Every night before we go to bed, my daughters and I talk about our worst and best parts of the day. Today, we all agreed that the best part was watching Michelle Obama’s warm and passionate speech, and then seeing her girls come onto the stage. As a mom, I felt we were experiencing a piece of history together…
The fact that today a smart, articulate, beautiful and accomplished black woman from the South side of Chicago stood before seasoned politicians, an audience of men and women, of whites, blacks, Latinos (and did you see the Indian sardar on CNN!), and addressed the world on national television, to celebrate the accomplishments of American society through her own story, is something to be proud about.
When she spoke about being at the crossroads of a woman’s right to vote and the anniversary of Martin Luther Kings “I Have a Dream” speech, Michelle Obama recognized the accomplishments of the so many leaders that came before her. Most importantly, she set a tone of dignity and a reminder of what we are capable of as a humanity.
“And as I tuck that little girl and her little sister into bed at night, I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they – and your sons and daughters – will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming. How this time, in this great country – where a girl from the South Side of Chicago can go to college and law school, and the son of a single mother from Hawaii can go all the way to the White House – we committed ourselves to building the world as it should be.”
As a mom, I was grateful that my daughters heard the words of gratitude, hope, and pride from Michelle Obama. As I tucked my daughters in tonight, Michelle Obama’s powerful, personal words indeed echoed in our home…
An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question: Advise John McCain and Barack Obama on the role religion should play in their presidential campaigns.
This will be a short response: I’d advise both candidates the same way. Don’t mention religion a single time in the upcoming campaign. Various reverends and pastors have already embarrassed both McCain and Obama, proving that the clergy is even more fickle than the general public. (The fact that these reverends and pastors throw in their private brand of anti-Semitism, reverse racism, social paranoia, apocalyptic fantasies, and other flavors of kookism is even more embarrassing and offensive.) Courting the Christian right worked for the Republican party because the Democrats largely left the field open. Their distaste for wooing fundamentalists was well-founded and remains well-founded.
Religion is a divisive subject, and the founding fathers were wise to dampen its effect on government. Obama had every right to expect a smooth endorsement from his pastor, whom he regarded as a mentor and a friend, but the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was so dazzled by the limelight — and the scent of political influence — that he grossly overstepped the bounds of the pulpit. On the right, preachers overstep that boundary and regularly get away with it. They shouldn’t. God does not send a signal through any messenger that one candidate is more worthy than another, and anyone who claims to be such a messenger is a fraud. As for Jesus, the Lamb of God is silent on political matters. Take your cue from him, if you need one.
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The saddest part about the period of sleepwalking that the U.S. has experienced over the past eight years is that we don’t have to return to the status quo before Bush was elected. History can move forward to the benefit of America, but only if we recognize that some uneasy trends cannot be reversed. The reactionary backlash that allowed the neocon vision to take hold has been disastrous. Since it was based on cherished illusions, there’s a strong chance that the voting public might be seduced by McCain’s promise of “no surrender” and the promotion of old-fashioned nationalism backed up with overwhelming military threat.
Those illusions need to die, and with them another that prevails on the economic front.
5. The illusion that America and the free market are synonymous. Fifty years ago the slogan “What’s good for GM is good for America” was at best a half truth (was it good for women, blacks, and immigrants?), but today, in the guise of the free market, the same shibboleth lives on. Capitalism prevails as a system that once vied, supposedly, with Communism for world dominance, yet its deep flaws remain. Three come to mind. Capitalism discourages equal access to wealth, leading to enormous gaps between rich and poor. The free market lacks a conscience, giving rise to inequalities of education, health care, and job opportunities. Finally, capitalism if unchecked promotes corruption, both economic and political. In the wake of Tom DeLay’s corrupt selling of Congress to the highest bidder, the collapse of Enron, and the untrammeled greed that led to the current subprime mortgage crisis, these flaws should be glaringly obvious. They always existed, and yet the illusion of the free market as a godsend and purveyor of all good things persists.
A wealthy society isn’t automatically a society without a conscience. The free market’s flaws — which are more than its excesses, the usual term for it — can be ameliorated. By promoting socialism and Communism as the twin evils that keep the goodness of free markets from flowing, the right wing deals in sheer illusion. Social planning exists in many countries and many beneficial forms, from successful mass transit in Europe to Brazil’s independence from fossil fuels. The U.S. is addicted to overconsumption and the ethos of unregulated wealth. It’s the robber baron philosophy, with some amendments, all over again. One does not have to claim that the chickens came home to roost in the current economic crunch. In good times and bad society needs to distribute its benefits fairly, to treat every citizen in good conscience, and to promote general well-being, not just the indulgence of the wealthiest.
Under the spell of free market virtue, this country has seen stagnation in benefits, economic and social, even to the middle class, not to mention the poor, whose interests have largely been ignored. Without returning to the welfare state, we need to devise a modified capitalism that encourages humane attitudes over selfish ones. There are many signs that all of the illusions I’ve recounted are weakening, but choices remain open. The best any citizen can do is to promote the new realism that wants to emerge. Reversing history is a toxic dream. Moving ahead is the only option that favors everyone’s well-being in the long run.
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