" /> Lee Feigenbaum's Life in Words: January 2008 Archives

« November 2007 | Main | February 2008 »

January 14, 2008

Race and Gender and Historic Awareness

Today was marked by evolving news stories detailing the bickering between Senators Obama and Clinton's campaigns over who is injecting race or gender as a campaign issue and about how inappropriate such behavior would be. The two campaigns seem to take great pains in subtly alluding to the chances of Senator Clinton to be our first female president and of Senator Obama to be our first African American president while at the same time explicitly decrying the idea that race or gender should matter.

But why not? It will be historic if 2009 sees the inauguration of either President Obama or President (Hillary) Clinton. It will be a moment of pride and progress in the history of the United States. There aren't many moments in a lifetime when we can sit back and know that we're watching something unfold that history will remember and will smile upon, and the ascent of either President Clinton or President Obama would be such a moment.

And we shouldn't need to fear the demagoguery that tells us that we are shallow if we consider race or gender in casting our votes this November. Americans, by and large, are not simple. Americans go to the polls and there are a wide range of factors that drive their decision. For one person, it might be her fear of having a job outsourced combined with a fierce belief in 2nd amendment rights and concern about rising health insurance premiums. Another might choose a candidate based on a desire to see our troops in Iraq brought home safely, balanced against a belief in a tight federal fiscal policy and strong convictions that abortion should be the choice of a woman, her loved ones, and her doctors. And yet another American might draw on his religious faith tempered with the desire to see more federal funds allocated to basic science research and renewable energy sources. The media talks about single issues as if they are decisive in and of themselves; this is not entirely incorrect, as campaign strategists and the media alike are dealing with large population groups, far more easily understandable via profiles that approximate the group as a whole, rather than via the kaleidoscope of individual concerns that drive each of us to make our own decisions.

If we elect Senator Obama this November, history will not deride voters for electing a candidate because of his race. Nor will we need to shamefully defend a decision to vote for a candidate "just because she was a woman" if we elect Senator Clinton. We needn't fear talking about historic moments and acknowledging them to ourselves and to the world. I wish that Senator Obama would stand up on his stump one day and proudly explain that he has a vision for our country, he has a platform and policies to implement that vision, and he has the leadership experience to guide this country for the next eight years. And then, I'd like to see him acknowledge the humility that he'd feel being sworn in as America's first African American president. I'd like to hear Senator Clinton's pride in the possibility of breaking the biggest glass ceiling that exists in this country and of her excitement at the opportunity to demonstrate that a woman can be just as good (if not better) a president and commander-in-chief as the 43 male presidents that preceded her.

And maybe if this happened it would reach out to people. Maybe some black students across the country would see that we live in a generation in this country that is slowly but surely becoming more welcoming to racial minorities. Maybe some teenage girls throughout America would realize that it's ok to embrace their gender and to strive to succeed because they are female, rather than instead of it.

I know that there are a lot of pragmatic concerns with what I'm suggesting. There are still strong pockets of racist and sexist stereotypes that run deep within parts of our country's social fabric. And many of us think that the price of failure--a presidency by the name of McCain or Romney or Huckabee or Giuliani or Thompson--would be devastating. But success could be equally monumental. We can embrace this historic opportunity upfront and with a loud voice. We can actively and eagerly chase a progressive step towards equality for all in both actions and attitudes. And we may never have this good a chance again. Let's take advantage of it.

January 6, 2008

Without Missing a Beat

Lynn: How long has my brother been abroad?

Lee: Hmm? He's been a guy as long as I've known him...


(Yes, I haven't blogged in a long time. A great pun is just the way to get back on the horse. Maybe.)