Pop Culture Junkette

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Thought of the Day

First, let me make a major caveat that I am not counting any chickens before there is any hatching. However, if Obama wins in 2 weeks (as I think will happen and is looking more likely by the day), is there any precedent for such an event in world history? You will have someone who is a member of a minority that was not only enslaved but was disenfrachished and otherwise discriminated against in much of this nation at the time Obama was born. In fact, his parents' marriage was illegal in many states when it occurred in 1961. And yet, Obama is at the cusp of being elected president despite African-Americans constituting only about 13% of the US population. (Yes, I know Obama's mother is white, but I don't really think that matters in this analysis.)

Has there ever been another situation where a member of a minority group that was disenfrachised and otherwise discriminated against and been at the lower part of the socio-economic ladder been elected to the highest office in that nation? Mandela in South Africa doesn't apply because blacks are the large majority there; once they were enfranchised, a black leader was predetermined. (In some ways, the election of a white South African president would be an interesting albeit imperfect comparison.) There has never been an aboriginal leader of Australia or a Maori in New Zealand. A Catholic elected to lead Northern Ireland (if they had such elections) would present numerous similarities but it too hasn't happened nor has an Isreali Arab becoming the PM of Israel? Can anyone come up with a parallel that has actually happened?

The seeming uniqueness of what the election of Obama would mean is a small but real reason to support him. His election would represent perhaps the final triumph of the idea of America. The nation has not always lived up to its ideals, but it has (often) aspired to them, and over the centuries moved closer and closer to them. My favorite quote from Bill Clinton is “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America." This election will hopefully reinforce that point, and the election of an African-American president would be in many ways the final overcoming of America's original sin. (I should stress that this alone is insufficient reason to support him, but Obama's intelligence, vision, and temperament provide ample additional bases to support him.)

Finally, I point out that the day before the inaugural (which is on a Tuesday) is MLK Day. Something quite fitting in that. And 3 weeks later is the bicentennial of the birth of our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln. The idea of a President Obama presiding over such an event would, one imagines, have brought some sort of smile to Lincoln's face.

And one more time: Knock on wood.



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