By Judith Gayle | Political Waves
THIS NATION now has a presumptive nominee: Barack Obama. No matter where you stood on the race to nomination, you must admit that he has broken historical ground as the first African American in such an exalted position and that his proposed break with old political models is both welcomed and longed for. And although I fully appreciate the passions of Mrs. Clinton and her supporters, I was deeply disappointed that she did not resurrect the flagging legacy of the Clinton era or soften accusations of her personal ambition by giving a speech that reflected the reality of Obama's win. At the long-anticipated moment when a person of color crossed the lines of prejudice that has defined the underpinnings of our nation, and reflected back to us not only our intention to move forward into a new era but to unify in creating ourselves differently, Mrs. Clinton made it all about herself. I was hoping for graciousness; I got old politics. But if I was disappointed, it's my own fault -- I was wearing the majik glasses.
I have always loved science fiction; it seems odd to me that sci-fi enthusiasts are always thought of as geeks and nerds when they are, more likely, futurists and idealists. (OK -- maybe the ones that dress like Klingons every weekend are geeks and nerds.) Sci-fi has been a platform for discovery, not simply an imaginative device to explore possibilities but an accurate reflection of where we are as opposed to where we want to go; a genre in which discussions of morality take their rightful place as the driving narrative. In the early televised 60s offering, Star Trek
, James T. Kirk's Enterprise crew, reflected the end of racism, sexism and nationalism -- at the same time, the plot lines allowed us to chew on the concepts of territorial dispute, warfare, empiricism and colonization. We examined those problems under the fictional umbrella of Starfleet's Prime Directive
: interference with the internal affairs of other civilizations was forbidden. The interactions of crew and aliens bounced against General Order #1 provided, week after week, an allegory to our own problems of race relations, national bias and military aggression.
Having both read and watched sci-fi since childhood, I recall several plot lines that revolve around x-ray glasses: no, not the kind that render women naked beneath their clothes, although there were several of those stories as well. The glasses I'm speaking of showed you the alien or the reptile under the guise of human; that clarified both motive and intent by seeing through their cellular projections to get to the heart of them. Mini-morality plays like those of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek
, and novels like Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land
that dissected religion and sexuality, gave us a glimpse of our internal cultural workings in cartoon fashion, entertaining us while revealing us to ourselves. The context of majik glasses provides us an illustration of all we see but don't recognize; and while they clarify all that's wrong around us, they ask us to look down at our own hands, as well, looking for any hint of talons.
In these extraordinary times, it is our differences that inform us in this hour, even as it will be our similarities that will take us forward into the future. Each of us has majik glasses, if we'll wear them; each of us is seeing the chasm widen between political parties and ideologies, interest groups and activist organizations, even individuals -- some under our own roof. With Pluto backing up into Sagittarius for that last little goodbye, we will be hearing more from religion, as well; the smoke machine will briefly pump again (and just as we were breathing a bit more easily.) The Religious Right has given John McCain his own Rev. Jeremiah Wright
in Pastor John Hagee
, who has called the Catholic Church "the Great Whore" of Revelations, and has now declared that the antichrist is gay and at least partly Jewish; Jews, proposes Hagee, have "dead souls." While clearly worrisome to Jewish gays, that will take the pressure off Mr. Obama, I hope, although we can't count on that. The e-mails making the rounds defining HIM as the antichrist are hair-raising; if you put on your majik glasses when you read them, you can see the fear and loathing, racism and guilt, that drives them forward. Trust me, no amount of Snopes vetting
will dissuade the true believers from sending them to your inbox.
In my mind, I can hear Hillary Clinton's answer to such a question from the press. "Of course Barack Obama isn't the antichrist, as far as I know
." The chasm between political opponents has widened as well, between what is acceptable, what is tolerated, what is deemed innocent error and what appears to be calculated response. Is it cynical of me to assume that Mrs. Clinton's long list of gaffes is anything other than exhaustion from the campaign trail or slips of the lip? Before you answer that, put on your glasses, won't you? Hillary Clinton seems to believe that Barack Obama has no chance in hell of becoming the President, that he's unelectable and his message of hope for reformed politics is childish. I think it's also clear that she thinks it's her turn and wants to take her fight all the way to Denver, lest she leave the arena too soon to capitalize on an Obama stumble. As I look out over the political landscape, I'd prefer that she just say that, exactly that. Over the years, I've railed against the Bush machine and its obfuscations with the same wish: SAY you want the oil and you don't care about the casualties; SAY you plan to spy on the American public because you're worried that they may someday rise up against you
(and if you don't think that's true, consider the imaginative weapons
built to deal with protestors); SAY you don't care about the environment because it's yours to plunder as long as you're in office.
And sometimes, due to Bush's Freudian slips and flawed syntax, he's come close.
That's because all bets are off, you see; the last years of Bush's reign has proven that what is so glaringly wrong must eventually come to light. What we thought we'd never do, like torture and preemption, we do; what we were sure could never pass Congress, like an unread Patriot Act and billions upon billions of dollars in the pockets of corrupt crony contractors, has; what we thought could not be subverted, like the Rule of Law and the Constitution, has been not only messed with, but mauled. It should be no surprise that politics is dirty business, that gaffes are sometimes purposeful and that it's only going to get worse going forward. The old paradigm players will do whatever it takes to continue their grip. Now we will see the worst of racism and fear-mongering and stare across that great chasm of consciousness that separates the old from the new.
The Clinton campaign asserts that Hillary was taking a moment to let the smoke clear, to settle down her disappointed supporters and turn them toward unifying the party prior to her concession, expected sometime this weekend. I hope she does a good job; this race is for all the marbles. Still, I would feel better about that rationale if she hadn't invited her voters to tell her what they wanted her to do; the emotions of feminists across the nation are inflamed as they sense their moment slipping away. Erica Jong
, author of Fear of Flying
and ardent Clinton supporter, wrote this the day after Obama declared his nomination:
My best friend tells me that Hillary should have been gracious last night. Barack Obama was gracious. But isn't gratitude the prerogative of the winner? Will women ever be winners? And if so, when?
My own feeling is that if Obama wins the presidency, and it will take some (really dark) doing to lose it, he will have shattered both the color line AND the glass ceiling, much as the campaign did. Can anyone tell us, today, that Hillary Clinton didn't have the chops to take on John McCain? Not likely. It is breaking the barrier of what Mike Moore calls "Stupid White Men" that changes everything, historically. We will have a woman president, if not this season, then sometime soon; talent and character will increasingly be all that's important on a presidential resume.
Many more of us are wearing our glasses, these days. We are seeing more clearly, urging our brothers and sisters to come along into a future that puts fears away and asks for courage, that meets the needs of all equally. Those who are stuck in the comfort of (not stupidity, but) ignorance are only slightly less culpable than those who are cynical in their rhetoric, but neither is our enemy. At the very heart of Obama's message is the truth about us -- we are one people, one nation, one world; we have more in common than our fear walls have allowed us to acknowledge. Now is our time to scan the great chasm between our old belief system and the new one that is growing into form. We can never be one America if we believe that some cannot take their rightful place in it; we can never be one world if we insist that some are too evil and problematic to our wishes to participate. We can grow up; or we can continue to behave as willful children, frightened by monsters in the closet, beating our breasts in a hollow display of our imagined superiority and refusing to look at the actual problems that threaten our nation and planet.
So now, Mrs. Clinton aside, the campaign will move forward toward the most critical election I recall in my lifetime: and the differences between the visions of each party should be the entire focus of the moment and obvious to all
, but who can say. Some may decide to punish the Democrats for not giving them the one they supported, although that would be what my mom called "cutting off your nose to spite your face." Giving McCain a Democratic vote seems breathtakingly childish to me, and terribly unaware. I'm already disgusted with McCain on several levels, not the least of which is his inability to deliver a speech, which reminds me of someone running for Junior High class president. Halting, sputtering and pumping his fists furiously to punctuate his points, McCain speeches
are painful to listen to. And his points, of course, are tired and shop-worn; old arguments that we've seen dissolve as credible over the period of the last exceedingly difficult years. John McCain has only fear on his side to win his argument and buoy his supporters. We've had enough of that, haven't we?
Have we grown up enough to understand the actual emergency we face, or are we still blaming everyone else for the decline of our nation and our culture? Have we acknowledged the corporate takeover
in this nation that drives our markets and makes us slaves to our credit report? Have we given heed to the worker bee mentality of the military industrial complex
that has woven itself into our economy and culture? Are we mindful that this nation is prepared to intrude on any other nation that has the natural resources we lack? Are we pretending not to notice our growing imperialism
? Are we still grasping at straws, making enemies of those who oppose us, beating our tribal drums and expecting a hero (or heroine) to come along and rescue us?
Obama is an exceptional, talented candidate; but we must not behave like thrilled teens at a rock concert, rabid cheerleaders for the one who will save us, assigning all our hopes and wishes to this next guy who steps up to the plate. I support Obama because of what he MIGHT become in these extraordinary times; and I do believe he's the one with the potential to grow into an honest broker. So here's the question of the hour: do we want one? Our comfort has always lain in delusion; in the nationalistic mythology we embrace, the belief systems we chose over reality. We hear that voice in the cynical among us who don't believe Obama can accomplish what he's set himself to do. Others have tried before him to clean up Washington DC, and their legs have been cut out from under them; but its the times
, themselves, that may make this different than before. The series of emergencies and challenges awaiting the next president may impose themselves upon the reality of old politics very quickly, challenging us to bring our Better Angels into play sooner than later.
The path into the future is ours to create; if Mr. Obama is the one leading that parade, so much the better. He's been called a phenomenon, and that tells us something important: he's touched hearts and minds. To quote Larry Wilson, "Leadership is not a designated position; it's a phenomenon. It is people following people because they want to, not because they have to." As we face the months ahead, we need to look deeply into the darkness around us to see what we must stand up to, turn away from: we must throw our enthusiasm into a brighter intention for our nation and our world. It's up to us, now. Jam those majik glasses down on your nose and let's boldly go where no one has gone before