A couple of weeks ago Michelle Obama made a statement that seemed to infuriate a lot of people, particularly among the Republican party. After seeing so many people coming out in support of her husband she said that this was the first time in her adult life that she was actually proud of her country. She caught a lot of grief for that statement. Shouldn't someone who's running for president be proud of their country? Being a minority she has perhaps a different perspective on things and so do I. It is often difficult to feel proud of the very country that has alienated and oppressed you. You would feel like a fool. The closer America gets to racial, economic, sexual, and social equality, the closer I get to genuine national pride. The further away it gets the less proud I am. I see Obama running for president in order to make America into something he and his wife can be proud of, something we can all be proud of, a place where "...Liberty and justice for all" are not just empty words. If it was already such a place we wouldn't need him.
Part of the fawning adoration his candidacy has inspired has much less to do with him and more to do with a desperation to be rid of the current imbecile taking up space in the oval office. In a moment of clarity, I had to admit that my current uncharacteristic obsession with the 2008 election has less to do with the prospect of electing the first woman president or even the first Black president or the first democratic president in eight years. It is mostly due to a fervent desire to see that we do not elect another Republican. I don't think our economy could stand the blow.
Still, that type of thinking is that "less of evils mentality" that we have all become so guilty of and which has disillusioned many voters to the democratic process. One reason why voters are turning out in record numbers this time is because for the first time in a long time the choice is not between the lesser of evils but there are two candidates whom we can actually get excited about. There are two candidates we could actually be proud of.
I have been proud of my country in the past, though mostly as a child with little knowledge of the rest of the world. As an adult, I have seldom been proud of America. I have looked at this country the way most people have looked at presidential candidates in the past. It was simply the lesser of evils. I think if most people were honest with themselves they would have to admit to the same feelings. It is not so much a pride in this country as it is a realization that most countries are even worst. In the past eight years I have most often been ashamed of America. I have been ashamed of the religious fanaticism and puritanism that Europeans laugh at and which continues to influence laws that oppress women, homosexuals and non-Christians, our low educational scores compared to most other industrialized nations. I have been ashamed of our warmongering president and our bullying of other countries that don't do things the way America believs they ought to, our screwed up race relations and history of slavery and genocide, our incarceration rate that is higher than any other country in the world including the dictatorships that we consider ourselves morally superior to, our childish "I won't change unless they do" approach to global warming while we remain the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases. America is riddled with flaws. The one thing I have been proud of has been our quality of living.
Having travelled quite a bit I can say that Americans enjoy probably the best quality of living of any country anywhere. Our poorest people, on average, still have color TVs, microwaves, and DVD players, and many of them even have cell phones. What we consider poverty in this country would be laughed at by most other countries. I have been proud of America for that. I have never, in my memory, been proud of our president. I guess I came close to being proud of Bill Clinton but that was a waning semi-pride that didn't really last. In fact, if I were being honest with myself, it wasn't really pride at all but more an amazement that he hadn't made any major screw-ups and getting a blow-job from a much youner woman who wasn't his wife was the worst thing they could pin on him. That and not lifting a finger to help the Ruwandans who were being massacred by the hundreds of thousands. But surprisingly, no one ever brought that up. That wasn't a major issue for Americans. And, really, it still has not been brought up. With all the African-Americans who have flocked to the Hillary Clinton camp, not once was her husband's indifference to African's ever mentioned. In America, committing adultery is much worse than standing idly by and allowing the genocide of thousands.
I look at the way leaders of other countries are fawned over by their citizenry and for the first time I long to feel that. I am jealous of them. I want to feel like fighting when someone from another country insults our president instead of hanging my head and nodding slowly, "Yeah, you're right about that. He is an asshole." I want the type of president that I would violently defend. I have never known anything but cynicism, disgust, or indifference, to any of America's leaders. My guess is that indifference is the disposition most Americans have towards the President until he does something monumentally stupid and detrimental to our lives. Americans have grown so cynical that the type of adoration of its leaders that is common in other countries is looked upon with fear and suspicion and ridiculed by us. The press talks about the almost religious fervor of Obama's supporters as being "cult-like". They call it a cult of personality. It has become fodder for late night television. But I had to step back and ask myself, shouldn't we feel that type of pride, admiration and, dare I say it, love for our leader? Don't we deserve to have a president who can inspire that? Don't we deserve to have the type of president that soldiers would willingly die for? Don't we deserve to have the type of leader that we trust unconditionally and love wholeheartedly?
I'm not saying that Obama can inspire that in everyone. I am certainly not there yet and may never be. I have perhaps been too cynical for too long. But I would certainly not ridicule those who are and if Obama were elected president, I would feel something that I have never felt for any president in my entire life... pride. Ever since Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Black Americans have been pining for a new Black leader to come along and unify and galvanize the Black community. Everyone from Jesse Jackson to Al Sharpton to Louis Farrakahn have attempted to fill the void with little success. Perhaps what we needed all along was not a Black leader to lead the Black community. Perhaps Barrack Obama was what we needed, someone who can lead all people, Black, White, Asian, Latino, and Middle Eastern and unify and galvanize them all into action. Not a Black leader bu a leader who just happens to be Black. A leader that all Americans can be proud of.