Monday, February 25, 2008

Unity Is Up To Us

Last week, I was somewhat forced to participate in an argument about the Presidential election. What I liked most about the argument were 1) all three of us supported different candidates, and if you looked at us you would think you knew who supports whom but you'd be wrong; and 2) unlike with most people, we could argue and argue our points of view but it never got personal and no one got offended/their feelings hurt/etc. And we were all three women, so the fact that no one got upset about anything was a miracle and reminds me why female lawyers are the best females.

This conversation was between BFLS, BRF and I (see the last post for descriptions of these people), i.e. a white female, a black female and me being a mixed black female. The white female supports Obama. The black female supports Huckabee. I support Clinton. I say I was forced because I'm tired of the election and tired of repeating my point of view about it. Plus, everybody is talking/writing about the election, and nothing new is being said, really.

Well, here's something that I wish I had remembered to argue. Let's try this and see if it's new:

I have a hard time really grasping why people believe in Obama so much, why they want to believe in Obama so much. I know the country's screwed up. I didn't think too many other people knew that, to be honest with you, because it seems like we're always rushing to give to other nations but ignoring problems here unless it affects a group to which we belong somehow. With blacks, I have a hard time understanding why 1) they all assume we all support Obama, and 2) why so many of them do support Obama. Is it because of his message, because he's black or both? Other than the race and sex, I don't think there's a lot of difference between Obama and Clinton...except she has more experience, has been on the scene longer and has a husband who has been President.

A lot of people who support Obama like his message, but I think there are at least three camps of people: 1) those who like his message of hope, unity and change enough to support him, 2) those who are skeptical of his message, and 3) those who are just not going to vote for a Democrat. I'm very skeptical of his message. I'm one of the many people who find it to be just empty language. And, even more than that, as I said to my friends last week, I just don't believe he can deliver. In addition, my friend who supports Huckabee made great, what I feel are, very true arguments about Obama--basically amounting to if he becomes President at this time he will be in over his head for many reasons, such as his lack of experience and the war in Iraq, and he should run in the future. I absolutely agree, and I have even said here that I believe now is not the time for Obama--he should run, at the earliest, in the next election. In addition to that, his language is lofty for somebody like him...or, to me, really for anybody. If he's going to have a hard time with something like Iraq, he will certainly have a hard time with an issue that has been America's biggest problem since whites brought blacks here--uniting the people of this nation.

The truth is, uniting the people of this nation and bringing about change is not up to Obama or any other President. And I think my friend who was arguing vigorously for Obama knows this, because part of her argument is that the President is a figurehead position. If he's a figurehead position, then exactly what work will he be engaging in that will help bring us together and make changes? I agree--Presidents are figureheads. They give speeches. At best, they go places...and give more speeches. The dude is brilliant at giving if that's all it takes to really be a successful President, then, yes, he's qualified. He doesn't control who's in Congress or the Senate, and right now it doesn't appear to me that he would have much say who is on the Supreme Court. The Presidency is a position of limited power.

These people are his check and balance system. Half of that check and balance contains Conservatives who surely don't share his stated vision for America. I'm not even sure I share his vision--yes, I mean that I don't know if I want to unite with the rest of America. As far as the House and Senate, there is currently a Democratic swing, but there's no telling how many of them will support any ideas Obama has for achieving his stated goals or how long these seats will remain Democratic during his reign...if he becomes President. Furthermore, as I stated before in my blog, he does not control how people vote on issues crucial to certain groups of Americans and not others, such as gay rights and affirmative action. In fact, he, himself, could not bring himself to say he supports gay rights. So, no matter what he says about wanting to unite us, in many ways he will be a divisive figure, because he does have his own beliefs and beliefs are almost always going to lead to some sort of division. That's just how politics work. If he supports gay rights, he will alienate people who don't. If he doesn't support gay rights, he will alienate--and has alienated--people who do.

Thus, we, too, are a check and balance. He can have the intent to unite us all, but if we ourselves don't have that intent, we can go to the polls and harm others. We can elect harmful people. But, perhaps, what's most important is how we treat others every single day. If we insist on being divisive and alienating, then what can the President do about that? If we're busy looking to the President to solve all our issues with one another but we're not doing what we can and should do every day, what can the President do about that?

My friend who supports Obama said that Clinton can't bring about unity any more than Obama can, but Clinton hasn't said anything about that. Her campaign is not built around it. So, if she fails at this task--which any President would, I believe--she will not look like a failure, a liar or like an ill-equipped leader. And I believe no President can deliver unity to us simply because it's not up to that person--it's up to us. In fact, it's frighteningly simple, actually. If you want to see racism end, stop being racist. Don't just vote for a black President so you can pat yourself on the back and convince yourself you're not racist and racism doesn't exist. Or don't just look at the fact that someone who has a similar skin color as you is finally a viable candidate and think that race is no longer as much of an issue. If you want to see the end partisan battles, stop being partisan--or at least stop insulting and attacking people from a different political party. Obama can't even stop attacking a member of his own party--I wonder how he will work with Republicans. If you want to see the end of poverty, stop being elitist, classist and centered on what you can get out of life...the hell with everyone else.

While a candidate can be inspirational and make you want to act, you have to act. Obama can't end hatred and separation for us. He can't come to our homes, to every noose hanging, to every act of employment discrimination, to every instance of a hate crime and give a speech, talk some sense into us, make us change what we believe and what we do. Regardless of who will be President, the actual work is and always will be up to us. If we don't stop our own divisive behaviors, then the ideas some of you like so much from Obama will be as meaningless as I think they are and ultimately suspect they will be. Because as long as we're focused on ourselves far above all others, we will always see to it that someone else is doing worse than we are...and we will keep doing it in the same ways as we always have.

Essentially, it's not so much Obama in whom I lack faith--it's you. It's the people of America. If you really want to unite with others despite differences, the next time you go out speak to or befriend someone of a different race rather than always treating them as if they don't exist or worrying how they will react to you. Make a conscious effort to stop referring to gay men as "fags," even if you only do it behind their backs, and embrace them even if you don't "agree with their lifestyle" or "choices." Abolish the black lunch table, the white lunch table, the Asian lunch table and the Latino lunch table--teach your children to sit together in school, and then maybe we will sit together as adults. I know I said we're all naturally racist and teaching kids is not the solution, but I'm not asking you to lie to your kids that "we're all the same" and tell them "racism is wrong" rather than behavior we all engage in. At least give your kids the environment, the encouragement, to go out and learn about others of all races, sexualities, religions, etc, on their own so that they can form their own opinions about others and the world, rather than running to homogenous neighborhoods and schools. Stop blaming all poor people for being poor or calling all Republicans evil. We all have to learn how to do these things, including myself. No one can teach us what we already know but choose to ignore. We know how to unite and change the nation; all that's left is just to do it.