Here’s a speech I’ve been giving for the last few weeks. I’ve been told by well-meaning friends that they’re “disheartened” by my support for Barrack, that “it’s Hillary’s time” and everyone reminds me that there would be a fitting justice to having a Clinton bookend each side of Dubya’s administration.
So here’s why I’m voting for Barrack and why I’m asking you to vote for Obama as well. The history of this country is plagued by false divisions: black people vs. white people, the religious vs. those who do not speak of faith, the red state vs. the blue. These differences exist, but they are not what divides us. What divides this country is money.
My parents started off as a cop and respiratory therapist. They worked opposite shifts so that someone would always be home to take care of me when I was young. They both attended college, paying their way while raising two kids.
My Mom told me a story about how one of the parent’s in my Cub Scout den approached my mother and told her that nobody would blame her if she decided to step down as the adult leader of the group. “Why would I do that?”, my Mom asked. The mother replied, “Well, because all the other boys are black.” Confused as to what that had to do with anything, my Mom asked for an explanation. “Well, where I come from, doing something like this would tarnish your reputation. Only poor white people hang out with black people.”
A few years back, I tried making a documentary about religious roadside attractions across America. There’s a guy in western Maryland building Noah’s ark to Biblical scale and there’s a giant aluminum cross along I-40 in the Panhandle of Texas and many other places– and I went to most of them.
My crew and I traveled to these places and asked the people who ran them and created them about what motivates their beliefs and what they thought of the “godless coasts”. I had gone into the trip expecting to show the weird underbelly of religious America; what I found was a lot of poverty and the desire to turn to something hopeful, when everything around them seemed bleak.
As a travel journalist, I get to go around the country. Last year, I spent a week in Denver, CO, before the midterm elections. Everyone had written off Colorado as a red state: the home of Coors, Ted Haggard and Raytheon. I met with Denver’s mayor, John Hickenlooper and he spoke about his “Greenprint Denver” plan, which zones the city according to sustainability and who created a 10 year plan to eliminate homelessness in the city.
Later, I hung out with a friend of mine and his boyfriend and we went for a drive up to Boulder. Along the way, they shared with me what life in Denver was like– watching lesbian roller hockey on the weekends, occasionally fending off requests to attend services at the mega-church my friend’s boyfriend works at, and of course– skiing.
America is not an either/or proposition. We are not a nation divided by race. We are not a nation divided by religion, nor are we a nation that can be divided into two colors on the map. It is our plurality that makes us strong. It’s our plurality that gives us identity. We are both the conservative Mormon businessman in Salt Lake and the Good ole’ boy who became an actor. We are the tough-talking mayor who dresses in drag now and then and the savvy strategist who stays with her husband even after he shamed her beyond forgiveness.
You can’t blame these candidates for trying to sell you on their America, but what they (and Washington) has failed to see is that when selling your vision of America requires excluding everyone else’s, you reduce statesmanship to being leader of the neighborhood tree house club.
Hillary Clinton would have you believe that she alone can fight the Republican attack machine. For those who believe that America is one way or another, this is reassuring news. To those of us who believe that America is not so easily reduced, Clinton’s bunker mentality sounds just like Bush’s; with the same tacit promise that they will be President to those who vote for her– and the rest of us are just along for the ride.
There is no better way to perpetuate the current status quo of “us vs. them” than to put an already combative, insular Hillary Clinton in the White House. It will galvanize the Right and we will spend the next four years fighting the battles of the last 16.
I am excited to vote for Barack Obama because his politics are the future of this country. We’re not a nation divided; we’re a nation of many ideas.
I am voting for Obama because the problems this nation faces are growing exponentially. The threats we argue about today will shortly seem like child’s play to the threats we are to face. For the first time since the end of World War II, America’s role as a global leader is in doubt. By all estimates, our economy is in worse shape than we realize. The threat of global climate change is no longer an abstract; it is a pressing reality. The present gap between rich and poor dwarfs even the worst excesses of the robber-baron’s of yesteryear. Our nations’ infrastructure, be it roads or power lines, has never been in worse repair, nor in such high demand. We remain dangerously in the thrall of foreign oil.
These problems can not be solved by Republicans, nor can they be solved by Democrats. It will take an undivided America to succeed in such perilous times. Lincoln’s words ring as true today as they did in his time: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we will save our country.”
I am voting for Barrack Obama because he articulates in voice and action the America I believe in. It’s an America where intellect and faith are put to work for all Americans. It is an America that does not live in fear of the threats it faces, but serves as a beacon of hope to the world that together we can surmount any obstacle.
It’s an America where our differences are not what divides us, but are the very essence of what makes us great.