Wednesday, August 27, 2014

My passion for politics

Prior to 2008, I probably would have said my vote – in any election – didn't matter. How could one vote possibly make a difference? And who cared about my opinion, anyway?

Oh, I voted, don't get me wrong. My parents both voted (my mother stopped to vote on her way to the hospital to have my little brother), and believed it was important to vote and taught us that voting was not just a right, but a duty.
But my political passion didn't catch fire until six years ago (I'm a late bloomer), bursting into flame on this day in 2008, when Barack Obama became the first African-American nominated for the office of President of the United States.

Hindsight's 20/20, of course. We might have been able to delay the blatant racism we've been living with since his election, had we instead nominated the first woman. But we probably would have been dealing with blatant sexism. I fully expect a racist-to-sexist transformation when Hillary is elected in 2016.

I'm a middle-class white girl, originally from Ohio and now living in southern West Virginia, a state with a minority population in the single digits. But I was born in 1951. I came of age during the civil rights era, a time when a President was assassinated and cities caught fire.

I didn't understand it all back then, being somewhat boy-crazy and not especially concerned with the national struggle for equality and justice. But I knew that my dad and his friends made their way to the edge of town one night to turn away a group of people from a nearby city who wanted to create a disturbance in our little town.

It's been proven that you notice two things first when you meet another person. One sees gender and race before one notices hair color or height or weight or what someone is wearing. But I think I've been pretty color-blind most of my life, and I tried to teach my children that the color of one's skin doesn't matter.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
So. I guess I want to say – again – thanks, Obama, for helping me find my political passion. I'm engaged in the process in a way I never thought possible. Do I wish I'd started earlier in life? Oh, yes. But I try not to spend too much time regretting that which I can't change.

There's too much to do NOW.
Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who's willing to work.
That's the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper.
That's the promise we need to keep. That's the change we need right now.
~ Barack Obama, August 27, 2008 

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