We were such a modern family, living in our new ranch house with trendy curved shelves at the end of our sleek new blond wood cabinets. One of those shelves held the black plastic radio, which is where I heard most of my news. There was morning news and noon news and late afternoon news on the radio, and the late night news might be on the black and white television, but that was past my bedtime. I would play on the kitchen floor in front of the radio or work on art projects at the end of the kitchen table while the radio played in the background. I guess that is where the first appeals to my born-liberal mind were made, because I remember thinking sympathetic things about Civil Rights workers and equal rights for black people. My values were 'Christian' values back then, formally verbalized in Sunday School class. My Jesus was a loving kind fair person, and of course, black people were people too and would not Jesus want them to have equal rights? Seemed obvious to me. Until I heard sentiments all around from grown ups, how that King was 'stirring things up' and why couldn't those marchers 'leave good enough alone'. It was my first brush with the idea that grown ups could be wrong, because I knew in my heart and soul that the fight for equality was a good one.
And it pissed me off that my friends who were boys and my cousin who was a boy were allowed to ride with their dads on tractors and in trucks while we girls stayed home and watched our mothers do laundry and make meals. It irked me that our friends who were boys had toy trains and toy tractors and toy trucks. I was apparently born not only a liberal, but a liberal feminist.
I heard the news coverage of the Vietnam War and hated it. By then we had a color TV and tame as the images were then, I hated the war, and as coverage of anti-war protesters increased, I was on their side. The liberal feminist was now also a pacifist.
So today, two days before the election of the next president of our country, I worry. On a par with the worry of when ones own child has a cold or is having trouble in a class at school.
There is one right answer for peace, for equality, for opportunity in the coming presidential election.
It is not because one candidate is 'black'. But it is partly because we see him as black. He is half. Half white. Half black. Why do we label him 'black? Why do we label him at all? Because we are still more racist than we should be. But I have hope. Many in my sons' generation do not see it the way we see it. To them, Obama is just a person, and his skin color is irrelevant. They have friends of many shades of skin color and it is irrelevant. They categorize their friends not on basis of skin color, but on basis of shared interests. They have Scouting friends and climbing friends and chess friends and music friends and those interests are the things that friendships are based on, not race lines. So they look at this race and see a man who is for the war and old ways of doing things yet claims to be a 'maverick' against the current powers. They see the hypocricy in that. They look at this race and see another man who has goals and questions and ideas much more like their own. They see a man who does not have all the concrete answers now but is intelligent and eager to gather information and ask questions and try new things. They want new answers to old questions and they want new questions to be discovered. They want the war to end before they have to fight it and they want a clean environment so they can hike and climb and camp in it and they want equal and fair access to jobs and they want our country to be respected again outside our borders, for they have studied history and know how we were once seen to the world. They see the one campaign based on ideas and looking ahead to solving problems. They see the other campaign do nothing but trash the opponent and spread fear of terrorism and fear of socialism and fear of Muslims and they don't like that negativity.
I read the polls and look at the numbers and I see the forward looking candidate ahead by 4 percentage points or 6 points or up to 7 points. I am a little sickened that so few people see the tragedy of the war and the threat to the environment. He should be far far ahead, not just a little ahead! Then I hear that in past elections, the candidate 'of color' has lost some 6 or 7 percentage points from the opinion polls to the voting polls because of their race. Because the people who declared undecided actually intended to vote for the white guy. Because people who felt they 'should' vote for the minority really did not intend to. This scares me. It scares me that this nation could still be that racist. And so, for two more days, I will worry.