The Symbolism of Barack Obama

Where I grew up in rural Idaho, there were no black people.  Not to say it was a completely homogenous community, as there were hispanics, Japanese, whites, and sub-cultures such as the Basques, but there were no African-Americans.  All I knew about black people, I learned from the television, where, in the typical TV show, black actors played gangsters, thugs, criminals and other negative roles.  Outside of fiction, black people were not visible in the high offices of the land and, even in real life, if they were on TV, it was usually in a context of violence of some sort.  So, my perception of black people was more than a bit skewed.

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States of America means that my daughter will grow up in a very different world with a very different view.  She will see that the highest office in the land is occupied by a black man and she will see that, regardless of the color of our skin, we can all achieve what we set out to achieve if we work hard enough.  She will see a world in which blacks can achieve every bit as much as whites, and that will give her a perspective of black people that I didn’t have growing up.

As a result, I think that President Obama will go a long way to improving race relations in our country.

None of these reasons played into my decision to vote for Obama.  I described in my previous post why I voted for him.  And I’m sure that some people voted for him for exactly these reasons.  But, I also think this is an important consequence of his election, and I am hopeful for the future of our country.

5 thoughts on “The Symbolism of Barack Obama”

  1. I am commenting on your reasons for voting for Obama. I think it should definitely be looked at that the president has no real power to change anything, the biggest thing he has is the power to veto. With that being said I would like to remind you that we have had a mostly democratic body that has been making the decisions for America for the last 2 years. It has not made a difference and I think we are putting too much blame on the presidents themselves for “fixing” or not “fixing” the US. I think that the idealism of Obama is great as far as showing what you can achieve but does it not bother you that he so closely tied to convicted terrorists? ie. announcing his intention to run for a Chicago office from Ayer’s (a convicted terrorist) home? Or that he had been a member of the Trinity Church that spews hate of white people and all that America stands for? That pastor married the Obama’s and baptized their children. Does it not bother you that he never produced a US birth certificate? I’m sure it must be there somewhere but where? I just need to know from someone that voted for him why would you vote when you know all these things about him? Or did you? This is an honest question and not meant to come across as hateful, I really would like to understand better.

    Eskerrik Asko Trinity

  2. Hi Trinity,

    Thank you for these comments. You’ve raised a lot of serious points, and I hope that I do not offend with my thoughts on your questions.

    First, regarding the powers of the president, I guess I disagree on how powerful the president is. Via executive orders alone, the president has a lot of power, like changing scientific research directions (e.g. stem cell research). He also determined the extent to which Guantanamo Bay was used and the extent to which torture was allowed. It was also his decision, ultimately, to invade Iraq, so he has lots of power. And, while the Democrats had the majority the last two years, it was only a one vote majority. Filibusters can easily kill any proposed legislation in such a majority. Finally, there is a strong correlation between the state of the economy and the presidential administration (see http://www.slate.com/id/2199810), suggesting that the president does have a lot of influence on the economy. The bailout plan, after all, originated with the executive branch, not the legislative.

    Regarding the claims of Obama, well, I definitely knew about them, I just don’t put much stock in them. Regarding Ayers, it seems to me that Obama’s association with him was very minor. They weren’t bosom buddies in any sense. Did Obama really know anything about Ayers’ past at the time? Ayers was a professor at the University, I believe, and his past was probably not known to most of his associates (see http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2008/02/obamas_weatherman_connection.html) and so I just don’t see this as any kind of issue.

    Regarding the birth certificate, I just believe this is a desperate attempt by the losing side to find some reason to stop Obama. I mean, seriously, if there was something there, do you think the Republican party would have let it get this far? I think this is just a non-issue, a fabricated issue. And he did produce a birth certificate from Hawaii, but that just isn’t enough for some people (see http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2008/jun/27/obamas-birth-certificate-part-ii/).

    Finally, regarding his church. That one, yes, there is direct evidence of the types of sermons his preacher made. But, being a non-religious person myself, I think all preachers talk non-sense, to some degree or another. There are plenty of white preachers in “main stream” Christian churches that spout non-sense, like the Catholic church is a cult, that the End of Days is coming (why is that any better?), that Jews were punished by God with Hitler (McCain had to denounce the preacher that endorsed him for those kinds of comments) or that Katrina was the result of America’s wicked ways and the tolerance of homosexuality. How are any of these less hateful? When you factor in the history of blacks in America, I don’t excuse what he said, but I can understand it to some degree and, what is more, I understand that I can’t understand his perspective that well, not coming from a similar background. So, while I don’t like what Wright said, or agree with it, or condone it, it is also not an important issue to me.

    To me, the important issue is that Obama thinks for himself. He is an intellectually curious man. I never got that feeling from Bush.

  3. Kaixo,
    Very nicely put, except that it wasn’t Bush that Obama ran against, or was it?
    In my opinion it doesn’t have anything to do with religion either, it has to do with following a man that spews such hate, that’s all nothing more nothing less. Anyway, while I will agree to disagree with your political view, I do want to say that I am glad you have your website on the Basques and you really do get a lot of great information to the masses to help keep us educated about the culture. I really do appreciate all the work you have put in!

    Eskerrik Asko,

    Trinity

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