Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"The smallness of our politics"

Sarah Obama Onyango, Barack Obama's grandmother, in her living room in Kogelo Community in Kenya, February 4, 2008. Image found here.

In the speech in which he announced his candidacy for President, Sarah's grandson uttered the phrase that serves as this post's title. But this is not a pro-Obama post.

It's Super Tuesday, as you know. I will be caucusing tonight with some of my fellow citizens. The weather will be sucky, as the kids would say: If I arrive before the doors open, I'll be standing with some other folks in predicted sleet and/or snow. Once we all get inside, I will stand with some of those others in support of my candidate and listen to the blandishments of the supporters of the other candidate and maybe even offer up some of my own. Someone will count heads and determine which candidate has more support in this room. We will then go to our respective homes, some of us happy and some of us less so.

No blood shed. Heads will have been counted, not severed. No matter how vehemently we may disagree with the supporters of the other candidate, no one will have set fire to our caucus site or our houses because of that disagreement.

Today and tonight, as I read a few blogs whose writers treat politics as though it were a blood-sport, I will also spend some time thinking about the woman in this picture and the people of her nation, and the smallness of our politics.


Jennifer said...

The woman in this photo has nothing to do with the serious issues that face our country. It is not right to vote for Obama because of his skin color and it is not right to vote for him to prove that as a country we are not racist or are less racist than we used to be. While the feel-good thing to do may be to "imagine there's no color," to advocate for it based on color is contrary to the reason our party system was established. It infuriates me when intelligent people jump on the race/sex bandwagon. It's a sad time in American history, contrary to what advocates of "change" and "experience" want you to believe.

John B. said...

Thanks for commenting. I think, though, that one of us is misunderstanding the other.

Just in case I wasn't clear, I'll say this: Yes, I support Obama, but not for the reasons you say that some people support him; indeed, I agree with you that those reasons are poor ones for choosing to support Obama (just as supporting Hillary Clinton just because she is a woman is likewise a poor reason, in my view). But all that aside, my post clearly states that it is not a pro-Obama post. Instead, it is (or I intended it to be) a quiet affirmation of our (peaceful) political process. Barack Obama's grandmother, though, happens to live in a country where political alliances, just now, are potentially lethal to those who affirm them. At least some Kenyans know--and many have died for--a political courage that I personally can only dimly comprehend. And others have died--most prominently an entire churchful of mostly women and children--out of ethnic spite resulting from Kenya's contested presidential election.

You're right that none of that is a good reason for supporting Obama, either. But I neither said nor implied any such thing in my post. I merely wished to express gratefulness--a chicken-hearted gratefulness, as I think about it now--that the exercising of our politics have not become matters of literal life and death.

In short: if my post endorses anything, it is an endorsement of the stability of our political system, one so stable that we often take it for granted and can't for the life of us figure out why other countries have such trouble with it. All the more reason, I figure, for doing what we can--at least vote, no matter for whom--to make sure it stays that way.

R. Sherman said...

John, further to the last sentence of your post, I think people are tired of the "blood sport" aspect, especially as exemplified by the Clinton machine -- Obama doesn't appear to accept that, regardless of his politics and that's why I think he attracts people. He seems so different.


Pam said...

Oh, how complicated all of this is...