When I Need A Pick Me Up, by my friend Ryan King

Monday, October 27, 2008

One Wrong Reason Not To; "This American Life--10/26/08"

I named this blog after a show that I found Childhood Bud and I both liked to listen to, except I think he might listen far more than I do. The show is "This American Life." While driving between job locations yesterday (for I had went to work after a leisurely morning and found myself working between noon and 8pm), this "This American Life" episode rocked my socks off. It's an hour long and I want to quote the whole thing here, but I'll do my very best to summarize what stood out to me.

The show was about the campaigning for both McCain and Obama in Pennsylvania. The radio reporters doing the recording were hanging out with people that canvassed in a PA town known for Democrats and at the U of P state college. In the town, the campaigners were Democrats who, after Hilary had not gotten the nod, were voting for McCain and wanted to convert undecided Democrats to the same positon. The campaigners at the state college were Democrats registering students and urging them to vote for Obama. A third segment was about the Union AFL-CIO's support of Obama, and Richard Trumka's address to Union members about racial issues.

Until that point, I thought the show was just going to major on the virtues of the Obama ticket, as all good lefty radio is bound to do, but then the AFL-CIO brought up race, and the whole message turned for me. It made me realize that although I haven't allowed myself to stay naive about racial issues, I had decided not to put the magnifying glass on the issue. I had decided to focus on the white support of Obama and take comfort from it.

Well this episode pushed it all in my face yesterday and I just wanted to give the readers here a chance to be exposed to the same information.

Highlights (or Darklights);
1) One of the Democrats knocking on doors to sway undecided Dems to vote for McCain was a black male. It was put to him by a member of a family at one of these homes why he wasn't supporting Obama, since he was a black male Democrat. His answer was that he did want to see a black man in the White House, but he hoped it would be at another time in his life because he thought McCain was the better choice at the moment. I was confounded. The man sounded young. He must think there's plenty of time in his life for this opportunity to rise again if Obama loses. I hope to God he's right, but personally--I want it NOW, while the opportunity IS RIGHT FREAKING HERE RIGHT FREAKING NOW. Oh my God! It's like walking up to a pile of a million dollars, and when given the chance to take it you say, "Well, no actually, I like the earnings I make right now. But hopefully some day, I'll find another pile of a million dollars, and I'd be glad to take it at that time--provided all the conditions are right..." WTF?!?

2) The best recruiter in the segment with the state college seemed really obsessed. Almost as a personality flaw. But her technique was the best. She went everywhere on campus to get kids registered. She went to tailgate parties, she was at the games, she was at frat parties where she could hardly hear herself. She never took no for an answer. but one guy, a drunkish frat boy, had a little surprise for her. He showed her (as described by the audio reporter tailing her) his cellphone which had a little animation of Obama's face turning into a monkey. The boy then slurs, "This is what we think of him around here!" The recruiter went directly to another group and continued her dogged pursuit of registering kids. But the radio reporter jumped into a lull in her work to ask her what she thought of that boy's cellphone display. The girl paused, and then her voice grew shaky. She said that she couldn't let that get to her or else it would destroy the energy she had to do her job. The more she spoke, the more upset she sounded though. In a few more seconds, she was heard bawling. The radio reporter said it was because of all the pressure and exhaustion. But I wanted to bawl my damn self. The boy was a student at a college. And to him, one of America's youth, this is an acceptable joke or display of opinion? In 2008 A.D.?!? IN TODAY'S GENERATION?!?!?!?! WTF?!!!!!!

3) The AFL-CIO segment brought due attention to many people who answered by phone about who they were going to vote for, being Union members and Democrats. The show focused on those who answered the canvassers by saying, "Definitely not Obama!" Some said it was because he was a Muslim. Eventually they admitted it was because he was black. Some said they weren't going to vote for "no f**kin' nigger." To me, the most haunting testimony came from a Union phone recruiter who discovered that a co-worker and friend wasn't going to vote for Obama because of his color, and the recruiter never knew that about his friend. The recruiter, a white guy, tells how he tried to reason with his friend, also a white guy, but his friend kept revealing how threatened and hostile he felt being around so many blacks and having to see his kids playing with so many blacks at the school, and how if Obama got in "Jesse Jackson would become one of his advisers and next thing you knew Al Sharpton would be in the White House too." Yeah, right next to Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice, you forkin' DOUCHENOZZLE. This phone canvasser sounded devastated to discover that his friend, even though they both worked with blacks and ate lunch with blacks, had this mindset.

So now, here is that Richard Trumka video the show talks about;
The most important thing I've heard come out of this segment was the presence of advertisements which said the following "There are many reasons to vote for Barack Obama for President of the United States. But there is one wrong reason not to."

These were the fears I've harbored--oh--I think---all of my life. Yeah. All my life. That the unseen nooks and crannies of the world harbored dark and vitriolic thoughts like these and it would affect me based on nothing I could control or even want to. Things that would see me stomped to death in an alley somwhere.

Another thing said out of the AFL-CIO segment was that this race situation was a thing that was "a two-hundred year-old wound with a sixty year-old scab" and I whooped in my car when he said that. Because it's so true. And I've known this all my life.

But I will still choose to focus on the thing that brings me hope.

DESPITE the truth of this report from Pennsylvania's nooks and crannies, Obama is leading in the polls. He is getting equal airtime. He is a contender. A serious candidate which all my white friends who do not want him to win are all saying they think he will win.

Despite the hatred and ignorance that so many Americans still harbor (and oh my dear sweet Jesus GOD will it EVER stop?!?!) Barack Obama is a black man who this country has "allowed" and accepted to rise to the prominence he has today. A man who in two short weeks may very well become the nation's President. A black American man who all the planet Earth has noticed.

I don't think I can ever make my white friends know how important this is to me personally, but I can only do my best to represent it in this post and hope the right eyes read it. Meanwhile, I urge you to listen to this weekend's "This American Life". Put the information in your heads for future discussion. Let it sharpen your own thoughts about race in America. Let the next sixty years pass with even MORE advancement and even MORE dissolution of hate and fear and ignorance. For the love of all that is literally Holy.

Do it for me.


GrizzBabe said...

I may have mentioned this here before. Or maybe not. But I actually had a co-worker tell me that she won't vote for Obama because she thought he was the anti-christ. She was serious as a heart attack. I think all this muslim, anti-christ talk is code for "I'm afraid to vote for a black man".

We've come a long way, Alan, (obviously) but we still have a long way to go. There are a lot of well-meaning white people harboring negative ideas about black people and they don't even realize it.

Alan said...

That's exactly a point that the AFL-CIO rep made. The phone canvasser guy was "on the fence" about who to vote for until he heard Richard Trumka speak--then he had to ask himself, if he could eliminate Obama's race, who would he rather win the election? He admitted to himself, if they both were white then he would have voted for Obama. Ever since then, he's been campaigning for Obama.

But even with all the stones turning over and all the scabby, crawly undersides being exposed--Obama still might really actually win. There may be enough of the "majority" who can ignore his race and make him their President. Or maybe enough that love his race, and will make him their President. Either one works for me.

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Alan said...

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That's right, I said it.

Eliel Mamousette said...

A few perspectives, Alan, that I think you've missed with regards to race:

In some ways, Barack Obama's candidacy has already exposed the changed landscape for race relations (at least in politics) amongst the young. The black fellow in point #1, has grown up in a generation where he feels that he can decide whether or not to vote for the Democratic candidate not based on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character. To say that "McCain is the better choice at the moment" (while to me wrong-headed based on the facts at hand), at least says that perhaps this kid just plain believes that everyone should be treated equally, and that at the end of the day, their policies are all that matter. That he's found the Republican vision more compelling at this time. That's how I will choose to take his comments. That lets me know hope.

Second, the Obama campaign's huge support amongst African-American's shows proves that most of us will not just vote the one who looks most like us. How? Look at the numbers of supporters that Barack had in the primary, then look back at what Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, or Alan Keyes got. Our people read the news. Yes, there are some low information voters on all sides going along with the wave, but the breadth of support for this candidate is too wide to chalk it up to just "votin' for the brutha, nah'mean?".

Finally, Barack is winning not just because he's got the most inspiring message, but because he's running a campaign the likes of which have never been seen before.

When he took down the presumed democratic nominee by defeating Hilary Clinton, I understood that I had not been paying attention to what was really going on. He doesn't just have the better policy and vision, he's got the better political machine that he's grown by picking the best strategists and advisers out there.

My hope, and I presume that of those of us who are excited to go pull the lever for him next Tuesday, is that he will continue to surround himself with the best and the brightest.

Think back a few weeks to penultimate debate. When your opponent in a debate is asked who they think would be a good person to help figure out the financial crisis, and the first name out of his mouth is one of your advisers (Warren Buffet), then what better case can you make that you are the nation's best hope to find it's way out of the valley of shadows we are currently in?

And second-finally: In the end, we do owe Hilary Clinton a debt of gratitude. By staying in the race, she did force the Obama campaign to ramp up it's 50-state strategy. The fruits of which are paying off now. A Democrat might actually win Georgia!

Alan said...

Nice, Eliel! I like the way you said that. So you heard the show this weekend?

And you do get my whole perspective, right? The most valuable thing is exactly as you've quoted "vote for the Democratic candidate not based on the color of his skin, but on the content of his character." And yeah. based on that, I can give that young brother a pass.

But me, I'm not young. That young boy has not been waiting as long as I have, and he's not experienced as much racism as I have (by sheer span of life, not because I've been in meaner places). So him, he can wait. For me--I don't want to.