Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why Obama needs my Ganesh Ring!

This is a piece I wrote the night of Obama's victory and I watched him make his gracious and hopeful speech at Grant Park in Chicago.

As the inauguration nears I pause and reflect at the long way American cultural and political mores have come.

Some of what I write about Obama's electibility and victory relates very well with electoral politics in India, the controversy over reservations (affirmative action) and how minorities and the "others" feel about vote bank politics.

What are your thoughts now that the election is past and we have all had time to digest what it means to Americans and the world?

Obama Wins!

So my main girl Hillary was not even in the running and I voted for the alternative. But… what an alternative! My muffin man! Yes, I am shallow that way! And yes, he has a simmering low-key hotness that I think is just super.

Hotness aside, I am going to be all stream-of-consciousness while I write down some thoughts about the Great Election. No editing, just what I feel. Some cynicism tempered by a sprinkling of hope. A pinch of salt, to balance the sugar or vice versa… whatever makes your pie taste great!

I took my 6 year old daughter into the voting booth, to press the button after my final selections were made. With great gusto, she thumped on the Vote button and ran out of the curtained booth shouting “Mommy voted for Obama”. There were a few cheers, and a few boos but it was all good. I was in my own familiar territory, upper middle class and privileged and amongst friends and neighbors. People who seemingly could ride out 4 years without being decimated whatever the final outcome of the election. I followed my child out of the polling place somewhat embarrassed by her exuberance but proud that she is on the vanguard of a time and generation where democracy will mean more of a genuine equal chance for a half brown person like her.

She was so excited when we (she punched the button) voted for Hillary in the Primaries. To her 6 year old mind, a woman President was a wonderous thing. She was disappointed when I told her this time around we would not vote for a woman, but the excitement she felt at the process of voting remained the same. Obama didn’t mean much to her, but his name rhymed nicely and was cool name to say and chant. He wasn’t a woman but for her it was enough to be able to punch the Vote button and be a part of the voting process. I pray that she will always be able to punch that vote button without fear or favor. This flawed but essentially wonderful concept that is democracy will shape her future in good ways. It will always allow her to dream the big dreams, and to believe her dreams can really come true!

To many white Americans who voted for him, Obama was”just black enough” to be their own special symbol of liberalism. He plays just enough basketball, wasn’t too dark in color, spoke no Ebonics, or had any lasting relationships with traditional black power groups. He is educated, and very importantly had a mother and grandparents who looked just like them. His wife does not braid her hair or have a name which ended with a “sha” or “ta”. Oprah and Colin Powell are his friends, rather than P Diddy and Snoop Dogg and he doesn’t call everybody Girlfriend or Brotha. He probably smoked weed as a student, just like them and wasn’t afraid to inhale. He was in effect “not scary”. For them, Obama was the best first baby step towards a more equitable equation for a racially and economically divided America. Voting for him made them feel good about themselves and their own evolution as thinking people.

For the people of color, (and that by definition includes me, doesn’t it?) it was a very passionate vote. For older African Americans who have experienced the sting of overt racism and have seen how long it takes for change to come about, electing Obama was mostly a symbol of the culmination of their long held hopes and desires. For the younger lot however they were voting not just for a symbol; they were voting for their immediate hopes. It was about decayed inner cities and racial profiling and economic hardship and fathers in jail and breakdown of traditional family structures and most importantly of being on the dole and losing your home. It was about being able to buy groceries without public assistance and paying the mortgage or rent next month and their sons and daughters not becoming cannon fodder in the army because they couldn’t get another well paying job without the right accent or dressing the part of the upwardly mobile.

I wonder how it will play out… these very separate agendas. Very disparate but all so necessary to the conditions that America sees today.

White America is satisfied that Black America has been appeased. A little self congratulatory back patting is in order. After all White America helped to vote in the Black President and symbol and that there should be no further complaining about racial discrimination or affirmative action. You have your guy, now enough! No more whining and really you are not going to get anymore sops!

Black America wants all their troubles to disappear with the waving of this magic wand. Of course, Obama is going to make it all happen. They will see good times en masse.

Everyone who voted Democrat this time around wants their mortgages paid, their retirement accounts brought back to health and for the war to go away. Obama will make that happen too. And he is also supposed to make it happen in 4 years!

Can he?

As I see it, the situation will get worse in the short term, before it gets better. But it will get better. After all a start has been made, a new goal has now at least been visualized. The route to that goal still remains to be examined and seen. That will take time.

A child of color or a poor child can now truly believe that he can become the President. After all there is one like him up there. But will the path to that spot be self evident or even open for a long, long, long while? Will a child who knows no privilege right now, know what to do to get there?


That my friends will take a very long time. A beginning has been made, but there are many who are going to be disappointed in the short term. Obama has inherited a thankless job in the worst possible circumstances. So can Obama sustain interest in his vision and sustain support long enough to be the change he seeks? 4 years is too short to do all he seeks to do. He is going to have to be more than clever to do that. He will have to be very, very lucky.

I want to send him my lucky Ganesh ring. He needs it. Very badly!

4 comments:

Rahul Viswanath said...

ROTGL ........ Ganapati Barack Morya ... ;-)

sydney said...

I really enjoyed reading your post. And your daughter sounds so adorable! It's cute that you let her press the button :)

I trust that Obama will do great things for the country in his 4 years. Although, like you noted, the road ahead is rocky. And he has an uphill battle to overcome. But he will do it. We have made the right choice.

They say "it's the thought that counts"... We can consider your lucky Ganesh ring as being with him - in spirit!

ugich konitari said...

Kiran, I went to grad school in Calif in the late sixties-early seventies, and had an African American roommate for a year (with whom I am still actively in touch). Her parents then, were very much like Obama appears now, and she belonged to the non-snoop-dog-puff-diddy group, was very serious about her education, and all in all , was a great roommate. I think the numbers of such folks in the US are going up.

I also had, at various times the standard WASP roommates, and am still in touch with them. The sense I get about their voting for Obama , is not about his being just "Black enough" or an acknowledgement that "blacks can also be like us".

I think this time folks, simply, had had it up to there, with GWB, Cheney,Rumsford etc.

Having said all this, that was a great post.....and I hear Obama has a Hanuman ?

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Rahul:
That was funny! Perhaps Ganpati can be his middle name. After all the Hussain bit is causing him grief.

Sydney:
I am so glad that you are optimistic about the changes he brings.

Ugich:
You have great perspective on political happenings especially because you were in the US at such a volatile and direction changing time.
I suppose I am a little more cynical about the whole demographic voting experience. I know Barack's heart is in the right place and I dont want him to fail.