Wednesday, November 5, 2008
This note comes to you from India where a few of us have been watching this election with a lot of excitement!
Congratulations! A white American friend of mine from Pennsylvania worked really hard for months campaigning for you. She just called up to tell me about a mother of two - a total stranger - who took off from home and work in NY to come to Lancaster and campaign in the battleground state on the final day. As you put it: this is as much the victory of millions of such people as much as it is yours!
I’ve always been interested in politics but never in electoral politics. I had never followed any election closely or cared much about who got elected. But something about this time was different, like you put it.
It was not so much your election manifesto, or your plan to bail your country out of its economic depression, that made me sit up and notice you. It was not so much your promise to end your war on Iraq, or to provide tax cuts to the middle class. It was not even so much your talk about promoting renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gases. Again, it was not even the sum of all your well-articulated policies that caught my attention. I know it is not easy inheriting a nation mired in injustice and caught up in so many complicated situations. It is not easy to disentangle from all this, straighten and fix things overnight. I don’t know what can truly be done or undone. I will wait to see what unfolds.
It was something else that shone through your eyes that touched me; your sincerity, humility, and a certain I-mean-business-here attitude. Sitting half-way across the globe, those are what I voted for with my heart.
I’ve read your website inside out. I’ve seen most of your speeches. I’ve read your press interviews. I’ve met your Kenyan grandmother and half-sister through youtube. I’ve browsed through your family photo albums. I’ve heard your family speak about you. I’ve even seen all those music videos on you floating around.
I may have my share of disagreements with your vision for a new world. For instance: it’s hard for me to truly understand what exactly you mean by change - the ‘American dream’ that you talk about, I believe, is driven by so much fear and in essence, a materialistic chase. I don’t know what you mean by education, opportunity, progress, prosperity or patriotism. I am quite wary of these really loaded words. And if you mean them to be the same as what they popularly imply, then I can say with confidence that they are paths to dangerous ends - to destruction.
But let’s keep these aside for now. I now want to share with you all those little things that have really meant a lot to me – things that have left me tearing up, choking up and left me inspired many times.
You told your people that after you’ve provided the best education opportunities you possibly can, you will go back to them and ask them if they’ve turned off their TVs and read out stories to their children. I share your belief in partnership and mutual accountability.
You expressed your personal opinion that you are not a big fan of gay marriages (since your Christian faith defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman only) but that you’d ensure that gay people are not discriminated in any way and that you’d respect the decisions made by individual states on the issue of legalizing gay marriages. Though my idea of marriage is quite different from yours, I am touched by your unapologetic expression of what is true for you in your heart, while staying respectful and sensitive, believing in the intelligence of the people to answer such questions for themselves.
You admitted that everyone may not agree with every decision or policy you make as President, and that the government can’t solve every problem; but that you will always be honest with them about the challenges you face; that you will listen to them, especially when you disagree. I am moved by your humility and your willingness to listen to different points of view.
You took two days off to visit your ailing and dying grandmother right in the middle of your hectic campaign schedule. I teared up and took notice of how clear you were about your priorities. We finally have someone who actually values love and life over anything else (like power or profits!), I thought.
When Rev. Wright made unpleasant remarks, you unequivocally disagreed with him but with grace, fondly calling him your ‘grand uncle who just says things from time to time’. You condemned his words as ‘being divisive when we most need to build unity’. I was moved by your big heart even while you remained uncompromising in your ideals; such a rare combination to find these days!
You asked of the African-American community to embrace the burdens of their past without becoming its victims. I am inspired by your courage and commitment to empower and heal, without falling prey to victimhood.
Every time an indecent comment was made by your campaigners of the opponent candidates, you played the disciplining mother reminding them gently that you did not believe in playing those games; that there can be any number of distractions from time to time. ‘Not this time’ you said, bringing their focus back to the larger issues we're facing. I raised my eyebrows in disbelief of such a possibility in a political campaign!
And lastly and most importantly, Obama, when you declared that you are guided by faith, that you pray to remain an instrument in the hands of God, I knew in my heart that you were on the right path. I strongly feel that if we, as people, never falter from this faith and continue to pray and ask for guidance to do what is for the highest and the best of all life, answers will come to us.
I strongly believe that you haven’t risen to power by luck or chance. I believe that it is the mass consciousness that has evolved to a certain stage in order to create and become ready to benefit from the services of a leader like you. Even four years ago, I doubt if the people of America were ready for that!
I believe that you aren’t here as a leader who ‘knows it all’ and who will show the way in a top-down manner. Like Gandhi whom you are inspired by, who simply connected to and ‘voiced the aspirations of the masses’, I am hopeful that you will be the new leader. The new leader of the new world, who believes in the collective intelligence of life to figure itself out. The role of the new leader of the new world is to inspire confidence and courage in these times of so much fear and chaos; to clear roadblocks for grassroots movements to blossom; to listen to them, support them and make them seen and heard. For they have been stifled, smothered and battered for too long now by the mass unconscious. You just need to courageously stand by them through times of scary threats from those wielding brute power.
As the new leader, you need to be a midwife merely assisting in the birthing of the new world, just being there with all of your self, allowing life to work at it best, breathe and express itself in all its glory and abundance; remembering and reminding to celebrate every step along the way but intervening if the situation so warrants.
Obama, thank you for being who you are. My prayers for strength and clarity to continue to remain that way through the stormy days and nights ahead.