March 7, 2007

Isn’t it okay to be different?

Posted in Campaign at 2:26 pm by saracallow

I don’t know… I couldn’t help being bothered by some of the campaign coverage this week.  Both Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama were in Selma, in recognition of the “attack on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and a subsequent march to Montgomery led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., that prompted Congress to pass the landmark Voting Rights Act.” (Faussett and Jarvie, Los Angeles Times, March 5th, 2007)

What gets to me a little is the desire by both candidates to appear “blackest.”  Hillary claims allegiance to African Americans because their movement led to greater rights for women.  She spoke and attended church services and could be seen “pouring herself into the traditional Baptist service with gusto — nodding her head, hollering “Amen,” slapping her hand on her thigh and swaying from side to side” (LA Times).

Obama, for his part, spoke of the similarities between his father’s life as a “houseboy”in Kenya and the struggle of African Americans in the U.S.  He related his father’s knowledge regarding the achievements of civil rights as a large reason for coming to the U.S.  Obama’s “delivery, which started out lawyerly and dry in the morning, had by the afternoon flexed to fit the more traditional cadences of a black preacher” (LA Times).

I guess that both candidates may have a reasonable message to deliver.  They probably both have a greater appreciation of minority struggle and life in the U.S. than the average politician.  But it seems condescending to me that they both have to pretend to be as much the “same” as their audience as possible.  Wouldn’t it be much more genuine and honest if they could stand up in the churches and say, “I’m not a part of the same community and experiences as you, but I am your ally.  I appreciate your struggle because of experiences in my life, and I am committed to your cause.”  It just seems dishonest to change your tone of voice, inflection, or worship style to court voters… and it seems disrespectful of the audience’s ability to appreciate that your differences do not exclude you from being an advocate.

Basically ALL candidates, elected officials, etc take part in this kind of act.  I don’t look down specifically on Clinton or Obama for their actions.  It is just the reality of politics.  But aren’t we asking a bit much of our president… if he or she has to be “just like us”?  It’s our fault really that they behave this way, because this is what we (the public) seem to want when we vote.  For my part, I want someone better than myself…  They don’t have to be like me, they have to respect me, be well versed in areas of importance to me, and committed to much the same vision for the country.  I don’t need to hear about how well they relate to mothers in their thirties, or discuss diaper rash with them.  They don’t have to use the word “like” when they visit the Valley.  Just some honest discussion from a real person would be fine with me….

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