I love history because I feel it. Others enjoy a kiss or music, great art; history flows deep in my soul with its own compass of beauty. My challenge is to wander outside of language’s cages and find how we are bound to freedom, for history is always about the drama of freedom. Barack Obama’s re-election is one of freedom’s greatest moments. I loved it. But every wisdom tradition warns that in the shadows of great moments are dangers and obstacles throbbing and alive with their losing gasp.
I congratulate the President—and the country—but I am going to write about the dangers swept up in that great moment; the dangers, though defeated and diminished, that are a threat to the freedom that I love. History shows dangers, after being pummeled, return redoubled. If dangers are not guarded against, the great moments of history become a pinnacle of achievement rather than a base camp for building greater success. And in the great success and jubilation of celebrating the re-election of Barack Obama with the support of states from east to west (and maybe south!), mighty danger lurks.
In a country where men and women from Kenya were captured, shipped and sold as property at public auctions and stripped of legal and personal rights, denied even the right to marry by Christian ministers and church elders, made into forced labor, compelled to accept forcible rape upon their women, our President, a descendant of Kenya, was told by an immigrant, speaking as his opponent’s surrogate, that he needed “to learn to be an American.” That immigrant overlooked that the sons and daughters of Africa know all too well and have learned too deeply what America means. The danger in the casual denial of his words hints at the old auctions, except the descendants are increasingly being marginalized. Their worth extracted, they are floss. The old story is still written in the wastes of higher unemployment, lower incomes, in communities overrun with crime, violence, and dropouts.
These communities must return to their history of self-help, established within the communities created by the auction block, communities that honored marriage and deeply embedded a self-love unbroken by violence and words, a self-love whose self-worth was tied to its ethics and pride in education, work and achievement. The African-American community need be painfully aware of the dangers that stand in front of its destiny, blocking its progress, subtly attempting to change its inner truth. At the moment of the highest achievement by one of its improbable sons, it stands on the precipice of imploding doom.
An irony of last night’s success is that women were the prime group in re-electing a man. In state after state, the President’s margin depended on women voters. His opponent narrowly tried to isolate employment as a single issue for women voters, as his party isolated women as a group. Not just jobs; health care is primarily economic. The Republican resistance to Obamacare is not to health, but to costs, or how the payment and revenues are directed. Before Obamacare, virtually every state had higher costs for women, with giant holes in coverage related to women, on reproduction and illness that affected women at a higher incidence than men. In many ways, women are the driver’s of the national balance sheet; Walmart has woefully exploited their skills, other women have sold them out, some buy into an ideology that marginalizes them, many miss the global picture, and more struggle with poverty.
Far too many women subordinate themselves to the party line of Obama’s opponents. They missed an opportunity to move forward on women issues by leveraging their support for compromises that would result in progress for all women. Far be it for me to suggest to GOP women how to operate within their party, but they missed an important page from the Democratic playbook: don’t sell out, trade up. A chance for real gains for all women was lost by their refusal to engage in the crisis inflation the GOP uses as its main tool of power. If GOP women had fought for gains on women’s issues, the election results may have been switched.
Democratic women have a deep bench. Maybe now is the time to reach out to Republican women to create effective voices on a broad range of global and domestic issues, rejecting men and special interests from using women as economic and political pawns. Joining with GOP women, in office or retired (the two Maine senators, for example), would shift the national politics quicker than any other realignment! Despite last night’s joyful dance of a victory that will protect Roe, Supreme Court appointments, equal pay, safety nets, equal opportunity, along with environmental justice in the communities where women live, women are not out of danger. By making Barack’s victory a base camp, they can build in four years a movement that protects their diverse visions and asserts their independence to reach new heights.
The pundits are offering a single solution for the Obama victory: a superior ground game. Not one has mentioned the multi-volumes of lies of his opponent collected on websites like Rachel Maddow’s or last week’s twitter post from a Chrysler vice president directly to Obama’s opponent, saying, “you are full of shit.” Not one media person has mentioned the millions Romney stashed offshore. Not one felt it important to discuss the loss as it relates to the issues. Education, the environment, the defense budget, safety nets, global recovery, or peace. We are seeing the trivia of American politics substitute for substance.
That’s the one of the biggest dangers that lies ahead, the rewriting of politics to separate truth from freedom. When I walked to my neighborhood polling location yesterday, I was part of a ground game. More importantly, I felt good about my choice. I was a part of millions of Americans who believed and guarded the American Promise of freedom for all as our history and our future.