Archive for November, 2008

Reason #1: Obama’s Dream Team

November 4, 2008

Brotha’s on the street / and everyone is scared a ya
So how could ten africans represent america?

Remember the Dream Team in the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics? The USA Basketball team, for the first time composed of NBA players, swept the gold. On the team were some of the world’s greatest players ever:

Start with three of the game’s all-time greats: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Add the irrepressible Charles Barkley for a little spice, as well as seven more NBA All-Stars: centers David Robinson and Patrick Ewing, power forward Karl Malone, swingmen Scottie Pippen, Chris Mullin and Clyde Drexler and point guard John Stockton. Complete the roster with Christian Laettner, the best college player of 1991-92 and a future NBA All-Star.

The Dream Team was amazing on the court, but as Michael Franti of the hip hop/funk band Spearhead notes, “in the same year we saw Rodney King.” In asking how “ten africans can represent america,” he calls out persistent racial politics in the USA and proposes his own “dream team” of politically active, socially engaged black americans who have made their marks (publicly recognized or not) on history.

Who’s on Franti’s Dream Team? Here are some of the lyrics from the song (and click here to listen):

Well Chuck D’s announcin’/ Flava’s doin’ color
Halftime enterntainment by Dre and Ed Lover
Malcolm X is the coach he’s drawin’ up the strategy
He’s choppin up America’s anatomy
’cause they’re the ones/ we’re up against of course
Our general manager is Chief Crazy Horse
Huey Newton/ ’cause he was extra hard
He’s the one/ who would be playin at the shootin’ guard
I dreamed Charles Barkley would be
Played by Marcus Garvey
He’d be throwin people off his back and makin
Sure they never got a rebound rebound / and
He’d throw it to the outlet
Nat Turner/ ’cause he can turn the corner when
He’s out there
He be flyin through the air/ throwin passes like
He really doesn’t care/behind the back /and in
Between the legs
He’s handlin the rock /as gently as an egg
He’s throwin it in/ to Angela Davis’s neighborhood
She’s postin up down in the extra hard wood
She grabs the pill/ and then she puts her shoulder down
Get out the way/ ’cause she’s gonna throw down now
Boom /oh my god! i just can’t believe it
Get anotha backboard or bettah yet leave it.
We always play for fun /but we always play for keeps
The game is over and the loser’s gotta sweep.
Up the glass/ that we busted in the ass
Set the record straight /about america’s past
This is my dream team.

Sister Rosa Parks is the first one off the bench. And Dr. King? He rotates in.

If only some of these people were alive to see today. To see Barack Obama as the Democratic candidate for the office of President of the United States of America. And even though there is still much work to be done, to see how far this country has come.

In “Daring to Dream of a Black President,” celebrated poet Maya Angelou brings this home with her comments:

I never thought I’d see a black president in the White House in my lifetime. I didn’t even dare dream it. I feel like a child approaching Christmas, you can’t believe election day is finally here. It’s been so long since we’ve had people — Asian and black, white and Spanish-speaking — come together and say YES. Some did during the civil rights struggle but not as many as today. What it means if Mr Obama is voted in, is that my country has agreed to grow up, and move beyond the childish idea that human beings are different.

Samuel Jackson speaks out too:

It’s not just about what an Obama victory will mean to the African American community, it’s for the nation in general. It means something for the little Asian kid, or the little Hispanic kid, for everybody of a different origin than Anglo-American. It actually means that the lie that they told us all these years — that you can grow up to be anything you want to be in America, even the president — might actually be true now. Until this election, it was just a fantasy — you had to be white to be president. The closest we got to it was when Jimmy Smits was elected president on the West Wing or Morgan Freeman being president on screen.

Stevie Wonder calls Obama a “combination of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr.” As Ta-Nehisi Coates muses in Time magazine—–right now “the most famous black man in America isn’t dribbling a basketball or holding a microphone.” Instead, he is running for President.

So, what would Obama’s Dream Team look like?

Obama himself says that it would be bipartisan.

Given the vast network of supporters Obama has across the political parties, there is no shortage of excellent candidates for him to draw upon. Foreign Policy magazine solicited “Dream Team” cabinets for the next president from pundits of all political persuasions, and got some thoughtful and creative replies.

Want to see who’s supposedly being considered? Check out this list of potential nominees from “sources close” to the Obama campaign.

Sitting here in Colorado while the country votes (its roughly 2 pm mountain time), I feel a sense of anticipation, enthusiasm, and energy unlike anything I’ve experienced before in my twenty years of voting in presidential elections (R.I.P. Dukakis 1988). There is a groundswell of support for Obama that is both humbling and inspiring. Change is not just coming. No matter the outcome of the election, change is already here.

The last word before election results are in goes to the rapper Jay-Z. He says:

Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so that Obama could run. Obama’s running so that we all can fly. I can’t wait until 5 November and I’m going to say ‘Hello, Brother President’. I can’t tell you who to vote for. All I can do is tell you to vote.

Here we go, flying at last.

-Carole, mother of two, proudly wearing her Hockey Mama for Obama shirt today, and hoping and praying that our collective dreams are converted to reality tonight, Gunbarrel, Colorado

Reason #2: For Voices Like Sister Regina

November 3, 2008

Yesterday I said goodbye to my uncle and aunt after a family wedding over the weekend. As they drove away, I caught a glimpse of a small card they had hanging from their rear view mirror. I took a second look somewhat incredulously – there was Barack hanging proudly from the rear view mirror!

This got me to thinking about how this guy, who stands on the cusp of being elected to our presidency – hopefully – tomorrow, has managed to inspire voices from around the country, as well as the world to shout, speak, sing, and even cry out in support. How did Obama, in essence, come to adorn people’s rear view mirrors?

Sure, there have been some  oratory displays on issues that have long plagued our country, like race, that will surely go down in history. There have also been a sound political platform and promises of change.

But the excitement I’m seeing in the streets and cafes and airports and universities clearly trancends these essential aspects of a campaign. People are literally moved to tears over the raw emotion Obama evokes.

I’m betting the Obama mystique represents something much bigger. I’m betting it represents not only him having a voice and presenting policies we more or less agree with. I’m betting, on a larger scale, that Obama represents – more than ever before in our lifetimes – the possibility that you and I and our neighbors and friends might actually become part of a new progressive majority that is able to be heard amidst the cacophony of that complex and monolithic thing we call government (remember those community organizing roots that Palin bashed as unimportant). That would be a change. And that possibility is what is making people cry (and we’re talking public figures like Oprah, Chris Matthews, and Drew Barrymore, but also regular folks who attend his rallies).

Now this won’t come without a price, my friends (said in my best McCain accent). Here’s what Obama is asking of us from this point forward, if he gets into the White House.

First of all, he’s demanding that people wake up and pay attention to the world around them (remember that bumper sticker we’ve all probably seen, “if you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention!). Never before have I heard people debate the issues surrounding a presidential campaign in such an involved and impassioned way. Obama inspires this, he challenges us to get off our arses and get involved. But that can only happen when you have a clue what you’re getting involved in.

Secondly, Obama demands that we laugh at ourselves. Sometimes even in public. Never before have we had a presidential candidate inspire so much attention from our mainstream public media outlets. He dances. He sings – in Spanish. He appears on comedy shows. His performances even demanded that McCain and Palin meet him on this turf (click here to view – or read – that famous moose rap again!). This has certainly added some levity to a very long campaign. But more importantly, it helps take that mystery out of the people we have running for office in order to run our country. Beyond seeing them in debates and giving scripted stump speeches, we see them, to a degree, as people. People who can laugh at themselves.

Finally, after inspiring us to get educated, and to laugh at ourselves, Obama demands that we take to the streets. That we participate in whatever level we want to – from our neighborhoods to our world community, with everything in between. Sure, tomorrow holds promise for record numbers of voters. But, even more importantly, it holds promise for an involvement – that begins tomorrow – from those who haven’t been heard before. And that, my friends (yeah, I’m not letting John take that line from me) is powerful.

So, let me fill you in on the reason behind the Obama car ornament. Sure, my relatives (well, at least some of them) are voting for Obama. But here’s why they hung him up to accompany them on their drive. My uncle writes:

My uncle writes:
“The Obama picture hanging from the rear view mirror has a history—doesn’t everything! When Jean (my Aunt) was recovering from breast cancer she became friends with a Mercy Sister—Sister Regina Gnoit—she also had breast cancer and was in recovery.

Regina was a person on the cutting edge of most movements. Every Sunday she would go to the Art Institute on Michigan Ave in Chicago and carry a picket sign—for anything and everything—against poverty, the Iraq War, Bush; Death Penalty ; etc. etc.

This past spring Sister Regina became very ill. She wrote personally to Barack. She got a very nice note back signed by Barack and Michelle Obama. Regina made many of the pictures for her friends. She tried her hardest to live to vote for Barack—she died about 6 weeks ago.

Thus the picture.

Regina was one of a kind.”

So tomorrow as you take to the streets to vote or canvas, as you get yourself to work, and see those around you holding signs, many for the first time, think about participation. Some folks, like Sister Regina standing on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, have been at this for a long time. Others will begin tomorrow. Perhaps inspired by Obama. Because behind the rhetoric and the hype, he represents something that more than ever before is now a possibility. Your voice.

What do you want to say?

____

As a postscript to this post, I just received the latest Obama video. It couldn’t be more appropriate for my message above. Check it out here. Then ladies, men, children… lace up your skates, and head out on the rink. Sure, it will be slippery. If you fall your butt might get a little wet on those spots the Zamboni just passed over. But there will be guard rails, and your teammates, to help you along.

Take your shot at the goal – vote Obama!

– Colleen, mother of three in Boulder, Colorado who thinks it would be the highest compliment ever to be described as “being at the front of most movements.”

#3: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror

November 2, 2008

The time has come to end the war in Iraq responsibly.  To end it with dignity, with compassion, and with the greatest respect for life of all involved—soldiers, civilians, everyone.

Barack Obama is ready with a plan to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.  And, he’s ready to begin serious discussions of what new plans we need for addressing al Qaeda and Afghanistan.

As with so many other issues in this election, political observers across party lines have taken notice.  In Time magazine, Joe Klein writes about Obama’s meeting with General Petraeus as engaged, serious, and respectful.

General David Petraeus deployed overwhelming force when he briefed Barack Obama and two other Senators in Baghdad last July. He knew Obama favored a 16-month timetable for the withdrawal of most U.S. troops from Iraq, and he wanted to make the strongest possible case against it. And so, after he had presented an array of maps and charts and PowerPoint slides describing the current situation on the ground in great detail, Petraeus closed with a vigorous plea for “maximum flexibility” going forward.

Obama had a choice at that moment. He could thank Petraeus for the briefing and promise to take his views “under advisement.” Or he could tell Petraeus what he really thought, a potentially contentious course of action — especially with a general not used to being confronted. Obama chose to speak his mind. “You know, if I were in your shoes, I would be making the exact same argument,” he began. “Your job is to succeed in Iraq on as favorable terms as we can get. But my job as a potential Commander in Chief is to view your counsel and interests through the prism of our overall national security.” Obama talked about the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, the financial costs of the occupation of Iraq, the stress it was putting on the military.

A “spirited” conversation ensued, one person who was in the room told me. “It wasn’t a perfunctory recitation of talking points. They were arguing their respective positions, in a respectful way.” The other two Senators — Chuck Hagel and Jack Reed — told Petraeus they agreed with Obama. According to both Obama and Petraeus, the meeting — which lasted twice as long as the usual congressional briefing — ended agreeably. Petraeus said he understood that Obama’s perspective was, necessarily, going to be more strategic. Obama said that the timetable obviously would have to be flexible. But the Senator from Illinois had laid down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war — an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly) — Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.

At The Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan lists his Top Ten Reasons Conservatives Should Vote for Obama, and Reason #1 on his list (below) is The War Against Islamicist Terror.

10. A body blow to racial identity politics. An end to the era of Jesse Jackson in black America.

9. Less debt. Yes, Obama will raise taxes on those earning over a quarter of a million. And he will spend on healthcare, Iraq, Afghanistan and the environment. But so will McCain. He plans more spending on health, the environment and won’t touch defense of entitlements. And his refusal to touch taxes means an extra $4 trillion in debt over the massive increase presided over by Bush. And the CBO estimates that McCain’s plans will add more to the debt over four years than Obama’s. Fiscal conservatives have a clear choice.

8. A return to realism and prudence in foreign policy. Obama has consistently cited the foreign policy of George H. W. Bush as his inspiration. McCain’s knee-jerk reaction to the Georgian conflict, his commitment to stay in Iraq indefinitely, and his brinksmanship over Iran’s nuclear ambitions make him a far riskier choice for conservatives. The choice between Obama and McCain is like the choice between George H.W. Bush’s first term and George W.’s.

7. An ability to understand the difference between listening to generals and delegating foreign policy to them.

6. Temperament. Obama has the coolest, calmest demeanor of any president since Eisenhower. Conservatism values that kind of constancy, especially compared with the hot-headed, irrational impulsiveness of McCain.

5. Faith. Obama’s fusion of Christianity and reason, his non-fundamentalist faith, is a critical bridge between the new atheism and the new Christianism.

4. A truce in the culture war. Obama takes us past the debilitating boomer warfare that has raged since the 1960s. Nothing has distorted our politics so gravely; nothing has made a rational politics more elusive.

3. Two words: President Palin.

2. Conservative reform. Until conservatism can get a distance from the big-spending, privacy-busting, debt-ridden, crony-laden, fundamentalist, intolerant, incompetent and arrogant faux conservatism of the Bush-Cheney years, it will never regain a coherent message to actually govern this country again. The survival of conservatism requires a temporary eclipse of today’s Republicanism. Losing would be the best thing to happen to conservatism since 1964. Back then, conservatives lost in a landslide for the right reasons. Now, Republicans are losing in a landslide for the wrong reasons.

1. The War Against Islamist terror. The strategy deployed by Bush and Cheney has failed. It has failed to destroy al Qaeda, except in a country, Iraq, where their presence was minimal before the US invasion. It has failed to bring any of the terrorists to justice, instead creating the excrescence of Gitmo, torture, secret sites, and the collapse of America’s reputation abroad. It has empowered Iran, allowed al Qaeda to regroup in Pakistan, made the next vast generation of Muslims loathe America, and imperiled our alliances. We need smarter leadership of the war: balancing force with diplomacy, hard power with better p.r., deploying strategy rather than mere tactics, and self-confidence rather than a bunker mentality.

Those conservatives who remain convinced, as I do, that Islamist terror remains the greatest threat to the West cannot risk a perpetuation of the failed Manichean worldview of the past eight years, and cannot risk the possibility of McCain making rash decisions in the middle of a potentially catastrophic global conflict. If you are serious about the war on terror and believe it is a war we have to win, the only serious candidate is Barack Obama.

I agree with both of them: Barack Obama is clear on what needs to be done to address terrorism.  Click here to read and listen to his speech to the Iraq Study Group on August 1, 2007.

Crucially, his vision for Iraq, Afghanistan, and al Qaeda does not portray Islam or Muslim peoples as enemies–as the McCain/Palin team and supporters do (wink, wink)–but as peoples to work with, to learn from, and to support.  Obama realizes that the war on terror needs to be a war on poverty and lack of opportunity and on the unchecked US power so representative of the Bush/Cheney years.

In his speech to the Iraq Study Group, Obama made this clear:

As President, I will make it a focus of my foreign policy to roll back the tide of hopelessness that gives rise to hate. Freedom must mean freedom from fear, not the freedom of anarchy. I will never shrug my shoulders and say — as Secretary Rumsfeld did — “Freedom is untidy.” I will focus our support on helping nations build independent judicial systems, honest police forces, and financial systems that are transparent and accountable. Freedom must also mean freedom from want, not freedom lost to an empty stomach. So I will make poverty reduction a key part of helping other nations reduce anarchy.

I will double our annual investments to meet these challenges to $50 billion by 2012. And I will support a $2 billion Global Education Fund to counter the radical madrasas — often funded by money from within Saudi Arabia — that have filled young minds with messages of hate. We must work for a world where every child, everywhere, is taught to build and not to destroy. And as we lead we will ask for more from our friends in Europe and Asia as well — more support for our diplomacy, more support for multilateral peacekeeping, and more support to rebuild societies ravaged by conflict.

I will also launch a program of public diplomacy that is a coordinated effort across my Administration, not a small group of political officials at the State Department explaining a misguided war. We will open “America Houses” in cities across the Islamic world, with Internet, libraries, English lessons, stories of America’s Muslims and the strength they add to our country, and vocational programs. Through a new ” America’s Voice Corps” we will recruit, train, and send out into the field talented young Americans who can speak with — and listen to — the people who today hear about us only from our enemies.

As President, I will lead this effort. In the first 100 days of my Administration, I will travel to a major Islamic forum and deliver an address to redefine our struggle. I will make clear that we are not at war with Islam, that we will stand with those who are willing to stand up for their future, and that we need their effort to defeat the prophets of hate and violence. I will speak directly to that child who looks up at that helicopter, and my message will be clear: “You matter to us. Your future is our future. And our moment is now.”

This is the sort of global leadership our country needs—rebuilding here at home, rebuilding around the world.  Hockey Moms say, “Barack Obama for U.S. President 2008!

–Carole, mom of two, who prefers to think of the US as either a power forward or strong defense player rather than the goon always in the penalty box, Gunbarrel, Colorado

Reason #4: The Rest of the World is Voting Obama!

November 1, 2008

There is a lot of discussion outside of the United States about this election. You read the post from a friend having dinner with people from Spain, Uruguay, and Canada. You read Dona Otilia’s poem to Obama.

Here are some other links revealing how Obama is perceived outside of our borders. Pretty impressive.

– the Global Electoral College

– cast your vote along with folks around the globe, or just jump to the results

– check out the 4-to-1 margin of Obama’s victory in opinion polls in other countries

– see the countries most aligned with Obama

– or just listen to the music Obama is inspiring by musicians around the world from…Japan (a catchy tune called Obama is Beautiful World that will stick with you, longer than you want, by a Japanese band who is rallying the CITY of Obama, waving their arms, and dancing YMCA-style), as well as a host of other countries (Trinidad, Cameroon, Mexico, Jamaica)

You get the picture. As Obama says about other things, “you can’t make this stuff up.”

People are psyched.

So feel proud that you are in the same rink, so to speak, as THE REST OF THE WORLD.

Vote Obama in 3 days!

– Colleen, mother of three in Boulder, Colorado, who is thrilled at the possibility of not having to cringe when she says she’s a U.S. American when traveling internationally