Our Date with History

It should be to no one’s surprise that I’ll be casting my vote for Barack Hussein Obama on Tuesday. And while everyone from close friends to close family can poke holes at my reasons, I’ll share them with you all the same.

I’m a first-generation American on my mother’s side of the family. My mother, the daughter of a Polish tailor and a Cuban plumber, came to this country almost fifty years ago to the day (it was Halloween of 1958, I believe). My mom’s professional success is a testament to the sacrifices and hard work her family brought with them from Cuba. What success I have professionally and personally uses that strength as a scaffold. She spoke not a word of English on her arrival to Chicago. When I look at Mr. Obama, the son of a Kenyan and a Kansan, and I see all that he has accomplished with both grace and a modicum of humility, I see a reflection of me. Not a mirror image — a reflection.

My daughters are also Latino, as that is how I self-identify — and I have no doubt they will follow suit. When Obama speaks of hope and optimism, he is speaking of the America I want to live in. I don’t know that I will be able to. But I will muster with all my strength and will that vision of America for my daughters and, someday, their families. That’s worth fighting for. That’s worth debating for. That’s worth struggling  

for. That’s worth my sacrifice and my tax dollars if it is a dream they will be able to enjoy. As Latinas, they will hopefully grow up completely oblivious to the historical nature of Obama’s candidacy, let alone should he win on Tuesday. It would be a post-racial world. Arguably, we’re on the cusp of it now. I hope we are. I’ve been witness to enough ignorance and prejudice in my own life — and no, this is not a woe-is-me thing. I’m just trying to be real: In Johnstown, I was approached in my first week to join the KKK, which scared the shit out of me. I had to drive past huge Nazi flags on people’s lawns in Johnstown laid out like it was the 4th of July or something. In high school, I was threatened by Skinheads. In middle school, kids thought I had horns because I was Jewish (seriously… it’s a long story if you don’t already know this one). I would really love for my girls to not have to know this shit for themselves. I still have friends, close friends — best friends — who talk about how they got “jewed” out of some deal. It is not at all a small feat that  electing Barack Obama is in a way saying, collectively, that we’re moving on from that kind of crap.

I’d like my girls to be able to both embrace their unique heritage and at the same time, for it not to be any kind of big deal.

It is easy to leave the reasons for voting for Obama to race and minority issues, but that’s just the low hanging fruit. Since graduating college, I’ve had a hard time putting the ideals I was supposed to be working towards into practice. I’ve had to learn to make compromises to navigate through the world of work and adult life. When Obama speaks in nuances, but in consistent nuances, I feel as if he is talking to me. He is seeing what I see, and he is respecting the fact that I’m intelligent and capable of accepting complicated truths. We need to sacrifice as a generation, but we also need to boost the middle class to keep the economy going. We need to invest in education and in alternative energies to ween us off of carbon-based fuels, but doing so has no clear path nor will it be easy or cheap. We are a peace loving people, yet there are some fights that have to be fought and won. Obama doesn’t make these issues easy to understand — he makes the complexities clear. As a person with a healthy amount of distrust in government but with stores of optimism to employ, I appreciate his embrace of movement politics and the power of interpersonal relationships and social networking to enact change. I admire the degree of transparency he has lended to his campaign.

It is as if Obama embraced both the social movement politics and the structures of the open source movements and mashed them up. From a geek perspective, I am in awe of the maturity and skill with which he has galvanized so many people into aligned action. He got me to participate and volunteer, which is not something I thought I’d ever do.

I’ve been fortunate enough to nab an entry to the festivities in Grant Park on Tuesday night, with 60,000+ other people. I am hopeful he wins, as it would be nice to be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I was there the night this President was elected. I hope you will vote for him if you’ve not done so already. But more importantly, if you don’t care for Mr. Obama, I hope you vote against him. I just hope you vote.

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