November 05, 2008

life in general: no bush-cheney-gangofthugs, no rigging of US elections!

Thankfully, the US presidential elections have escaped being rigged this time unlike in 2000 and 2004, and Barack Obama is the new President of the United States! Credit must also go to John McCain for playing the race to the elections fairly without attempting to rig any state's votes to win two very-close elections (like Bush, Cheney and their gang of thugs did by rigging the vote in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004).
I am happy for Americans, although I want them to also realise the enormous pain their jingoism and their governments have caused to Iraqis and non-combatant Afghans in the last five years and to other peoples of other continents in the last five decades. The emotions that are pouring out in support of Obama on his victory is very rare -- see here, here and here.
From Laos in Vietnam, where he presently is, my good American friend, Sean-Paul Kelley, writing in his latest blog post, says it beautifully, "... at long last I sense hope and purpose in America again. We have a military-imperial-national security state to dismantle, infrastructure to rebuild, a financial catastrophe to work through and more. But, this is a victory for all Americans, and all of America. Indeed, the sense of relief across the globe, as I sit and blog in this Laotian internet cafe, is immense. The sense that America is on the road for atoning for the wrongs of the Bush/Cheney era is real. And the world watched us and began the long slow process of growing up. There is hope. And while hope is not a good policy, I'll take it in a pinch."
The new result also makes Barack Obama the first dark-skinned President of the US. It is great. One of fellow contributor-blogger on Sean-Paul's blog has written a very touching post on this aspect. I present below his entire post. But before that I would like to offer a prayer to the universal energy to protect him from racist bigots who could try to assassinate him (there was a plot that was recently revealed).
Here is that post then:
Martin Luther King brought his campaign for civil rights to Chicago in 1965, giving my father yet another excuse to rail on and on about Negroes not knowing their place. When he was at home he was restricted to the term “Negro” – our mother saw to that – but to the embarrassment of everyone in our family he was allowed to let loose whenever his own parents held a family party with his many brothers and sisters.
We kids would sit quietly in their living room, while in the kitchen the aunts and uncles, plus Grandpa and Grandma and our Dad, would tell the latest jokes about the coons or niggers or spades or jungle monkeys they met showing off their Cadillacs, or lazing around the streets. There was a decided overtone of superiority to these conversations; it seemed to make my Dad’s family feel much better to talk about the ignorant and indolent blacks they would come across from time to time. But there was also an undercurrent of fear; the blacks were beginning to move into yet another neighborhood, they would say, branching out like a menace to all the nice communities where the sons of white immigrants from Europe made their living as tradesmen, steelworkers, or in other manual labor.
As teenagers we were embarrassed by all this racist talk, mostly because our mother made it clear we were never, ever to use such language ourselves, but also because the suburban high school we attended was intent on educating our baby boomer generation with a higher level of tolerance. This was an easy thing to do because there were no blacks in our high school, not at least until my junior year, which was the first time I ever met a black person.
The Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, and riots were beginning to spread across the South and up into northern cities like Chicago. We couldn’t but be aware of these convulsions; they were on the television every night, and my father detested Martin Luther King almost as much as he did the Kennedy’s or Lyndon Johnson. The fear of your neighborhood changing color was now being compounded by the greater fear of physical violence.
Teenagers notice these bigger social developments, but the microcosmic world of high school is highly insular, and we spent more of our time on dating and homework and music – especially music. This was the time of the rise of the Beatles, a social force in their own right, but one that bridged the black and white cultures of the U.S. The Beatles were purposeful borrowers of musical trends emerging from inner city ghettos, and in that sense were oddly more in tune with American racial circumstances than most white kids.
In 1964..... At that moment, the interaction of blacks with whites in a big city like Chicago was almost non-existent, and whites were beginning to pour out of the inner cities to avoid associating with blacks. Eventually my grandparents on both sides of the family lost their homes to white flight. They watched the values of their homes on the Southside fall more than 50% as blacks began moving in and their neighbors moved out, and eventually they succumbed as well, with great bitterness as a result. My grandfather on my mother’s side had always been a genteel person with a decent white-collar job and no unkind word for anyone. Quite to our surprise, once he was forced to move to the suburbs he developed a racist streak every bit as virulent as my other grandfather.
Our Dad provided us a surprise of a different nature in his later years. He kept his job at a Southside steel mill until retirement, and long after the plant had become completely integrated. We would hear creeping into his conversation stories about his co-workers who were black, who were three-dimensional humans with names, and who were friends even. I remember him coming home one day from work and telling us, with great wonderment as if he had made an anthropological discovery, that if black people stayed in the sun too long they would develop a sunburn.
Dad suffered two hernias working on the loading dock, and the company allowed a very limited time for someone to recover from surgery, so it made a big difference to him when his co-workers covered for him on the job for weeks while he took it easy. He discovered blacks were anything but lazy, and it seemed to liberate him when his father died. No one had to sit around the kitchen table anymore competing over who could tell the most racist joke.
In the 80s my parents moved to one of those planned retirement communities springing up in the South. In talking to my Dad on the phone, he was a very different person from the father I knew as a child. I was taken aback one day when he complained to me about some of the white guys in the community who were “really racist.” It was as if they were insulting the friends he left behind at the steel mill. It was then that I began to wonder what sort of person he would have been if his father hadn’t taught him racism, and what sort of person I would have been if my mother hadn’t taught me in a very different way.
If my Dad had kept his family home on the Southside, and if he had lived a few years longer, his state senator in Springfield would have been Barack Obama. What would he have thought of that? I know my wife would have told him to have some pride in his state senator. She met Barack Obama in the mid-90s when he gave a speech at our local chapter of the League of Women Voters. She came home and told me “that man will be President of the United States someday!”
Just as in 1964, I filed that information away to be acted upon by Americans far, far into the future. In our lifetime, a black man would never be President of the United States – I was sure of that. So were we all, except those who met Barack Obama. He had a way back then of making people believe in unlimited, even unthinkable futures. And why couldn’t that future include an African-American as President – maybe even Barack Obama, and maybe even now rather than later? From this sort of thinking sprang up a cadre of people – some important, many unknown – who began working to promote Barack Obama to the U.S. Senate, and then ultimately to campaign for the presidency itself.
Barack Obama was a chocolate child, the sort of white-black link that Ringo Starr prophesied. The type of person who can move easily within and between both cultures. Except the emphasis here is on the verb “was” – Barack Obama is no longer a chocolate child. He has long since adopted his black heritage as his own, without disowning his white roots or upbringing, but always asserting the essential aspect of his character – both how others see him, and how he wishes to be seen.
He wishes to be seen as a man of character, a person of intellect and solid reasoning, someone of prudential judgment, someone who has associated all his life with those struggling with poverty, discrimination, and lack of opportunity. And oh yes, he is an African-American who has been shaped by the black experience in America.
I think – and I don’t believe this is a fantasy – that my father would look at Barack Obama the way Barack Obama wishes to be perceived. I suspect my father would see in him a man who would step up and do the work of others when it was needed, a three-dimensional character who put to rest the stereotypes that whites maintain about blacks. I suspect my father would see in Barack Obama exactly the sort of person he had come to know and respect on the loading dock.
Numerian November 5, 2008 - 1.52 am

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