Archive for the ‘Barack Obama’ Category

Holy Crap

November 5, 2008

Last night was unbelievable.  For the first time in my life, I actually feel all patriotic and proud of my country and shit.  Weird.  I admit, I shed some tears during Obama’s acceptance speech.  How could I not?  Then Brian Williams at NBC held up a poster with pictures of all the past presidents and pointed out how they were all white men with white hair.  And now Obama’s face will be up there!  Its so historic!  Dammit Brian Williams, you made me cry again.  I felt a little bad for McCain, I thought his speech was very gracious.  I hated how people booed every time he mentioned Obama’s name.  I loved that I lived to see such an event take place.  I love that Obama’s family is multi-racial and reaches across continents and how this represents a changing demographic in America, because I consider Manny and his family part of my own family and I love how this is reflected in Obama’s victory.  Diversity is beautiful, people!  Embrace it.  I hope that I also get to see a woman president in my lifetime.  I think its possible, thanks to Hillary.  (Just, please gods, not Palin.  Or any republican for that matter.  Thanks.)

Over the weekend I went to see an interview with Junot Diaz and Lenoard Lopate of WNYC at the Brooklyn Library.  A young Dominican girl had just commented how his books were the only thing that she could relate too.  After reading his books, for the first time, she could say, “this is what I am.  An American and a Dominican.”  Diaz responded, saying that in folklore and mythology, people who do not have a reflection in the mirror are ghosts.  If you don’t have a reflection, you don’t exist.  He told us to think about how it was for him, and so many other immigrant children and minority children growing up and never seeing a reflection of their life and their reality through TV, movies, music, radio, newspapers, novels, everything.  Or, the only reflections they see of themselves are negative.  How lonely and discouraging that would be for these kids.  And now?  These kids are seeing their reflection, they see a positive example in Obama on what is possible in this country.  In the spirit of being all sappy and patriotic, I saw this sign on TV – “Rosa sat, so Martin could walk, so Obama could run, so our children could fly”

I am still registered to vote at my grandmother’s address.  It took me an hour to get there on the subway, but I went to vote.  There were two people in line, me and an elderly Russian lady who had to be at least 95 years old, who once she was behind the curtain of the voting machine, kept yelling and complaining how the names were too small and how was anyone supposed to see what they were doing.  I went up to sign to my name on the roll, and the name right above mine was my grandmother’s.  She passed away last November.  I signed my name under the copy of her signature, I had not seen her handwriting in so long.  She had beautiful, curvy, elegant script, a lot like mine.    Two years ago when this campaign began she announced she was voting for Hillary Clinton.  She was so excited to see a woman as a presidential front runner.  I know she would have been equally excited about Obama’s amazing victory.  Unlike most of my extended family, who actually told me that Obama couldn’t be president because of his name (!), she never judge people based on race or religion, she was loving and accepting and honest.  She is always my example on how to be a better person.

Dreams From My Father

October 28, 2008

I told myself I wouldn’t read it until after Nov 4th, but I was waiting on some books from the library so I had nothing to read, and I saw it on sale at the bookstore during my lunch break last week and I couldn’t resist: Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father.  I didn’t want to read it because I knew it would make me like Obama even more, and if he lost on Nov 4th I would feel really bummed.  Oh well.  I’m almost finished with the book, and it is really really good.  So good in fact, that yesterday I missed my stop on the train coming home and didn’t realize it until the train had pulled into the last station and the conductor made the announcement for everyone to get off the train.  Lucky for me, my stop is the second to last stop anyway, so it wasn’t that serious. 

This book was published in 1995, before Obama became a national political superstar, so it is quite honest and doesn’t hold back on descriptions of Obama’s college party days, experiments with drugs, his feelings on black power, black nationalism, racism, social justice, and his struggles of finding his identity as a black man in America.  In the preface to the 2004 edition, Obama wrote that part of him regrets some of the details he put into this book that have been used against him when he started his political career.  It’s kind of surprising to read such intimate details about a popular public figure. 

I think its pretty great that we could have a president with such a unique story and world view.  A man of mixed race who obviously understands the nuances of race relations in this country.  He spent his childhood in Indonesia with his mother, his adolescence in Hawaii with his grandparents, his college years in LA and NYC, then spent 3 years organizing black churches and community leaders in Chicago, then went to Kenya to meet his African family for the first time.  I think these experiences are what make Obama such an effective politician, they allow him to understand problems and solve problems with a different perspective that most other politicians.  I don’t mean to be gushing about Obama, I’m not naive enough to think that if he’s elected then all of our problems will be solved.  I’m just saying that he is a very cool, very smart guy who gets it.  And I do really hope he gets elected.

One part in the book really struck me.  Obama was describing to his Kenyan sister about a relationship he had with a white woman.  When Obama and his girlfriend were alone, their relationship was great.  But then, the woman took Obama to her grandparent’s country house, and Obama realized that if their relationship continued, he would have to live in her world, since he already knew how to be part of the white person’s world and culture; he had been doing all his life.  But she could not live in his.  He took her to a play by a black playwright that involved a lot of anger and what he calls “typical black American humor” and his white girlfriend was not impressed.  She thought anger wasn’t a productive way of dealing with past problems, that anger was a dead end.  Her and Obama had a fight, she told him she couldn’t be black, no matter how much he wanted her to be.  They broke up.

I had put the book down as soon as I read this.  Obama wrote about something that Manny tells me all the time.  Manny even uses the same words, about living in different worlds.  Manny has learned to be part of the white American world, the mainstream culture.  But as a white woman, I’ve never learned to live in his world, a Mexican world, an immigrant world.  As a white woman, I never had the need to do this.  Manny and I have talked about this a lot, we’ve come to terms with it we’ve compromised about it.  But when I read stuff like this I still get insecure, I mean, even Obama couldn’t have an inter-racial relationship!  What hope is there for the rest of us?  Dramatics aside, I need to stop these comparisons.  Manny is not Obama.  He has never made me feel like I should Mexican, and never made it seem like he wished I was.  I have never passed judgement on Mexican culture nor would say that their way of dealing with their past is a dead end. 

Its strange to write about such personal things, I’m actually a private person in real life.  Feels good to get those thoughts out there.  Last night, in my moment of insecurity, I asked Manny if he felt like he always had to be part of my world in order for us to be together.  “No,” he said. “We both live in Brooklyn now.”

Oh Brooklyn, the great equalizer.  Here is an example of Obama-inspired racial harmony that Manny and I thought was so appropriate, him being Latino, me being Irish.  We had to stop in front of this stranger’s house to take a picture: