Thursday, May 29, 2008

Just a wee opinion

After a bright start to the morning, and temperatures pleasant enough to sit outside, the afternoon got cloudy and cooler. As the evening nears, the sun is trying to make a comeback, but still a cooler-than-normal day. I just keep thinking, "Hot and humid Florida in 48 hours!"

I'm about halfway through Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father. (More in a moment.) In the interest of entertainment versus philosophy and fun versus thinking too damn much, I am setting it aside temporarily. I just picked up the latest Dean Koontz book, another Odd Thomas venture, and that will be my airplane book and initial vacation book. Odd Thomas is one of my favorite characters I've encountered in fiction, right up there with Sherlock Holmes, Lestat, and Repairman Jack. When we last left Odd, I believe he'd said goodbye to the specter of Elvis, after Odd helped Elvis to finally leave this world completely behind. However, he'd picked up another ghostly friend, Ol' Blue Eyes. I'm looking forward to some sheer entertainment.

I think I need it, because I'm finding myself feeling a little at odds (so to speak) about reading Obama's first book. Not because I dislike him or disagree with what he writes, but I find much of it disturbing. Bear with me while I try to sort it out, okay? And I promise to not make this overly political, because that's not what I'm focusing on right now. (Although I did exchange several emails today with a psychologist friend who talked about how upsetting it is to be treating soldiers with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, after they've served up to three tours of duty in Iraq. THREE! Shameful.) A little background on the book, based on what I've read so far, and what Ken (who has already read it) has told me. The first part is about Obama trying to figure out his heritage and where he fits into society. A Kenyan father, a mother from Kansas, his grade school years spent in Indonesia, his high school years in Hawaii with his white grandparents, undergraduate years in L.A., time in New York City at Columbia, and I'm just now getting to the part where he moved to Chicago. What a hodgepodge of cultures and heritages to try and sort out! The second third of the book is about his efforts as a community organizer in Chicago. The final third is about his trip to Kenya to connect with his distant family.

I guess what is disturbing to me is that race is still such an issue. Obama wrote this book 10 years ago, and wrote about coming to terms with being half-black, and it's something that is STILL coming up in the election. I won't mention any states specifically, because I've heard the same sentiments expressed in my own state and in virtually every other state across the Union, but when one resident was asked about his advice for Obama, he said, "Stop bein' so black!"

This makes me want to either cry or punch a wall. I just don't get it. If you don't like Obama for his politics, fine. If you don't like Hillary for HER politics, okey-dokey. If you don't like McCain's stance on issues, go for it. But when I hear that you don't like 'em because they're black, or female, or older than the average bear, it just makes me think that you're ignorant. Why can we not get past this? Why is this still an issue in the 21st century? Have we forgotten about the great Melting Pot that helped to drive our country's economy and made us what we are, and about the immigrants who were proud to fight for the U.S. during various wars? Have we forgotten that very few of us are the original citizens of this country, Native Americans? I'm mostly German, and my ancestors came over in the late 1700's. Where did yours come from? I'm not from around here, how about you? If I sound pissed about this, I suppose I am, a little bit. It appalls me to encounter the level of prejudice that I see and hear on a day-to-day basis.

I'm happy to say that I wasn't raised that way. I never got that kind of attitude from my parents, and they taught me that the measure of a person depends on what is in their heart, not on whatever their skin color happens to be. In all the travels and vacations I experienced with my parents, I NEVER saw them treat anyone badly, for any reason, including race or religion. We are better than this, people, and I for one am SICK of the empty rhetoric I'm hearing about why this or that person is unworthy because of whatever bias the person spouting such rhetoric happens to have.

If you feel the need to send me a forward about how Obama is a Muslim (he's not), or about how Hillary refused to meet with a group of Gold Star mothers (a lie), or about how Senator McCain is going to make us the "United States of Mexico," please don't. I don't wish to hear jokes about Obama's name--that seems more than a little juvenile to me, and I suspect that most of OUR names sounded pretty funny to those who were here first. Is it really necessary to ridicule other cultures and other names? I don't care to hear about how Hillary is a PMS-ing witch with her finger on the nuke button. Hey--at 60 years old, I think she's post-menopausal, for Pete's sake! And regardless of how you feel about McCain's politics, he is a war veteran and he survived a POW camp, so give the guy some respect, okay? All three are also U.S. senators, and deserve some respect for that. If they screw things up, it's our job to vote them out, but I still believe that our elected officials deserve a little respect. (Bathroom stall, escort service, and intern incidents negate the whole "respect" thing, at least in my world.) 

I just want to smack each and every person who says, "I won't vote for so-and-so because they're [insert label here]." How about getting past whatever bias you have and focusing on what is wrong with our country, because there's plenty to fix. I appreciate any discourse and discussion with someone who wants to talk policy and issues, but I will automatically delete any forward or email that smacks of prejudice, hate, or ignorance. Grow up, America, and get past this, because we've got some work to do.



buckoclown said...

As we talk about, ignore the labels (race, gender, religious, and political party), and focus on the issues and the candidate's plans.

carouselqueen70 said...

I agree with you when you said that race should not be an issue. That is insane. People are still going to be shallow when it comes to that. I am German as well, mostly anyways. I also liked the book Odd Thomas.  I loved your entry and agreed with you totally.....Christine

mpnaz58 said...

AMEN, sister!!  Unfortunately, we as a country, as a society, are not past any of what you posted because people are ignorant and they REFUSE to see anything different than what they already THINK they know.  Ever watch kids play with eachother?  They know nothing of skin color, religion, where you come from or where you're going...they are so innocent.  Then they are influenced by their parents who were influenced by their parents who were influenced...well, you get the picture.  We put labels on everything and everyone, and if its different from what we believe...we say its wrong.  This probably sounds simple, but it starts with each one of us...I can't change anyone else, but I can control how I treat others.  You've already mentioned there are 4 of you, your parents, you and Ken(?)...count me in...hey, we've got a movement!!  
xoxo ~Myra

krmprm said...

Hi, there!
Are you leaving so soon?  Are you going to be in
touch via computer or is it to be a complete
hiatus from all of us in J-Land ?  (This is how
I must be sounding to my own daughter when
I am fretting about her being gone!) Just hope
you and Ken have a wonderful vacation and
come back rested and tanned.
I have gotten the political e-mails also. I say,
choose the President on his/her  views,  job
experiences,  voting record, and character
and let the rest be.  And pray for guidance,
of course.  Have a safe and happy vacation.

lurkynat said...

An excellent essay .
I would say that you are passoinate about the need to help people see the need for diversity in society.
Points are well taken, solid ground.
I would it mostly mesmerizing that you said that senator Obama spent the entire first to second half book talking about his coming to terms wiht his different racial origins; I mean what does this mean for us as a people if he himself has so many hurdles to overcome?
Secondly would you be interested in writing in my blog about his and any other issue? My blog is for the community.