It's all about perspective

Archive for April, 2008

I was wrong

Obama is right. And I should have supported him from the beginning.

And bravo to him for finally putting it out there. We are bitter and resentful. Now he may not be on the mark 100% for where those emotions get displaced to, but its a good start to being honest with us. Which is a whole hell of a lot better than McCain and Clinton have been. At the end of this post you will find the full text of what was supposed to be a closed fundraiser dinner.

My father, who is neither a democrat nor an Obama or Clinton supporter, has put it more eloquently than I have been able to. We talk often about the political state of the country we both cherish so much, and even his hardcore conservative republican roots whither before what is represented by these three opponents; you are either for change, or not. With Clinton and McCain, a vote for either of them is a vote for old money and an established way of doing things. In this modern era the average American understands this as merely giving lip service to those you want votes from. That is the Clinton and McCain legacy; we’ve done it like this for so long, why change? Obama on the other hand, represents change and a new way of doing and thinking within this republic for which he wants to stand.

Clinton and McCain both (with a surprising amount of similarity in their responses) said that Obama is out of touch with the average American. Are these two stoned? Are they so wrapped up in their own elitist dogma that they actually think they know what an average american goes through? Clinton paid her own brand of lip service to Pennsylvanians when she said she met “people who are resilient, optimist positive who are rolling up their sleeves.” This reeks of Republican pull yourself up by your own bootstraps rhetoric, and makes me sick to hear it from a Democrat I once supported. McCain called his comments elitist condescension, or rather an aide did, because it seems like McCain wants to be able to distance himself from sounding like the Republican hypocrite he really is.

We have to admit there is a problem before we can even begin to fix it. It’s time to talk and I think the Obama camp said it best in their press release regarding Clinton’s and McCain’s statements.

Senator Obama has said many times in this campaign that Americans are understandably upset with their leaders in Washington for saying anything to win elections while failing to stand up to the special interests and fight for an economic agenda that will bring jobs and opportunity back to struggling communities,” said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

“And if John McCain wants a debate about who’s out of touch with the American people, we can start by talking about the tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans that he once said offended his conscience but now wants to make permanent.” (taken from this post)

What follows is the full text of the speech Senator Obama gave that started this. You can listen to it at this website.

“So, it depends on where you are, but I think it’s fair to say that the places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government. The people are mis-appre…I think they’re misunderstanding why the demographics in our, in this contest have broken out as they are. Because everybody just ascribes it to ‘white working-class don’t wanna work — don’t wanna vote for the black guy.’ That’s…there were intimations of that in an article in the Sunday New York Times today – kind of implies that it’s sort of a race thing.

Here’s how it is: in a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long, and they feel so betrayed by government, and when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn’t buy it. And when it’s delivered by — it’s true that when it’s delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama (laugher), then that adds another layer of skepticism (laughter).

But — so the questions you’re most likely to get about me, ‘Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What’s the concrete thing?’ What they wanna hear is — so, we’ll give you talking points about what we’re proposing — close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama’s gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we’re gonna provide health care for every American. So we’ll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there’s not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Um, now these are in some communities, you know. I think what you’ll find is, is that people of every background — there are gonna be a mix of people, you can go in the toughest neighborhoods, you know working-class lunch-pail folks, you’ll find Obama enthusiasts. And you can go into places where you think I’d be very strong and people will just be skeptical. The important thing is that you show up and you’re doing what you’re doing.”

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Updates, conferences, and vacations

It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy with school and frankly I had nothing to write about. I had meant to do some blogging while attended the Midwest Sociological Society’s annual conference the weekend of March 28th, but the hotel did not have free wifi and I refused to pay $10 per day to use what they had. It was the best time I’ve had in years.

I’ve gone to a couple of conferences before for the Student Government Association when I attended O.T.C., so the general format I was prepared for. It’s quite simple; people present their research for review to an audience. Sometimes it is under the umbrella of a theme and other times it stands by itself. What I was not prepared for was how open and willing to talk to me everyone was. It was an atmosphere thick with legitimately intelligent people who wanted to talk to other intelligent people about their passion. I was like a kid in a candy store. I talked to as many people as would talk to me and I had such great fun.

The highlight of the conference for me was twofold. First I attended a session titled: Research in American Indian Communities. First, a woman by the name of Susanna Carlson presented her paper about how “agents of the law have interacted with Native Americans in reproducing identity,” then Mrs. Carlene Sipma-Dysico presented research on “education and the juvenile system in South Dakota’s Indian country,” and finally, Dr M. Kayt Sunwood presented research on “culturally responsive curriculum in Alaska native schools and communities.” Fucking brilliant from beginning to end. This session just hit home for me and refocused my attentions. Ms. Carlson started discussing a historical view of how the image of the Indian has been formed through a semi-symbiotic relationship with authority, and then Mrs. Sipma-Dysico began speaking of how Indian children in public schools are treated with institutionalized racism and are being groomed into the Indians the whites want them to be, and finally Dr. Sunwood brought it all together by presenting the research she co-authored in Alaska about using Native cultural icons to help teach children the basic units of school. Take note that none of these women had planned this or collaborated on what they were going to present or how it was going to be presented; in fact there were supposed to be five presenters and two never showed up. But there it was: from the historical roots of the modern Indian as created by white dominance to the tree of institutionalized racist policies that grew from them and ending with research that showed a more than promising solution to the problem! Just writing it down almost two weeks after the fact gives me goosebumps. It was a very moving experience, but the second, and ultimate, highlight came when I was able to talk to one of the presenters from that session several hours later.

I went to another session, the last round of them that day, and saw Mrs. Sipma-Dysico walk in and sit in the back. The last presenter to this session had shown up late and had just started to talk when I saw Mrs. Sipma-Dysico head for the door. I knew seeing her was providence and so I excused myself from my companion and bolted after her. What followed was the most fascinating conversation I have ever had with another human being. I had wanted to talk to her about an idea for a paper I was working on to present next year, and since it was on the image of the Indian I thought she would be an invaluable source of information. Not only did we talk about my paper but we talked about everything else you aren’t supposed to talk about with a stranger: religion, sex, and politics. It was the best three hours of my life. Yeah, we sat outside the conference room on a rather uncomfortable bench for three hours laughing and talking about everything. My only regret was I never had a chance to see her again before my group had to leave.

More than ever I am confident in my choice to go on to grad school. I’m looking forward to the summer intersession when I am going to drive to the west coast to step foot on some of the schools I’m courting for my masters degree. The first week of June I’m going to Washington State University in Pullman, the University of Oregon in Eugene, and then Colorado State University in Fort Collins. It’s going to take me about 5 days of driving time and I’m giving myself around 7-ish just to account for whatever might happen. I’m really looking forward to it as the farthest west I’ve been is Salina, Kansas.

This is the route I’m planning on taking:

Eventually I will be able to append Dr. to my name. This makes me giggle internally because even if it takes me the maximum time, about 7 years, I will still get the degree before my ex-girlfriend does. I know that is horrible, and it isn’t the reason I’m going for the degree, but it will give me a small sense of satisfaction when I get to mail her letterhead from the institution I’m teaching at with Dr. appended to my name in the salutation. It is the small things in life that make me happy.

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