Tuesday, November 4, 2008

History in the making

I can't begin to express how happy I was to come into work to see that Barack Obama had led by a landslide. I keep thinking I'm dreaming, but I haven't been working at this place long enough to dream about it (God forbid). I can't say as I'm surprised Obama won the race, but I really thought John McCain had it and I was prepared to support McCain as our next President. I voted against President Bush both times, but after he "won" in 2000, I supported him. After 9/11 and his connections to that event became highlighted, it became hard. I joked about this guy backed by a horrible speechwriter who's got a problem speaking publicly to start with as much as the next guy, but I'd like to say I always respected the President. You kind of have to; he's the President. Bush made it pretty hard with one boneheaded speech after another, one stupid decision after the next, but in the end, over eight years, he still served his country, perhaps to the best of his ability, based on the values he was raised on.

Race was always an underlying aspect of this race, though neither of the candidates touched directly on it. I wasn't aware when it happened, but reportedly Obama ended a speech asking "America, are you ready?" and he later admitted that what he was asking if we were ready for, was to elect our first black President. I missed that. But I've heard McCain say on numerous occasions that a "person like Obama" is "untested" (I suppose, implying that old white men are tested). John McCain can try to claim to not be a racist, and he may not be, exactly, but he had to overcome the horrible odds of running against the possibility of a first black President. Rather, McCain was running against history. Also, I thought it was amazing that when McCain gave his concession speech, there were skinheads in the crowd, but not one black face whatsoever. He might as well have been speaking to a Klan rally. These people were in tears. They were praying. Were they all rich, worried that Obama would redistribute their wealth? Maybe some of them were, but surely not all. John McCain himself was gracious and honorable, pledging his support to his new President.

Race aside - and, as I've said, the racial issue has always been on the back burner, if that - the issues really buried McCain. First, John McCain sponsored a war nobody really agreed with who wasn't making money on it. Cheney and Haliburton, for example. While I did agree with McCain that we ought to finish what we started, I believe Obama had the right of it, saying, OK we did what we set out to do. We ensured there were no WMDs in Iraq. Dubya got his revenge on Saddam Hussein. So... why are we still over there? Let's instead let the Iraqi people stand on their own, as is their sovereign right, and redouble our efforts to find Bin Laden. I agree with that more than McCain's idea to accept that Bin Laden was never very healthy and is probably dead and focus on Iraq, and possibly Iran.

More so than the war, it was the issues at home which really pushed Obama into the oval office. McCain's slogan was "Country First", but the country he meant wasn't ours, it was Iraq. Iraq first? Well, that doesn't look as good as a slogan. Also, the America that McCain saw was never the America that 80% or more of us Americans actually live in. I really tried to give McCain the benefit of the doubt when it came to the economy. I read news articles and blogs from McCain supporters, trying to find what McCain planned to do for the working class. Never once does he mention it. Furthermore, in an attack ad on Obama, McCain suggests that Obama will pay for his initiatives how? "By raising YOUR taxes", the ad says. Who's going to pay for this? the ad asks. YOU, it answers. Obama turns around and says that he's not going to raise taxes for anyone making $250,000 a year or less. It also comes out later that anyone making under $3 million a year will actually pay less tax under Obama than McCain. So who lives in John McCain's America? I don't. I'm lucky to make $20,000 a year. My wife and I together make under $40,000. To McCain, we're not Americans, we're just something he doesn't want to acknowledge. Well, she didn't vote, but I went out and voted for Obama. Rather, I voted for America, because it's like Obama said in his victory speech. Man or woman, black, white, Hispanic, Asian or Native American, gay or straight, rich or poor, we're all American. That's the America I voted for. Not McCain's America where you have to be rich, white, straight, and probably old as well to be important.

I've been a Trekkie ever since I can remember, and Gene Roddenberry was one of entertainment's first civil rights advocates. His original show, "Star Trek" from the 1960s, featured not only two Russians on the bridge (though one was an alien - I mean Mr. Spock of course) but a black woman as well. This didn't go over well at the time, but over the years, it's been accepted. "The Next Generation" brought even more diversity. "Deep Space Nine" brought us a black captain (in fact, Barack Obama kind of reminds me of Ben Sisko), and "Voyager" put a woman in the captain's chair. I would like to think that Obama won the 2008 election in the fictional Star Trek timeline as well, and that along with Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. before him, Obama's presidency led the world to the kind of diversity we see on the shows today (well, reruns now).

And now we take our first step towards the 24th century with our first major decisive victory for civil rights, diversity, and equality here in the 21st century. I hope it's not the biggest I see in my life, and that more change is to come.

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