their politically formative years. The lessons they will learn from his inclusiveness: equality, pride, and volunteerism… instead of feeling hopeless and apologetic for our leader and his policies of aggression and ecological rape.

Basking in this glory today, I have realized how negative I had grown about this pathetic time under Bush’s reign. I felt no pride in his American agenda but felt mountains of fear about his followers… It was really very peaceful waking up this morning with hope. It occurred to me that the majority of Americans DO feel like I do… I am NOT part of some disgruntled, disenfranchised minority! That in itself makes me feel hopeful.

That said, this poor man is now in charge of a HUGE bag of crap, which is also apparently on fire. But ‘experienced’ or not, he will absolutely do a better job than his opposition could have even dreamed of. I have no doubts he’ll be great.

The talking heads are absolutely right tonight: we are watching, we are a part of, history with a capital “H”.

Congratulations to all of us!

Well said! All the best d

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