Believing, as Barack Obama, that “We are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people and One Nation,” has never been more challenging than it was last night. As I listened to Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, I became increasingly despairing of the power, the fear, the hate mongering and the delusional self-congratulatory platitudes that peppered her speech and gave comfort to a culturally and economically insecure public. Her words were cast out to embolden the xenophobia of a frightened country, words that were so irresponsible given the external and internal challenges we face. Clearly, the Republican Party has come out of the closet about their plan to exploit and deepen our traditional differences and create and shine light on ones lying beneath the surface.
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On MSNBC Chris Matthews referred to Sarah Palin as a “torpedo that the Republican Party has aimed directly at Barack and Michelle Obama.” Well, it was also aimed at me, my family, my friends and all that I hold dear today and the dreams I have for the future. Obama has warned us for nearly two years that this day would come, that the Republican Party will pull out the stale tactics and rhetorical strategies that have worked before. These ploys worked because the Republican Party’s cooptation of the language of social change feeds into the “cynicism we feel about government.” But I’m afraid their devices also feed into an isolationism and distain for “others” that is reminiscent of the post WWII and the “Eisenhower years” Palin referenced in her speech. The militaristic rhetoric of the extreme right satisfies a desire, a hunger for simple answers and familiar solutions tied up in a pretty bow that has razor-sharp edges. What can you say about a vice presidential candidate that scoffs at the idea of “healing the nation and repairing this world” and exalts the fact that she will send her eldest son to war to protect US interests in oil and gas? What can you say to people that believe as she does? They are indeed strangers to me and they appear formidable. I thought to myself “Oh no, not again and they have even gotten better at it.” By the end of the speech I felt tears but I did not shed them.
So instead, I went online to listen to Barack Obama’s 2004, 2008 DNC and “Yes We Can” speeches. I was especially restored by the “Don’t Tell Me Words Don’t Matter” address the eve of the Wisconsin primary. I listened and watched videos of these and others for about an hour as I wrote this response. I can’t say that the lump in my throat has completely disappeared and that my despair at the prospect of not only a hard but dirty battle has completely dissipated. However, I no longer believe that Palin’s words tonight had the power over me and others that they did two hours ago. And, I will continue to choose to believe that the Republican Party has chosen a wrong path toward a victory and those arrows the they will aim at Barack Obama using Sarah Palin as their quiver will not hit home with the number of Americans that they will need to win a majority of the electoral college. I have hope.
Palin asked this country last night to join the cause of electing John McCain to get us through the next 4 years. But we must counter by saying we are not interested in a lifeboat encircled by oil riggers, we are interested in learning to swim for a century in an ocean of prosperity and peace. So more than believing in the wrongness of John McCain’s message, I believe in the rightness of Barack Obama’s mission that he has asked us to join him in transforming America and make it and the world as it should be. For that I am still able and willing to “hold firm and without waiver” and state again that we are one nation, we are one people and . . . we choose hope over fear, and unity over divisions.” This is Our America. Let’s go get it. Yes We Can. We must.
Dr. Mary Washington is a former candidate for delegate in Maryland. Dr.
Washington received her Ph.D. is sociology from the Johns Hopkins
University. She lives in Baltimore City and works as an Assistant
Director for a Baltimore-based environmental education, stewardship and
community revitalization organization She also helps people buy and
sell their home as an agent for City Life Realty (www.cityliferealty.net).