Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In case you haven't heard...

We elected a black man to Commander In Chief. He will be sworn in one hundred years after the foundation of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or NAACP. In so many ways this was an historic election. In 1984, Geraldine Ferraro was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee as the running mate to former Vice President and Democratic Presidential nominee Walter Mondale. This year, the Democratic Party had a dogfight to the nomination between a former First Lady and a black man. The Republican party nominated a woman as the Vice Presidential nominee, the highest honor bestowed on a woman by the Republican party to date. Regardless of who was chosen as the 44th President, we were going to make history.

Eight years ago, we elected George W. Bush as the 42nd President. In a gross oversight, we elected him again as the 43rd President. In the course of these eight years, George W. Bush has managed to bring our country to an economic crisis almost as severe as the Great Depression. Nearly one third of Americans, or 90 million people, under the age of 65 did not have health coverage between 2006-2007. His zeal for deregulation led the way to predatory lending and lack of personal financial responsibility. He has given tax cuts to big business which send jobs to overseas. He has disputed the validity of Global Warming. For absolutely no reason, he invaded a country under the guise of The War on Terror. This country had no ties to the organization responsible for the tragedy on September 11. He falsely reported finding Weapons of Mass Destruction in this country. He has allowed spending upwards of millions of dollars a day on this fictitious war. When he was sworn in as Commander of Chief, a gallon of gasoline was $1.44. This summer those lucky enough to find gasoline had to pay around $4 a gallon. He has supported the torture of "enemy combatants" (and liberal definition of the term "enemy combatant") and assisted in the creation of the USA Patriot Act, a convoluted piece of litigation which allows the federal government to toss civil liberties out the window.

While this seems in and of itself a pitiful legacy for a President, none of this adds up to the largest embarrassment and most tragic failure of his presidency.

The failure of the Bush Administration to respond to the crisis of Hurricane Katrina and the devastation of the Gulf Coast still brings tears to my eyes. After the hurricane, I tried very hard to avoid the news, both online and on television. I knew what I would see and knew I might not be able to handle it. I was unable to avoid it completely. I will never be able to forget the image I saw of a woman who had been waiting outside the stadium, sitting in a lawn chair, hoping to get relief from her environment. Unfortunately, she died before she could get help. The citizens of New Orleans had no choice but to leave her where she was. Even more unfortunate, this was not an isolated event. The scope of this tragedy was unlike anything we had ever experience here. The City of New Orleans is still recovering to this day. I cannot speculate on the motives of the Bush Administration to act so slowly in response to this disaster. I certainly hope the ethnic diversity of the population of the Gulf Coast in general and New Orleans in specific was not in any way a factor.

Last night the United States made history by electing a black man as President. We elected this man, Barack Hussein Obama, in a near landslide, 349 to 162, with two states still pending confirmation. In some ways, it is not surprising that we elected a Democrat to this office in reaction to the mess created by the previous Republican administration. What may have made this election a nail-biter was the ethnicity of the Democratic nominee. In the end, the American people stepped up and voted on the issues and what truly mattered. We needed change, and the contents were more important than the packaging.

I am very lucky to have so many friends and coworkers who self-identify as either Democrat, liberal, or both. I have not heard anything negative about President Elect Obama. On the New York Times Online, there is a video feature here. Individuals from key states had their thoughts recorded about our new president. The bulk of these folks have positive comments. One woman is identified as Amy Ridolfi, 28, from Philadelphia. She claims to be a Democrat who voted for McCain, because she feels the world is not ready for a black president. She feels the world will view the United States negatively because we have "switched parties" and this will have a negative impact. In the past eight years, The Bush Administration has alienated the United States from many of our allies. Those not alienated are too afraid to speak up. Reviewing the news from abroad, it is easy to see that the rest of the world is welcoming the change this election has brought. The Obama Administration has a long road to travel, but I feel we can expect our wronged allies to be willing to mend fences.

She makes the statement that the world is not ready for a black president. Given the results of the election last night, one could say with total certainty that she is wrong. If the time was not right for a black man to assume the highest office in the land, I would be saying President Elect John McCain with much disdain. America has spoken. Barack Obama is the best man for the job, regardless of color. Having a leader who is something other than an affluent white man will boost the credibility of this nation. Shall we remind Amy that the vast majority of the world of which she speaks does not self-identify as white?

I think we can expect great things from Barack Obama. I feel we can also expect him to demonstrate that he is a President who is black and not a black man who is President. In 1984 and 1988, the Reverend Jesse Jackson was a candidate for the Democratic nomination. He was not successful. In my opinion, he was a black man running for President. Throughout this race, Barack Obama has demonstrated that he has the qualities required of a President. He has been incredibly even-tempered and an excellent speaker. He is known as one who thinks before he speaks. He has not made his ethnicity a factor, although the opposition tried. This election makes me believe it was more the candidate than the timing. Now more than ever the world is ready for this man to lead the United States out of this terrible place. The color of his skin is merely a bonus. I commend the Americans who voted with their principles and their open and educated minds, and not with their bank accounts and prejudices.

To those of you who may feel alone in a Red Sea, take heart. There are many, many more people out there who think like you. When the current state of the union turns around, remember to say, "I told you so."

For information on the Electoral College, go here. I won't even try to explain it.

1 comment:

Cellar Door said...

I think it's very easy to focus on the few people who are still racist and fret, but remember, Obama won by a landslide! And I think that many people who voted McCain were not racist at all, but simply subscribe to the Republican way of solving political problems (the abortion issue, for exampe). That means that a very small percentage of Americans are truly racist! Awesome!