Thursday, August 28, 2008

Story Number 3

What does it mean to be American? I have spent a large chunk of my life feeling un-American. As an immigrant child I spent much of my years trying to understand what this new home was: to understand its history, people, language, music, experience and dreams. Today I call America my home, but I would not call myself American unless I leave the country, unless I was surrounded by people who ask me to define myself by my legal citizenship status as a U.S. citizen. Does that mean I identify myself with the American dream, with American music, with the American experience, with American people? Arundhati Roy made an interesting comment, she said that if American politicians think that certain parts of the world hate Americans do they mean: the imperialist American foreign policy agenda, or do they mean rock n' roll, Hollywood, Martin Luther King, SF Pride? (in my words)

And for this reason, I do not think Obama represents America in its entirety. Rather I think Barack and John represent two competing identities in American society

Obama to me is a manifestation of the opportunities this country has to offer. Obama is a vision of what equality, justice, and law should bring to a population. Obama represents the best of what America is, what America strives to be. But he is not the America that John McCain represents, which is the America that will sell its soul and the lives of others to make a profit. Barack Obama is the America that gave me a world class education at UC Berkeley for a comparatively inexpensive price. John McCain is the America which takes away funding from the University of California, making the ladder that much longer for students unable to afford college. Barack Obama is the urban forestry organization I work for in Oakland that provides employment in an economically depressed neighborhood and empowers residents through tree planting. John McCain is the City Council Member who supported big business at the expense of this small non-profit. Barack Obama is the federal legislation that funded the mentoring program I volunteered for where I met a child and saved a life. John McCain is the America that cuts funding for my mentee's high school so her salaried teachers will be replaced by temporary substitute teachers. Barack Obama is the America which creates hope and opportunity. John McCain is the America that throws people away. I think this election is a fundamental battle between these two competing aspects of American identity.

This is why I believe this election is not just about Barack and John, its chaos and war vs. peace and unity.


Anonymous said...

so wait... what you're saying is that
obama = good
mccain = bad?

Anonymous said...

dear anonymous,

I have spent much time thinking about your comment as it is a pressing and important one.

I do not believe McCain is bad, but i think he represents the wrong policies, the wrong choices, and the wrong direction for the future of this country.

In pressing times, the right course of action can be the difference between peace and total chaos. Pacifism if it is the wrong action at the wrong time can lead to chaos and war. Simply by not engaging in battle if a leader does not address the root of a problem, inaction can cause greater conflict.

Case in point, the failure of the European nations to act in 1939 when Hitler invade Luxembourg enabled him to gain weaponry, training and become an almost unstoppable force. Action in 1939 would have resulted in a small skirmish that ended Hitler, failure to act in the appropriate manner resulted in World War II, resulted in the deaths of 21 million soldiers. Strong leadership and direction is necessary to promote peace not specific actions such as aggression or pacifism.

For this reason I believe that, while McCain may not be evil, his stance on foreign and domestic policy are not suited for the times ahead. Based on his past voting record, and on what he has said so far regarding his foreign and domestic policy, I do equate John McCain with a more flexible George Bush presidency: a presidency that pushes benefits for large corporations (hoping those benefits will trickle down to the rest of the population); continued aggression in foreign policy - possibly starting a new war with North Korea, Iran, or an endless engagement in Iraq; little to no improvement of domestic social programs such as elementary thru high school and college education (a policy which has actually resulted in substantial cuts in education - Federal subsidies of the University of California have gone down by over 33% in the last decade); even his stance on immigration is a failed stance because it seeks to simply block a problem as opposed to cutting out the root (failure to address how America's imperialist economic and foreign policy in Latin America has contributed to increasing poverty and chaos will simply increase the number of immigrants seeking to make a better life for themselves). And the list goes on.

John McCain may have made a good president in the 1980's when America needed a president to be tough on foreign policy, as Ronald Reagan was. But even this famous American president's policies have lead to significant problems. Bush II has lead to significant problems abroad and domestically, but even Reagan and Bush I helped to engineer a system that is now failing. An economic policy pushed by both Reagan and Bush I forced the free market down the throats of third world nations deeply in debt has lead to a world divided into two extremes of the really rich 1%, the really poor 70%. Reaganomics domestically lead to greater concentration of wealth in the wealthiest and a shrinking middle class. Today's problems are not simply the fault of George Bush they are the product of an attitude that progressively strengthened the rich at the expense of the poor and divided this nation and the world abroad. John McCain's policies and attitudes reflect a 2008 version of these fundamental approaches to foreign and domestic policy. And in this way, I believe John McCain represents the America that throws people away.

During a time of recession, rising chaos in the international arena, a hatred of America abroad, a hatred of America internally, a nation divided by politics, race, and class. We are sorely in need of unity and transformation. Not only does McCain represent politics and policy from failed era, but simply the way he has run his candidacy for President indicates his failure to unite Americans. Instead he seeks to ride of the back of divisions to win his presidency. Instead of engaging Obama's politics and policies but respecting him as a statesmen, McCain compared him to Britney Spears trying to show his incompetency. And this list also goes on.

While McCain may be trying to build a policy that he thinks will strengthen America, wrong politics at the wrong time has the great potential to lead to war and chaos internally and externally.

I could go on, but I will stop there for now, please feel free to engage me in discussion.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

i think one of the major points being made here is that this is not an argument as simple as the candidates being 'good' or 'bad'. the conversation can't just be boiled down to that or a lot of important issues will be lost in properly understanding the impacts that an obama or a mccain presidency would have on this country.