Tuesday, November 4, 2008
A blue evening in the red sea
(Yes, folks, it was that bad. I was so upset I didn't even notice my sentence ended with a preposition.)
So yeah, I voted today, and it occurred to me that more of my online acquaintances would have been able to predict which box I marked than the folks I see regularly in "real" life. This would be true even if I wasn't a computer nerd who needs to get out more. And it didn't really seem right.
I have a colorful political heritage, both in terms of my family background and personal journey. I won't bore you with details (largely because if I ever see you or currently do already, I'll gladly bore you in person), but suffice it to say that most members of my close and close-ish family, my husband's entire family and most of my social and professional circles are vivid, dark shades of red or blue.
My dad, for one, was a through-and-through conservative Republican and huge Reagan fan. I actually have a shirt I inherited from him hidden somewhere, emblazoned with large red letters "Top 10 Reasons to Elect Rush Limbaugh for President." ("Knows it was 'Adam and Eve,' not 'Adam and Steve,'" and other such gems.) To be fair, this was before Limbaugh was a total raving racist. Also to be fair, my dad usually had well-reasoned thought behind his opinions, even if he opined just a tad too loudly and obnoxiously. And I ... well, I totally and completely (and with considerable justification) idolized my dad, pretty much always. So even as I was developing my own views, that colored them considerably.
My family has left leanings as well, to be sure. My uncle, for one -- my dad's brother -- is a Democratic committee member on the west side of Buffalo. It sounds like he and my dad, even growing up, sort of made a career out of playing each other's devil's advocates. I respect the hell out of them both, and it is/was edifying just to listen to what they have/had to say. The tradition throughout my family tends away from the "Don't talk about politics or religion at the dinner table" and closer to "Hash out politics, religion, and everything else over dinner, breakfast, lunch, snacks, beer, tea, coffee and coupon cutting. Make up with sarcasm and humor."
I could go on about family political ties: my mom's a beautifully nuanced political landscape: Republican but a member of Greenpeace, conservative on most moral issues ... but progressive on race and gender politics. My brother is conservative, usually, but has some of the most well-thought-out opinions of anyone of whom I consider myself a peer. My friends are liberal, about 95 percent of them. My husband's family is incapable of separating religion from politics, and thinks it should be that way. But my story is everyone's story. Few of us come from a monochromatic background. I will say that times like this tend to be slightly more ... volatile in my experience than maybe in those of some of my friends.
(I promise, this graph wraps up the preamble.) I remember when I was in grade school, we did one of those "Kids Pick the President" things. We had to fill out dummy voting cards. I knew my family's political leanings more or less, especially my dad's. But I didn't usually hear party-name talk. So when I had to bubble in an "R" or a "D," I chose the latter -- because, I reasoned, I believed in democracy above all. My dad, understandably, was crestfallen when I told him this later. I was "set straight" at the time, and spent a good several years pretty much living on the Republican party line. But I always sort of wondered about that "D." What if it was better, sometimes? I have a strong opinion on nearly everything about which I bother to have an opinion. But I wouldn't say I'm a raving liberal or conservative. I guess maybe left of center. It's not that I'm wishy-washy by any means, just that maybe if you took all my views on various issues, it'd more or less average out to there.
So here goes.
I voted for Barack Obama.
Um, yeah. I know. Big huge news, right? Well, not to most of you who follow any of my online goings-on. (I swear I have a real life. I just think it's such a rich life, why not share it on my blog? And on Facebook? And on Flickr, and science forums, and reading forums...)
The thing is, this may possibly be news to one or two people, which is shameful, for someone who's proud of being opinionated and revelatory in her writing and all that jazz.
Obama is a statesman. He's a family man. He's got growing to do, but I can see his growth enlightening rather than endangering the country. He's intellectually curious (which, really, is a biggie) and honest. And regardless of who gets the blame or credit, followers and supporters of Obama have largely behaved more respectfully and productively than many McCain supporters, which I tend to think is instructive of how the worst and best of Americans would act under either candidate as president. It may not be fair, but to some extent I bet McCain's supporters have cost him the election (along with Palin, of course). I mean, with friends like these...
And inspiration, and hope, and eloquence are not empty baubles that make Obama merely seem better. They matter. The same appeal, rhetoric and communication skills will be in play in his role as president. Yeah, sure, he rehearses the speeches and sure, McCain's slip-ups of "My fellow prisoners," "I couldn't agree with him (the guy with whom I totally disagree) more," and "cunt" instead of "cut" are just that, slip-ups that garnered way more reaction than was warranted. But McCain practiced too, didn't he? And wouldn't his future speeches be in front of a hurting country or on the precarious international stage? Are you telling me that communication, rhetoric and inspiration don't matter there? That slip-ups won't get blown out of proportion?
My husband used a good analogy the other day (though he will surely object to it being appropriated here). "Obama's got him intellectually," he admitted. "Obama would be the guy who could build a chemical treatment plant from scratch, could probably draw up the chemical structures and how they interact on the spot. But McCain's worked in them; he'd be the guy who could tell you how it all works and how it runs and what to do when the front part breaks down." That may be a fair point, and insofar as time clocked and miles walked can qualify a candidate, McCain might edge him out. But first, I think Obama can run the country capably and has had relevant experience, albeit for a shorter span of time. And second, what we need right now is some fresh air, some rebuilding, some straight-up building. We need the guy who can draw up the plans and work out the equations.
Silly as it is, I'm still nervous about this post, even though my worries are probably largely unfounded. Will I have to have the abortion argument with my husband again? (EDIT: Yes, yes I will. That and more.) The experience argument with part of my family? Will the other portion of my family be chagrined I haven't resoundingly denounced McCain? Will my extended family just outright disown me? What of the arguments of Arizona and veteran loyalty? The ethical debates? Economy issues about which I still feel unqualified to even have opinions?
But it is my choice, and I have labored long and hard, if only in my own head. And it feels disingenuous to conceal it, even by omission. Hell, it feels downright chicken shit. And though each vote counts and I feel my vote is undeniably essential, it's just like everyone's. I'm not special. I'm not anyone. Today, I'm not a writer, or a snarky conversationalist, or a long-suffering intellectual among people I secretly (and perhaps wrongly) think are less intelligent than I. I'm not the conservative one among my writer and liberal arts friends. I'm not the raving liberal among my and my husband's immediate family. I'm not the one who dare not even open her mouth among certain extended family members for fear of the fallout. I'm not the one who accidentally bubbled in the "D" instead of the "R" and spent the next two decades wondering if it was a providential slip. I'm not the pathologically conscientious mom who wonders what, if anything, to tell a six-year-old about candidates' differences.
I should never have been afraid to voice this, in real life, loudly. I'm just me, deciding here, today. I'm Kim. Not everyone will agree with me. And I voted for change. Hopefully for myself as well.
Posted by Kimberly Hosey at 11:52 PM