The U.S. Presidential Race (Seen From an Island)

Self is a Democrat, and the proud mother of another Democrat.

She never told son which way to go, never discussed politics with him.  Not really.

But just before she left for Bacolod, while waiting to board her flight, she texted son, “Hope Obama wins.”  And he texted back right away, “I do, too.”

(She’s pretty sure Niece G would say the same.)

The elections are two weeks away, and the race is very tight.  In the chaos of things happening “over there” (The World Series, Lance Armstrong, the opening of “Paranormal 4,” Halloween, and so forth), self didn’t get to think much about who she wanted to win:  Obama or Romney.

She had a very cynical attitude about the presidential debates (which she caught here in Bacolod) and watched them mostly for theater.  Of course, they were hugely enjoyable, but she could have killed Obama for flubbing the first one.

In the meantime, things were happening to her in Bacolod, too:  Self diligently read her Visayan Daily Star, went to Daku Balay, saw cousins, experienced her first Masskara festival.  Dearest Mum and Dear Bros came to Bacolod, and even though self was moving around all over the city, she never bumped into them.

She learned how to make do without a driver.

She consumed all kinds of Bacolod delicacies:  piaya, dulce gatas, fresh lumpia.

Her neck flared with pain, as it always does when she is under stress.  But massages here are bargains compared to “over there,” so she has them every day.

She finished reading Three Cups of Tea, googled updates on Greg Mortenson and the controversy over the facts in his book.

She began Obama’s Dreams From My Father.

She began to love Dreams From My Father.

Truthfully, she’d always found Obama a bit too aloof, too intellectually abstract, too detached.  Obama as President is very different from Obama the Campaigner.  But, damn if she doesn’t find in his book the validation of her own beliefs about herself, about identity, about family.

Here’s a section from pp. 110 – 111:

Look at yourself before you pass judgment.  Don’t make someone else clean up your mess.  It’s not about you . . .  I had stopped listening at a certain point, I now realized, so wrapped up had I been in my own perceived injuries, so eager was I to escape the imagined traps that white authority had set for me.  To that white world, I had been willing to cede the values of my childhood, as if those values were somehow irreversibly soiled by the endless falsehoods that white spoke about black.

*     *     *

Who told you that being honest was a white thing?  Who sold you this bill of goods, that your situation exempted you from being thoughtful or diligent or kind, or that morality had a color?  You’ve lost your way, brother.  Your ideas about yourself —  about who you are and who you might become — have grown stunted and narrow and small . . .  How had that happened?  I started to ask myself, but before the question had even formed in my mind, I already knew the answer.  Fear . . .  The constant, crippling fear that I didn’t belong somehow, that unless I dodged and hid and pretended to be something I wasn’t I would forever remain an outsider, with the rest of the world, black and white, always standing judgment . . .  it had been just about me.  My fear.  My needs.  And now?  . . .  I saw that what bound us together went beyond anger or despair or pity.

*     *     *

My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t end there.

Okay, Obama, your book kills me.  Whoever wants to know the kind of man you are should read this book.  Pull off the win, please.

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