Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Four More for Forty-Four

Four years ago, I blogged briefly about Barack Obama becoming our 44th President, and I followed up with my thoughts on the day of his inauguration. (I also couldn't resist reviewing the cultural events of the inauguration.) Regular bklynbiblio readers know that I intentionally avoid blogging about politics because I think others do it much better than I, and because politics is frequently divisive and painful I choose not to engage with it. That said, the election is a time for reflection, and so I thought I'd take a few moments to write about why I'm thrilled that America has reelected Obama. He may have won the electoral vote (as of now, 303 to 206), but he just barely won the popular vote (50% to 48%). Clearly Obama has a long road ahead of him that is going to be filled with obstacles. He will have to be steadfast on some issues, and make great allowances on others. Admittedly, he may not have a very successful second term at all. And yet I'm still thrilled that he was reelected.

During Obama's January 2009 inauguration, I wrote the following: "I'm not so naive as to think that Obama is a magician whose going to make all our problems go away, nor do I think he's a miracle worker who will heal all our woes. But I do believe that Obama brings a sense of education and righteousness and charisma that makes me believe in the possibility that our problems will dissipate and our ills go away. That belief is what we need right now, more than ever." Do I still believe that? Yes, but with some hesitation based on the past four years. According to critics, Obama's two major strikes against him during his first term have been his inability to successfully reinvigorate the economy and his move toward socialized health care. Do I agree with these critics? Perhaps, although I'm more sympathetic on his health care reforms than I am on his economic recovery. Clearly Obama isn't an economist or a financial expert or a business entrepreneur. That said, I'm not sure that even if he were any of these that he would have done a better job (note: if he were any of these things, he probably would have been a Republican). I'm not convinced that Obama or Romney or anyone in the government has the answers to fixing the economy. Personally, I think Obama and Congress need to create a non-partisan think-tank of economists, financial specialists, and business executives--people who are not in or running for political office!--and have them hash out ideas and make recommendations as to how to jump-start the economy. There has to be a middle ground between all the stalled attempts between Republicans and Democrats to fix the economy, and I can't help but feel that this middle ground is comprised of individuals who are knowledgeable from hands-on experience and (more importantly) are not in political office. As for health care, to me this is a no-brainer. Health care and insurance costs are astronomically high, and everyone is entitled to reasonably priced medical assistance. The obvious option is for the government to place restrictions on health care costs, but that will never happen because no one would allow the government to monitor and control the insurance and medical industries. The only other option then is to provide a government-sponsored form of health care that allows for everyone to be able to receive medical assistance. Of course that is going to be an outrageous fortune and a financial burden on the American people. But it is at least an option available to people who currently have no option at all, and left unchecked health care costs are going to sky-rocket.

While some of you reading this post may agree with me, I know there are others who will adamantly disagree with me. That's fine. That's why this is America. To quote my dear friend CF, who commented on my inaugural post: "To be able to disagree with our leaders and not face imprisonment, torture or banishment, that is what makes America unique." Although most people in my circle of family and friends are Democrats, others are Republicans, and I respect that we all have different opinions about these things. People assume I'm a Democrat and of course I am (a gay, art-loving writer, educator, and librarian?--hello!), but I publicly admit that I'm not as leftist as people assume. I'm not anti-Republican. I think there are points about the Republican party's platform, such as lessening government involvement and aspects of business politics, that are important and need to be taken into consideration. But I more firmly believe the Democratic party is right in its progressive move forward in the realm of civil rights. For me, the biggest mistake the Republican party ever made was aligning itself with the fundamentalist Christian population. America is (theoretically) about the division of church and state, and whatever personal religious affiliation an individuals has, those tenets must be overlooked to ensure that all Americans are treated equally from a socio-legal perspective, regardless of their own affiliations. In the long run, that is to me the most important part of this election and why I'm thrilled Obama has been reelected. To me, the fundamentalist Christian right has kept the Republican party from evolving and moving forward in understanding that the old way of doing things has to change. We need to start embracing change and moving forward. We can no longer keep looking back to the past like it was some sort of utopian America.

According to the Huffington Post, Obama secured anywhere from 70-75% of the Hispanic/Latino vote, and Republicans are admitting that they didn't work hard enough in that area. I'm not sure why exactly Republicans (in general) seem less aware of the power of this particular demographic group, but the fact remains that America is rapidly becoming more Hispanic/Latino, and the traditional White community that founded this nation is losing its place as the dominant socio-political group. I'm not sure where Blacks fit into this, but in some odd twist of fate, I think in a few decades Blacks and Whites will together be dominated by the rising Hispanic/Latino population. Let's face it: America is changing. Republicans--and Democrats--need to recognize this. We have a responsibility to become bi-lingual and learn Spanish (it's on my to-do list for 2013). I don't mean because immigrants coming to America aren't learning English; clearly people coming to the United States have a responsibility to learn English. But English-speaking Americans have an equal responsibility to recognize the rising power and influence of Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America with the United States, and we must learn to engage with these people and nations by becoming equally bi-lingual--as so many of them are--in order to engage more peacefully with them economically, socially, and politically. 

And then there is the gay community. Maryland and Maine have now voted for the recognition of gay marriage, raising the number of states to do this to eight (Washington soon will be nine, plus Washington, D.C. already recognizes gay marriage). Wisconsin has elected the nation's first openly-gay senator. And our President and Vice-President openly support gay marriage, although they see it as a state issue, not a federal issue (another no-brainer since people are married by the laws of a state, not by the laws of the nation). I've blogged about gay marriage, so I won't repeat my thoughts on that right now. Admittedly it may seem like I'm pleading for the gay community as a group deserving special treatment, but the fact is gay marriage as a political platform is beyond any one individual's personal interest. This is about civil rights: all Americans are entitled to equal rights. And this struggle is no different from the battles that women have had to fight for the right to abortions, and African-Americans have had to fight for desegregation and equal rights beyond the color of their skin. As a country where democracy flourishes stronger than anywhere else on the planet, we have a responsibility to show the rest of the world that America is a progressive nation when it comes to civil rights. I cannot help but believe, from the rhetoric I have heard, that to have voted Romney into office would have set the nation backwards in its progress toward a more national acknowledgment of basic civil rights for the gay community.

What's interesting to me though is that these two issues I bring up about the Hispanic/Latino and gay communities will not always be this way. As I recently said to some of my friends, I believe there will be a time in say thirty years from now when gays and Hispanic/Latinos will have become so mainstream in American social politics that the current perception of special interest pleading will have dissipated. Indeed, I anticipate and expect a significant number of gays and Hispanics/Latinos actually will be Republicans. I wouldn't even be surprised if in say 2046 America elects as President its first gay Republican, a successful bi-lingual business entrepreneur whose parents were from the state of Puerto Rico, or perhaps immigrants from Mexico or Argentina. And perhaps it will be under that future President that the civil rights debate will be over the ethical treatment of clones, i.e. if cloned humans are entitled to equal rights since they weren't "born" but "made." Okay, so maybe that's a stretch into sci-fi, but I think you see what I'm implying. Life in America is going to keep evolving, and there will be new issues to tackle that Americans will debate and politicize. Eventually, however, they will settle those issues progressively as America has done in the past. That is what I see and hope for the future. And that future begins now. That's why I'm thrilled Obama has been reelected. As for 2016...anyone thinking Hilary Clinton could be our first woman President?

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