I've spent the better part of today the way I imagine many progressives did: basking in a feeling that lies somewhere between bewilderment and elation. I'm used to spending the days after presidential elections avoiding the news like the plague. The sensation of the Obama election felt something like what I imagine getting a bionic body would be like: great, wonderful even -- but it would take some getting used to. By ten pm last night I'd already run out of superlatives to describe what the Obama election means to me, my parents, my towns (Chicago, where I was raised, and San Francisco, where I live), the country, the world. Yesterday was a day that only Terkel, Royco, Algren or Ivins could have really captured. Wish they were here.
One of my favorites, Ricky Lee Jones, once wrote "You never know when you're making a memory." But listening to the tremor in my dad's voice last night, I realized there were exceptions to this maxim; once in a great while, you do know a memory when it happens. If you rode the bus today, or looked into the eyes of passersby on the street, you know what I mean.
The moment was not without bitterness; here in California, we appear to have passed Proposition 8, thus enshrining second-class citizen status in our State's Constitution on the same day our nation realized dreams of equality that I fully expected would remain dreams during my lifetime. The irony that so many African Americans played a role in Prop 8's passing was not lost to me; neither was the fact that Obama's own "I believe marriage is between a man and a woman" statements were so effectively put to use in advertisements by the measure's proponents. Whether these regrettable sentiments will prove to be an evil necessary for a greater good (the bargain so many progressives who support Obama have struck) only time will tell. Say what you will about the Nader/Gonzalez campaign, they didn't bend to "pragmatism" (this year's euphemism for political self-interest) in supporting the rights of people who love each other to do so with confidence, joy and respect.
Then this afternoon I saw Ralph Nader's response, an ingratious and condescending admonishment to Obama not to be an "Uncle Tom," and different superlatives began reeling through my head. Like "indefensible," "galactically arrogant," and "transparently bitter." Oh yes, and "racist." Here was Ralph Nader, hero to so many, spewing hateful nonsense in what can only be viewed as a calculated effort to grab headlines. Nader fully knows that the ways in which his viewpoints differ from Obama's - ways in which I generally side with Nader - are not fundamentally about race. But he used the term "Uncle Tom", because he believes that Obama too often "acts white" (another reprehensible quote from his 2008 campaign); that is, that (1) a black man must adopt Nader's viewpoint to be really black, and (2) to "act white", is to support corporate oppression, the surrender of civil rights, etc. The flimsy, noxious and missiological nature of Nader's argument is obvious to many I'm sure. My personal anger at his statements is remarkable, if at all, only because he has been a welcomed visitor in my law office on several occasions and I have sat and discussed politics with him over dinner. And on a more personal note, one of my law partners was Nader's running mate. I for one cannot give Nader a pass this time. Regardless of his many contributions to our society, it is high time that he be judged with the same ethical rigor he would apply to others. Ralph: some soul searching would do you some good.
Ok, I'm done. Rachael Maddow is on air. I really wish Ivins could see this.
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