Obama v. McCain – I have to say this before November

Now that Obama has essentially become the Democratic nominee and we’ve been through all the accusations of racism and sexism throughout the Democratic primaries, I have to say that I really think this presidential race will be fair (mudslinging will occur on both sides, of course), but people will invoke race as a deciding factor no matter how the election turns out.

  • Yes, there will be people voting for Obama mainly because he’s part-Black. These would be Black people wanting some more representation or people of all races wanting a historic breakthrough of the racial glass ceiling in politics.
  • Yes, there will be people voting against Obama mainly because he’s part-Black. These would be honestly open racists or people (Geraldine Ferraro, for example) who think Obama got to where he is now only because he’s part-Black and will use the excuse of McCain being better for the job.
  • And then you’ll have people who will honestly vote for whomever they think is the better candidate or the lesser of two evils, and race won’t be a major factor in their decisions.

But regardless of the outcome, the media and bloggers alike will say race was the big thing that determined the outcome. If McCain wins, people will say “Even though Obama made great strides in being the first Black presidential nominee, America isn’t ready for a Black president” or more blatantly, “It’s still a White man’s world, and America is still racist.” If, however, Obama wins, people will say (and I’m sure Geraldine Ferraro will be the first in line) “Oh, he won just because he’s Black and got more media attention than McCain did for the past year. This is affirmative action at the highest level of politics” or “White liberal guilt has beaten out blatant racism.”

In other words, no matter to what degree race actually is a factor in people’s decisions as to whom to elect to the presidency, the media and most bloggers will think the decision was all about race.

Isn’t that insane? I think it’s insane. Barring the much-hyped potential “dream ticket” (if Obama chooses Clinton as his running mate, and she accepts the choice), I think race will actually have very little to do with the actual outcome. I think the pro-Black candidate voters will cancel out the anti-Black candidate voters, leaving the people who vote on issues or along party lines to decide the election.

If the first part-Black or Black presidential nominee was on the Republican side of things (say, Colin Powell), things would be far more interesting. I traditionally vote Democrat, but would I vote Republican to give the US its first part-Black or Black president? That’s not the case, though. In this case, the people most likely to be caught in such a bind are liberals, and so would more likely vote Democrat anyway. And most Republicans I know (not all, of course) are staunch believers against affirmative action or perceived affirmative action of any kind, so having the Republican nominee be a White man also poses no dilemma. As usual, most voters will vote along party lines. Republicans will vote Republican. Democrats will vote Democrat.

We have to stop attaching significance to sample sizes of one. When we do that, we create self-fulfilling prophecies. If you keep saying, “Clinton lost. America clearly isn’t ready for a woman president [or America is still too sexist]” enough, then it’ll come true. Most people will not vote for another woman candidate, because they’ll fear she won’t win anyway. If Obama loses to McCain and you keep saying, “Obama lost. America clearly isn’t ready for a part-Black president [or America is still too racist]” enough, then that’ll also come true. Most people will not vote for another part-Black or Black candidate, because they’ll fear she or he won’t win anyway.

I realize this presidential race is racially charged, but please don’t make race the only player in this game. It’s in the room, but it’s not the elephant in the room. Everyone knows it’s there. Let’s start talking policy and platforms here, people.

Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality

Successful politicians will be political

Okay. I don’t get it.

I’ve been following the 2008 US elections for the past year, and I don’t understand how people can make it sound as if such-and-such candidate clearly would make a bad president because she or he did X—with the implication that the other candidate(s) would never do such a thing. Whether it’s Obama calling a reporter sweetie, Hillary implying only whites are hard-working, or McCain supposedly getting “cozy” with a lobbyist. I’m sure as the campaign goes on, there will be more and more smears from all sides.

Look, first of all, politicians are people. They have flaws. Sometimes they say dumb things; no, not all as dumb as what George W. Bush and Dan Quayle have said, but the real problem with politics is… politics. To be a successful politician, you have to try to please as many people as possible, and that means walking on eggshells, not appearing too extreme, and not taking a strong stand on certain issues.

Right now, gay marriage is in the spotlight and all the news stories are basically saying that McCain, Clinton, and Obama are all not taking a stand on it. Do you really believe none of them has a strong opinion on the issue? My guess is that in real life (in the privacy of their own homes), McCain is strongly against gay marriage, and Clinton and Obama are in favor of it. But here’s a great snippet from The New York Times:

John McCain, Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton — are pretty much in agreement. All oppose it, while saying at the same time that same-sex couples should generally be entitled to the legal protections afforded married couples. All think the decision should be left to the states

Really? They all think that? How convenient. Really. I mean, they all just happen to hold a position that won’t blatantly offend the conservatives and moderates while also not appearing to be homophobic?

I don’t blame them, though. To say “No, those fags shouldn’t get married” or “Of course gay people should have the right to get married” would be campaign suicide. The degree to which politicians have to lie and be vague about political stances in America (I’m not sure how many other countries suffer this problem to the same degree; perhaps many, perhaps only a handful) is well-represented in the fact that people now easily divvy up the US into “red states” (Republican) and “blue states” (Democrat). If you take a look at the red state and blue state map, it almost looks like a Civil War map, doesn’t it?

Would it be a terrible thing to have two USes with two US presidents? Two nations, not exactly under God, definitely divisible, with liberty and justice for a lot of people? Perhaps, then, they could still be politicians, but they might have to lie a little less and would actually be able to have strong stances on things and get stuff done?

I loved the Matt Gonzalez and Gavin Newsom mayoral election we had in San Francisco a few years ago. San Francisco is one of the few places in the US where the mayoral election comes down to a Green Party candidate and a Democrat. Did they lie in their campaigns? Sure. Probably. But I think we essentially got their stances on things, and I don’t think they had to sweat quite as much. I like that.

Frankly, I think McCain, Clinton, and Obama are all liars and politicians. They will say anything to get elected, will slip up and say something obnoxious from time to time, and then give the obligatory public apology for said slip-up. After eight years with George W. Bush’s unique blend of incompetency and bravado, I’d be happy with any one of the three candidates being president. I kind of do hope that Clinton or Obama wins, though, just as it would be a historic breakthrough and would set a precedent for future women and/or black US presidents.


Persepolis is Personal

I always read film reviews. Sometimes I read them beforehand to try to gauge whether I want to see the film or not. Other times, I go into the film blindly and then read the reviews afterwards to see if they would have helped me to decide on whether to see it or not. In the case of Persepolis, I was glad to have gone in to the viewing “blindly.”

The user (not professional) reviews seemed to be a battle of variations of “I’m Iranian, and this makes America think worse of Iran” and “I’m Iranian, and this seems to be a pretty accurate picture of what it was like.” As always, with something that purports to be autobiographical, it was attacked as twisting history or being inaccurate in this or that way.

As someone who knows very little about Iran apart from 1980s US propaganda that generally portrayed all non-Israeli Middle-Eastern countries as windy deserts full of dark-skinned, angry, violent terrorist types (yes, I’m that American); I found it to portray (accurately or not) Iran and Iranians rather positively. More importantly, I don’t think the narrative of the film (I haven’t read the graphic novels yet, so I can’t comment on any difference there) in any way tries to put in a master narrative that says “This is what really happened.” The story is clearly told in its entirety from the point of view of the protagonist. When recounting her experiences in both Europe and Iran, she is honest about the limits of her perception. Either way, it portrays (accurately or inaccurately) Iran as a beautiful country that has gone through a lot of strife, with most people just trying to get by while governmental powers, both within and without, screw them over.

If I had any criticism of the film, it wouldn’t be of the film itself but of the protagonist—much as we sympathize with her because she is the main character, she is still a brat, in the end. She comes from privilege. Her parents and grandmother are a godly model of love to her, way beyond what she deserves. When she ends up destitute in Vienna, it appears to be fully her own fault, so it’s a little difficult to feel sorry for her… same with just about every “tragic” situation in the movie that doesn’t involve someone dying.

The brat can be cute and funny sometimes, though.