I have a friend who sent me a link the other day to a video on the Internet. She and I are probably on opposite ends of the political spectrum. This video (http://www.eyeblast.tv/Public/Video.aspx?rsrcID=2036) is extremely critical of the candidate I support. While I value her friendship and the fact that we can share things like this and have an open conversation about these kinds of issues, I felt a responsibility to respond to the spin taking place in videos like this.
The first two minutes of the video showcases many well-known conservative pundits taking pot shots at Obama for his name. This is pretty funny. There is nothing any of us can do about some things about ourselves. They include who our parents are, where we are raised, what schools we attend, the names our parents give us, and what kind of religious background our family provides for us. It’s not Obama’s fault that his parents were who they were or named him the way they did. But it is his responsibility to accept who his parents were and to accept who he is because of the impact they had on him.
Let’s discuss the facts presented in the video.
- Barack Obama’s father was a Muslim from Kenya (and his mother a white from USA). Obama spent time in a Muslim school as a child. – This is true. I don’t think anyone will deny these things. But let me state, once again, that Obama has no superpowers with which he could have chosen to be born to the “right” parents. None of us do – all we have is the luck of the draw. As far as spending time in a Muslim school, we might want to be thankful for that. I know quite a few people that spent 8-9 years of school being taught in suburban parochial (Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) schools. These people have an understanding of their (usually) former religions that many people who attend church religiously (pun intended) don’t even approach. Their religious schooling has usually served not as intended (to fully indoctrinate the religion to ensure loyalty), but as a device that encourages criticism of the particular denomination/sect as well as the vast majority of organized religion. I would state that since Obama has attended Muslim school, me probably has a better understanding of Muslims and Islam than most of America. And the first rule of war is “Know thy enemy”, right? So, if you are a person who thinks that the “War on Terrorism/Iraq/Afghanistan …” is a war against Islam, you would probably be excited to add someone to your team with a good understanding of the enemy. If you, like many people, don’t see Islam as the enemy, you probably realize that an understanding of Islam might help the USA in its foreign relations/policy areas that are in complete disarray at the moment.
- Voting Present – This is also true. While serving in the Senate, Obama frequently voted “Present” on issue, rather than “Aye” or “Nay”. I don’t have a defense for him on this one. I don’t pretend to know why he did it, but I can say that we are all human and perhaps this is one of those mistakes he is regretting having made.
- Obama’s campaign office in Houston hangs a Cuban flag with a picture of Che Guevara on it … Hey, I guess. I can’t say I have been there to see it myself. And I can’t say that it’s such a bad thing. While Che is noted for being a Marxist revolutionary, his image contains many more implications now. Many people who identify with him do so out of a shared belief that poverty and economic inequality are outdated and unnecessary. He’s become a symbol of the counterculture to anyone seeking social justice. Once more, I don’t see how this should deter me from casting my vote for Obama.
- Obama “refuses” to wear the flag pin and/or put his hand on his heart during the National Anthem. – Wow. I had no idea that, in order to be considered a “patriot” you had to wear a flag pin and put your hand on your heart during the National Anthem. I have way too many issues with this to discuss them all here, so I will try to keep this short. Please explain to me what significance wearing a flag pin has? What about the hand on the heart? I wouldn’t wear a flag pin, either. And it takes a lot for me to put my hand on my heart as a show of respect … it has nothing to do with whether or not the National Anthem is playing. You’re lucky if I stay quiet through the entire song. Maybe I would feel different if our government operated in a more respectable, professional manner. Or maybe I would still resent the fact that a song is played/sang and all of a sudden everyone in the crowd is performing the same gesture. Have you looked around you in a crowd when this is going on? All you need to do is change the event that causes the gesture and move the hand just a little bit and we might as well be Nazi Germany. Anything that forces that kind of conformity is beyond my capability to participate in.
- Obama spent 20 years attending a church where Reverend Wright preached a radical version of Black liberation theology. – Once again, this is true, but you really need to think about the world/country we live in before you criticize this. I am lucky. I live in a neighborhood that’s pretty mixed. When I go to the grocery store, I am the minority because I am white. I don’t mind. I spent my childhood in a town where you could count the people who were not white Christians on one hand. Our country has plenty of room for growth when it comes to racial equality. Just because people aren’t marching on the White House in numbers equivalent to those of the ’60’s marches doesn’t mean we are fully integrated and equal. Far from it. Equal opportunity is still more of a dream than a reality – and it’s not always based on race. The truth of the matter is that most of the opressed people in our country and the people without a wide array of opportunities are more religious than those in better economic situations. Their churches are usually a very important part of their lives, and the preachers are very aware of the social problems facing their parishioners. The pastors know that, to inspire action, controversial words are often necessary. In addition to that, let’s take a look at some of the quacks that commonly endorse Republicans. There’s Pat Robertson. There’s Jerry Falwell. There’s John Hagee. Apparently the racist, war-mongering things they say are okay because they are white? Hey, I don’t agree with eveything Rev. Wright has said. But I do agree with some of it. And I understand how he could get carried away in anger. If Robertson, Falwell, and Hagee (along with countless others I can’t remember right now) can say what they do about people who aren’t like them and don’t agree with them (which, I would have to say is very UNJesus-like of them), then Rev. Wright’s comments should be a complete non-issue.
- Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, said “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country …” – Yes, she said that. And I agree with her. There are so many things our country does that are completely irresponsible (such as the Federal funding of abstinence only education in cash-strapped inner city schools where we need to be teaching SAFETY) that I get disillusioned rather easily. It seems like there are few decisions that the government makes that meet these two criteria:
- They are important decisions that really affect people
- They make people’s lives better, easier, or happier.
When we don’t meet those criteria, I feel like it’s been a completely wasted day. I cannot be proud of a government that wastes so much time and money.
- Obama’s campaign includes the following philosophies: Marxism, Socialized Healthcare, Welfare society, and gun control. Sure. To a point. Let’s start with socialized health care. Not only are we the ONLY industrialized country to not have universal health care, but we also spend more on health care each year than any other country. When you look at our infant mortality rate and the life expectancy of Americans, we sit firmly alongside third world countries (or “developing countries” for those who prefer political correctness). We can’t take care of ourselves or each other. I’d say with a system this broken, trying universal health care wouldn’t be such a bad idea. And for those who don’t like the idea of a “welfare society” or “socialized health care”, I challenge you to quit your cushy job (after adopting two kids) and get a minimum-wage-paying job or two and see how badly you need help. If you haven’t been there, don’t try to criticize it. Yes, there are people who take advantage of the system. But there are plenty of people who take advantage of the system on the other side of the system. The wealthy do it, too, only in different and more oppressive ways. Now let’s address gun control and the 2nd Amendment. The 2nd Amendment was written to ensure the people’s ability to rebel, if and when it was needed. It’s a completely irrelevant piece of legislation. A revolution is definitely necessary. However, it’s impossible – even with fully automatic rifles – with the extent of military force that the US Armed Forces have. See, no matter how many automatic rifles we shoot, the government will just bomb the rebels from the air and roll over them with tanks to maintain power. There is nothing citizens can do to effectively put together a revolution … unless it’s nonviolent. So the “right to bear arms” is outdated and lacks a realistic acknowledgement of the original purpose of the amendment and the current state of national affairs. As for Marxism – I think it’s quite a stretch to even begin to associate Marxism with Obama’s campaign. Why don’t we just start calling him a Russian Commie, too? It’s just Republicans doing what they do best – instilling fear in the minds of people who are easy to scare into submission.
- Obama called his grandmother a “typical white person”, what would people say if John McCain called someone a “typical black person”? There would be outrage – and rightfully so. Maybe this was another blunder on Obama’s part. Or maybe it was just an acknowledgement of the truth. I was sitting with my grandmother yesterday at a suburban McDonald’s where we had been served by a couple of black young women. They were very nice. My grandma proceeded to explain that, even though she knows that blacks are just like whites, she has an irrational fear of them. She explained that if she was walking down the street and two black men were walking towards her, she would be much more afraid than if they were white. She also said that she bets the white men would be more of a real threat to her than the black men. This is her reality – and the reality of countless other whites who spent the vast majority of their lives segregated from people of another color. My grandma is a typical white person, too. Let me ask this? Does John McCain have a black grandmother? If so, I think he’d have a better chance to say something general about blacks without a giant amount of backlash. But he doesn’t. Obama’s grandma was white. He had to be conscious of that while growing up, and of her prejudices and how they fit in to the accepted social mores of the time. I think he had all rights to comment on that in the way he did.
- Obama would lift the ban on meeting with terrorist leaders face to face to resolve conflict. True. If we want to truly make the world a better place and resolve more conflicts without violence, we are going to have to start talking to people rather than shooting at them. If we, as a global society, are going to start to try to work together to solve problems and resolve conflict, we have to recognize that we need to talk to all kinds of people – most importantly our enemies. And we need to revisit the word terrorism. It’s a highly subjective word and the terrorists change completely depending on who you are and what your perspective is. I think Obama is a person who understands this and we are lucky to have someone running for office who has a more complex and nuanced understanding of the world than “You’re either with us or against us”.
In the closing part of the video, they characterize Obama as racist, Marxist, quasi-Christian, and antisemitic before they say that Obama will try to convince us that “you don’t have to love this country to run it”. Racist? No. Obama has the unique ability to recognize and highlight the racial inequality that still exists in America despite the fact that, in recent memory, white America has been so self-congratulatory over its integration and institution of things like equal rights. Marxist? That accusation is so out of the blue, it’s funny. Read some Marx. And while you’re at it, study up on communism and socialism. You will realize that communism can never be a threat in USA and socialism is just the name for what happens as citizens slowly take power away from their government and exert the power innate in the fact that government is a social contract that citizens must believe is valid. Quasi-Christian? Define Christian, then. As far as I was aware, it’s only real requirement is that a person believe in Jesus Christ as the personal savior that enables one to get to heaven. Beyond that, one should try to act as Christ-like as possible, but most denominations/sects tend to ignore that part, anyway. Heck, I’d say that Catholicism is more quasi-Christian than anything because it involves the Pope and Mary and a person can’t be saved through a personal relationship with Christ – s/he has to go through his/her priest. Antisemitic? Hardly. If anything, blacks and Jews have much in common and can identify with each other because of their persecution over the years.
My friend wrote to me her opinions about the entire thing:
“Our country was built upon ideas to get away from socialism and communism. We are heading down the same path as Britain and other countries that have fallen into Socialism and wanted big government. Also as we all know Democracies don’t work because they fail and fall into Socialism…thus says the history books and has been drilled in my head since the 6th grade. I’m not for government taking away my rights nor am I for “big government”, hence I’m not for Obama’s ideas. “
I know she’s going to read this (at least I hope she’s still reading at this point), so I will try to be as gentle as possible. Our country was not built upon ideas to “get away from socialism and communism”. I am sorry there are some social studies teachers out there who don’t know history, but our country was built on ideals that try to get away from monarchy and give power to the people – not the few. Socialism and communism are relatively new political theories. We are hardly close to heading down the same path as Britain, Norway, Sweden, and other fortunate countries that have embraced a “Social Democracy” government. I guess I would really love to learn about whether a Democracy would work or not. See we don’t have one. We have what is called a Representative Republic. It’s not a Democracy and when I learned that, I practically fell out of my chair because since I was a young child I had been told we live in “the greatest Democracy in the world”. Hardly.
I’m definitely not for government taking away my rights (or for “big government”) either. And I know that all the textbook definitions say that’s where the Republicans sit, but every time they get into office they impose more control over the citizens and take more rights away. They create whole new branches and offices of government to enforce that control to make it less efficient and waste more taxpayer money. Just look at the Patriot Act and the Office of Homeland Security. And thank you, Feingold, for being the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act. It’s an abomination – and another topic.
Hey, could I post a video as critical of McCain as the one my friend sent me and try to change minds that way? Sure. But I know that it won’t change minds. People that support McCain will think that the other video is all spin – and it probably would be. But I can explain the reasons I have for not believing radical Christian conservative spin. And maybe that will help people think twice. It’s the only hope I’ve got.