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a blog by ken pardue

On Election and Culture

There is now just four days until the historic 2008 Presidential election.  To my delight, it looks as though my favored candidate, Barack Obama, is well ahead in the polls and unless something goes terribly wrong will become the 44th President of the United States.  This is due in no small part to the economic crisis currently surrounding the country as people look to leadership beyond the tired old Republican principles that we’ve had for eight years.  Under that administration, we’ve seen the country through many ills, all of which are widely documented and discussed so I will not repeat the talking points here.  But the fact remains that the American people appear ready for a change, ready for openness and accountability in the government, ready for economic policies that actually help the middle and lower classes, and ready for a sense of sanity about when to go to war with other nations.  I am convicted to believe that Barack Obama possesses those qualities, and am hopeful that he will bring back a sense that the United States knows where she’s going.  Most of the time that I have had any interest at all in politics, I’ve felt as though Washington was simply filled with drifters looking to make a quick buck before they pack it in, without a clear, and certainly not a noble, direction for the United States.

Even with the failures of the past eight years Mr. Obama has only since mid-September pulled significantly ahead of his opponent, John McCain.  As much as it seems like it would not be an issue, race appears to be one of the major reasons that he hasn’t had a more sustained lead.  In my own mind, I never saw Mr. Obama as a black man or Mr. McCain as a white man; I looked at their qualifications and what their platforms proposed.  I incorrectly assumed that others would do the same.  To do otherwise seems foolish and against the best interests of our nation.  However, certainly in my local area and beyond, I have seen nothing but fear, uncertainty, and doubt being spread about the Democratic nominee.

Some of my family members responded to my suggestion that Mr. Obama would be an effective President with a condescending look, as though I had said something that should exclude me from some elite club, never mind the fact that they are the ones who would benefit most from an Obama/Biden administration.  “I’ll never vote for someone that isn’t a Christian,” he told me after confidently stating that Barack Obama was a Muslim.  I tried to find out where he got such information to challenge its validity, but he provided none.  But even if Mr. Obama were a Muslim, it should not matter.  The religion of Islam teaches peace and harmony as well as violence and aggression, just as the Christian religion does.  It stands to reason that any intelligent person seeking the approval of the American people to lead them should be well rounded and understand the balance of those forces.  However, since we are in the midst of an ideological struggle with our Muslim brothers, racism against religions seems patriotic.  With that in mind, neither Barack Obama nor his wife or children have ever been observed participating in any Muslim religious ceremony or holiday.  Other family members say, “I don’t know, I hear that he’s going to raise taxes,” or “I don’t know, I’ve heard that he’s working for…” insert whoever is an ideological enemy here, be it the Middle East, China, or Fidel Castro.  I’ve even heard a casual suggestion that Mr. Obama will be the Anti-Christ.  Around me, these statements are mostly quieted “well I’ve heard…” types because I dispute them.  These are terrible misconceptions that are never addressed amongst people with these types of attitudes.  To do so would be blasphemy, anti-Christian, and ultimately anti-American.  That said, I believe that people can’t address these issues because in their hearts they can’t honestly believe such nonsense.

One encouraged anther to get out and vote, “because we’ve got to keep these n*****s out of government or else they’ll run all over us.”  I was utterly awed at the sheer closed-mindedness of the statement.  How could someone make such a paranoid, contemptuous claim against a people?  If I could respond to that without drawing divisive lines within the family (I’ve done enough of that already lately), I would tell her this:  the African American people are not some overwhelming, sinister organization of people seeking to overthrow the government and the white supremest way of life, they are in fact a small minority of people in this nation that are just as American and just as human as anyone else in the country.  They are a race that has to a large degree been oppressed until just half a century ago, and that repression has led them to live in a much lower class of economic prosperity.  How can it even be suggested that a minority people, the majority of which are living largely disconnected in economic destitution, be plotting to “take over?”

Lower economic classes, whatever color in whatever nation that encompasses, have a worldview of feeling repressed and unjustly treated.  These classes have less ambition to rise above what they see immediately surrounding them.  In their minds, this is all that they will ever be.  If anything, the United States government has done a horrendous job of managing racial equality, focusing on giving handouts, freebies, and forced opportunity to the lower class, which they have in turn come to expect.  While in turn those in a higher class view the lower class as having gamed the system, which serves only to increase the resentment between the two rather than solve problems. Instead, we as a country should have been investing in programs to instill a sense of pride, hard work, and encouragement in the lower classes to rise above their economic conundrum.  What people white, brown, red, and yellow alike must come to realize is that we should not be focusing on a war against racism; we should be focused on a war against classism and for sustainability.  To do otherwise only sets us back in our quest to build a better human society.  I applaud the efforts of people like Barack Obama, Bill Cosby, and Oprah Winfrey, just as strongly as I hiss at the efforts of people like Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.  The latter of which only seem to want to continue with the status quo.

Unfortunately, it appears that racism against color, culture, and religion is still strong with us today.  But there are those with good ideas beginning to rise above such issues.  With luck, one will soon be President of the United States.  It fills me with a sense of hope for the human race.

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