Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Have We Overcome?

This is a day I always hoped would come, but never dared believe in. The euphoria that struck around 5 pm PST, when NPR called Pennsylvania and Ohio for Obama, has begun to fade. I realized when I watched Obama's acceptance speech, and kept looking for the bulletproof glass around him, that I still can't quite accept that he's really going to lead this country.

I agreed with Michelle Obama when she said Obama's candidacy was the first time she'd really felt proud of her country. In my lifetime, I've seen Jimmy Carter fail despite the best of intentions, Ronald Reagan set the clock back to the 1960s, Bush 41 let the oil oligarchs take over our foreign policy, and Bill Clinton let his penis invalidate his entire administration. The damage caused by Bush 43 has been too great even to list. As a liberal, an immigrant, a social progressive and a fiscal conservative, I have seen my candidates try and fail to serve those who need their help the most, while the other side never even tries to conceal their corrupt agenda.

I want to believe that today is different, that in America we can finally put our twisted racial history behind us, that we can stop looking at the world and at people in black and white and start finding nuanced and effective solutions to our problems. I genuinely hope for this to happen. But I keep thinking it's impossible, that something will go wrong--Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton being examples of the best worst case, while JFK, RFK and MLK Jr. exemplify the worst worst case.

But then, this whole campaign has been run on the platform of refusing to let fear run our lives or our country. And so, I am happy, and look forward to a new Camelot in 76 days.


I'm back from India and will have reports in the next few days, but today's post is about something that's actually even more important to me than art--exercising the right to vote.

One of the great virtues of our democracy is that we may choose who we wish to support for higher office. That choice is personal and it's no one's place to tell you how to use it. I would not presume to do so, but I am writing about this today because I know that this may be the most important US election of my lifetime.

Too many consequences of the last 8 years are coming to bear on all of us now, with more fallout yet to come. I firmly believe that the only way to correct our national course is to elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden. They are not perfect candidates, nor perfect people, but they are the best options we have been offered in a long time.

Polls are showing Obama ahead, but polls can lie. The consequences of not electing Obama are too severe for us not to act. The America that John McCain and Sarah Palin want does not include people like me--we of the funny names, immigrant ties and acceptance of non-Christian religions. McCain and Palin don't believe that we are part of America, but Obama and Biden do. They understand that the world is an interconnected place, that the balance of global power is shifting toward the East, and that immigrants make this country great. We, especially we immigrants who have come here and done well for ourselves, should understand in turn that the social safety net also makes this country great (even if it requires paying some taxes). Having recently been in India, where it does not exist, I can see the difference.

If you are a citizen, I am asking you to please exercise your right to vote tomorrow, and help elect Obama and Biden. If you're not, I'm asking you to please make a donation if you can afford it and your residency status permits it, and to talk to your friends and colleagues about these important issues.

Please forward this message to your networks, and especially to people in Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Also, please support candidates for other offices who can help bring about the enormous changes we so badly need, like Ashwin Madia in Minnesota, and Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire.

Finally, if you're in California, please take the time to consider all the (tedious and confusing) propositions on the ballot. If you do nothing else, please vote NO on Proposition 8, and prevent discrimination from being constitutionalized in this state. Marriage is a contract that governs property-sharing and guardianship rights in case of medical emergency, and it is none of the state's business which two people choose to enter into this exclusive agreement. The gender of the two people should be of no concern whatsoever under the law.

I also encourage NO votes on Proposition 4, although I recognize that the issue of parental notification for minors seeking abortions is a more complicated one. Although I understand parents' concerns about the availability of a medical procedure to their minor children without their consent, I also have observed that the teen girls who are most likely to need abortions are the ones who are least able to turn to their parents in times of crisis. The sad fact is that girls who can talk to their parents about serious issues are far less likely to get pregnant in the first place, while the ones who can't are much more likely to do something stupid and potentially dangerous like pursue an illegal abortion.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read this appeal. Here's to waking up on Wednesday in a country that appreciates us.