I know, you’re all thinking – “what, are you nuts?” and I understand that train of thought. After all, I’m a white woman over 50 with no college degree. He’s a younger bi-racial man with a law degree. So just what could we possibly have in common?
Well, let’s consider some of the things he said in his speech the other day. He said “I have…nieces, nephews…cousins, of every race and every hue”, and we share that heritage. In my extended family between my husband and I there are cousins, nieces and nephews who are Japanese, Vietnamese, Mexican (as in born in Mexico, not just of Hispanic background), Black, Eskimo, and American Indian. My husband is a first generation American; his parents were from England and the Netherlands. My family (or at least part of it) has been here since the days of the founding fathers. We are as a family perhaps as “melting pot” as it gets. My daughter says she needs a T-shirt that says she’s “Western European Mutt!”
He said “…we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for our children and our grandchildren.” And here I say a rousing “Amen, brother!”
Obama speaks of the blacks of the generation before him that grew up in a Jim Crow environment. As a white woman I can not possibly know the ultimate humiliation that generation of blacks endured because they simply looked different. Surely that kind of humiliation is an explanation for some of the frustration and suspicion that they look at whites with. I have had the rare opportunity of hearing the bigots on both sides, from whites that had never actually known a black person and from blacks that had never actually known a white person.
He speaks of the idea that a lot of “working class…white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. …They’ve worked hard all their lives…they are anxious about their futures…your dreams come at my expense.”
We continue to deal with others as if they are either “one of us” or “one of them” without understanding that those of us who are simply the everyday folks, ordinary Americans with concerns about our families, we are all “US”. As Obama says "this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one."
The big “THEM” are the presidents and CEOs of the big corporations that are using us all like so much expendable machinery that can be easily replaced. “THEY” live in their $16 million mansions and sit in the board rooms and decided that your little family is costing them too much to pay you a living wage or keep your pension or your health insurance or to even work for them when they can get it cheaper elsewhere.
Do I think that Obama will be the magician that will make all of this instantly better the day he takes office? No. Nobody can do that. But he has a vision of a better America for his children and my grandchildren that at least tries to heal some of the wounds. He speaks of hope.
We need hope to recover from all that has been done to us everyday folks by “THEM”. We need to learn that no matter what color our skin is or where we worship on Friday or Saturday or Sunday or where we were born, we are all the same. “THEY” have successfully used divide and conquer to make us fight each other and not see the real cause of our misery.
I hope he succeeds in redirecting our vision as a country and turning us again to hope.