Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama, Part I

I can remember my first sight of the man. I had never heard of him. I was sitting in the Legal Assistance office in Yongsan, Korea, preparing for my divorce. In the room, the Democratic National Convention was playing on a single corner TV screen. Small, tinny, the volume wavering. Yet I listened to this man I had never heard of speak, and I was touched.
"That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door."

It didn't apply to me at the time. It applies to me now. I know that what I am doing is right. I know that it is just and legal. But I fear, where I never did before, a sudden knock on the door. I know others who fear that same knock. And I know that it is wrong, and I am glad and grateful to have a President coming who may remember this, and remember us who believe that dissenting is in fact to be protected.

When we send our young men and women into harm’s way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they’re going, to care for their families while they’re gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Yes. Oh, yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Back then I had not grown into my strong opposition to the Iraq occupation, but even then I knew that our troops were not being treated fairly in exchange for what they were giving. That they were being sent out unprotected, unfinanced, unloved by the giants that set their actions in motion but would never risk themselves or their children. I can never know what started the process, but perhaps if the seed was already planted, this speech may have helped me on my way.

If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

I grew up in a New York City so tolerant that I did not learn racism still existed until I joined the Army. I could not conceive of a world where people would be prejudiced against based on their race and their heritage. Where their rights would be taken away. This echoed more than most.

Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too:

We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.

We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States.

There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq.

And this is what helped to give my heart hope during a difficult time. That things were not all black or all white. That somebody, somebody out there understood my own pain and difficulties of feeling stretched in the middle, as a fiscal conservative and social liberal. I was not all red or all blue and felt that I could not be alone. That the world could not be so divided into evil and good and I unable to tell which side was which except by looking to which party Bush was sitting in.

I hope dearly that our new president-elect will remember this. Will remember the speech that gave me and others hope. The speech that made me say in the room "Why isn't /that/ guy running for President?" And someone else say, "Someday."

Now it is that someday, and it has come a lot sooner than I expected.

America lived up to and beyond a thousand times my hope for it. It surpassed my already large expectations and dreams.

Now I only hope that he will not get shot, as Colin Powell's wife feared when talk was of him running for office.


LT Nixon said...

I'm glad that you have big dreams for Obama. I guess I'm a much more cynicial person, and I don't see how the promises he made can flesh out in reality. Time will tell...

Red Horse: War said...

Yes, enough of the Chimpy McHitlerburton death squads rounding up millions of people in the night and draggin them off to the reeducation camps.

Mind you it hasn't happened, but don't let that dissuade you from waiting for the knock.

Army Sergeant said...

Actually, it has happened with some collectives. It happened while we were in Denver-two of our allies happened to be in a communal space when police swooped in to raid the place. Also, at the Republican National Convention, people were arrested before the protests, and because they had coordinated some of the arrangements to bring people to the city, they were charged for the actions of every protestor in the city.

It's not so unlikely.

Besides, isn't that what your folks supposedly fear from Obama?