Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Motherly Epiphany

When we fought for civil rights in the 60’s we faced issues well beyond our world experience. We hated the bigots in Boston and we regretted the opportunities denied our black friends – who admittedly were few, but the personal numbers didn’t matter as much as what was the right thing to do--for everyone. We have continued, (in those years and until today), to fight for human rights and civil rights and women’s rights—all that is right. I did not cross that bridge in Selma with John Lewis. I have friends who did. They were young, and they knew it was the right thing to do, but they also knew that they would be in physical danger. Their decision was not easy—but it was about doing the right thing and hoping they would live through it. And if they lived through it, facing jail was a certainty – not pleasant in 1960s Alabama as a civil rights activist or as the public thought, “ trouble makers.”

John Lewis changed his endorsement from Clinton to Obama yesterday. In an interview with Andrea Mitchell, he said it was harder than his decision to cross that bridge in Selma. The Clintons are good friends, but he changed his vote because something is happening in this country that he wants to support. There is talk among the pundits about whether this was in fact, a courageous decision, or whether it was politically advantageous. John is a most principled person. I have never known him to do anything politically expedient if it was in lieu of doing what he thought was right. I can’t imagine that this has changed.

It is possible that Hillary will pull off yet another upset and we will all be having the same discussion next week. But the reality is, that there is, as John Lewis said, ‘something’ happening. Sure, people have said Obama won the battle for change but they have also been using the word to indicate some kind of momentum – because change doesn’t just happen. But there is something going on. You can feel it when you talk to young people who voted for the first time, and cynics who thought they would never vote again—but finally chose to.

It is not difficult to explain why it has happened at this time. People are disheartened about the government, the economy, the price they pay for gas, the loss of their homes, and the lack of health care. Why shouldn’t we all be excited about someone who says there is hope. And why shouldn’t we take the next step and say, “maybe this guy, who has not been at it for a long time, but seems to have a vision rather than a list, be able to do better. I’m right there with him.”

The question becomes, what happens now? If Senator Clinton wins in Ohio and Texas does it prolong the inevitable. What’s really interesting is all the chatter about how she has changed the person she is so many times, no one knows who they would be electing. Here’s my take. I agree with that to some degree, but the more I think about it—the less complicated it becomes—if you have been a mother reacting to her child. I know that my kids never knew who they were going to find when they opened the door to my house. Not that I was nuts, but depending on what happened during the day, or how business was going, or if there was something the kids had done that I didn’t discover until they'd left, I was a number of different people. Not unlike Senator Clinton, I sometimes expressed my pride in their behavior or some accomplishment, I reprimanded them for being naughty when they disappointed me, I threatened them for leaving food under the bed (we would assuredly have mice or cockroaches) I cried when they moved me in a recital or learning how to skate board, I pretended to know more than they did about things, and I wanted them to love, respect and notice how important I was—just in general and maybe to the entire world. Sound familiar? And therein lies the real problem. Senator Clinton is not just an experienced qualified woman running for the highest office in the nation. She is manifesting all the motherly qualities/behavior/rhetoric, we may like or not, in our moms. But we don’t want to think the person we elect to the highest office in the world is going to behave like our mothers. It’s just that simple—or maybe not, but it is my latest take on what’s actually going on.

The question than becomes, if defeat is inevitable, when does she concede? She will certainly wait until after the primaries in Texas and Ohio. Too many people have too much invested for her to chuck it all tomorrow. But how does she do it and when and then what do all her supporters do. Will they get over the defeat and do what is good for the Party? Certainly the issues/organizations people will do that. Obama brings them a new generation of possible members or activists. The consultants walk away rich and unscathed—just look at Bob Shrum from the Kerry campaign. I guess it depends on which Mom makes the concession. I hope it’s the same one that is proud to be a Democrat in a party that will nominate a black man for President. Who ever would have thought. We’re just sayin... Iris

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