Friday, May 30, 2008

Obama - For Real (Part One)

I read Barack Obama's biography, Dreams of My Father, to find out "Is he for real?" First published in 1995, he speaks about his life in three different settings: Origins; Chicago; and Kenya.

Barack's early years taught him patience and tolerance, humility and perseverance, and all the other character traits that serve him well as an adult. He learned those lessons in the most intensive and painful school of all - the School of Personal Experience.

Why didn't he become angry instead of patient and tolerant when he was on the receiving end of racial discrimination? Why didn't he become proud when he earned a scholarship to Harvard? or discouraged when years of effort at community organizing paid such seemingly small dividends in change? Why did he choose forgiveness, generosity of spirit and love, instead of bitterness, when he visited Kenya and learned about his father's life there?

I can only conclude that his mother and his grandparents were exceptional people who practiced the Christian values that most people only preach, and that he chose their highest values for his own. But there is something more. We are not only formed by our childhood role models. We are all individuals who choose, day by day, what to keep, what to discard, what to value and what to despise, as we grow towards maturity. Barack chose well.

I offer these snippets from his book (with page references) as evidence that Barack Obama is not the slick product of focus groups and political mentors, but rather, that what we've heard him say every day during this campaign is what he believes, practices, and has said from his earliest time as an adult, working to create hope and change.

  • "In 1983 I decided to become a community organizer." page 133

about Marty, his employer and mentor in community organizing in Chicago:
  • "Somewhere in his life, I thought, he, too,had been betrayed." page 150
  • "...recognizing in myself the same vision driving Marty, his faith that if you could just clear away the politicians and media and bureaucrats and give everybody a seat at the table, then ordinary people could find common ground." page 152

on the racial divide and dealing with anti-Semitism or Asian-bashing in his community:
  • "I learned, for example, that most of the people in the area had been raised farther north or on Chicago's West Side, in the cramped black enclaves that restrictive covenants had created for most of the city's history." page 155
  • "Just talk. Yet what concerned me wasn't just the damage loose talk caused efforts at coalition building, or the emotional pain it caused others. It was the distance between our talk and our action, the effect it was having on us as individuals and as a people. That gap corrupted both language and thought; it made us forgetful and encouraged fabrication; it eventually eroded our ability to hold either ourselves or each other accountable." page 203
  • "The continuing struggle to align word and action, our heartfelt desires with a workable plan -- didn't self-esteem finally depend on just this? It was that belief which had led me into organizing, and it was that belief which would lead me to conclude, perhaps for the final time, that notions of purity -- of race or of culture -- could no more serve as the basis for the typical black American's self-esteem than it could for mine." page 204

about his reasons for leaving Chicago to go to Harvard law school:
  • "And I had things to learn in law school, things that would help me bring about real change. I would learn about interest rates, corporate mergers, the legislative process; about the way businesses and banks were put together; how real estate ventures succeeded or failed. I would learn power's currency in all its intricacy and detail, knowledge that would have compromised me before coming to Chicago but that I could now bring back to where it was needed, back to Roseland, back Altgeld; bring it back like Promethean fire." page 276
All page numbers for quotes are from the 1995 hardback version.

Tomorrow I'll conclude "Obama - For Real" with quotes from his experiences in Kenya. It's all about family; the immediate family, the extended family, the human family.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why Blog?

"To create one's own world, in any of the arts, takes courage." Georgia O'Keeffe

I blog to challenge myself: to put my ideas and actions out in the public and see how they hold up (or not).

I blog to challenge others to take up a book, a cause or a candidate they might not have considered yet.

I blog to give and to receive - to discover new friends and to update old friends, to begin conversations with people I've met (and many I've met only 'online') and with people I have yet to meet.

I blog to share my life in ways which could not otherwise happen since my handicaps keep me at home in solitude most of the time.

I blog for joy, and sometimes for sadness. My blog is my sidewalk and these pixels are my chalk, setting my messages in front of passers-by, strangers and family,
people from my neighborhood - a place as big as the whole world.

I blog for the hope that people are essentially good and kind and that to participate in this rising world consciousness called the Internet is to be part of something wonderful.

I blog to know myself better and to know others too.

I finished reading Barack Obama's biography, Dreams From My Father on my trip to Virginia this month, and the review will posted tomorrow.

Here are some other books I'll be reviewing soon:

A suspense novel by Enos Smith with a setting in Oregon, Cold River Rising. Included will be a discussion of self-publishing vs. traditional publisher with recommendations by Mr. Smith, from our recent interview with him.

Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie, on how to be free of the downward cycle of addiction and codependency that develops in relationships between addicts and the people who love them.

Don't Think of an Elephant, by George Lakoff, a classic on political propaganda and how to spot it.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Report from Undercover

Many others have reported on the how and why of the end of Hillary's campaign, so I will just give a link here to a great summary by davidkc at the Daily Kos. He's done the work to provide links to the media stories, along with sharp analysis.

Last Sunday I went to the 'Hillary Party' and I did get the answer to my question of why people would vote for her in this Oregon primary.

We were all women, and all Democrats, and I was the only supporter for Barack Obama at the party. We enjoyed lunch, and then a delicious carrot cake, decorated with a picture of a very happy donkey. Finally, I asked "The Question": What is the main reason you are for Hillary?

The answers were different for each woman:
She's a woman, and I want to see a woman in the White House.
She has more experience, has been to more countries.
She has the experience to make better decisions.
She would fight harder for us.
She has been in elected office longer. (I made a small correction on that one - agreeing that Hillary had more time in the U. S. Senate, but pointing out that Barack Obama had more years in elected office because he served in the Illinois state legislature first.)

Heather - you were right, people think she has more (or better) experience (or that her husband does).

and then the last woman said -
She has Bill to advise her and help her out.

Here is where I was surprised, maybe a little shocked, because suddenly everyone was talking at once, agreeing together, excited and animated. I sat back a little back in my chair, lifted up my hands and said,
"Whoa - you are all scaring me a bit. Are you saying that this is a way to get Bill in for a third term?"

They all looked flustered for a second, and then some of them said no, oh no, she'll have other advisers, um, he'll just be there for her.... And one of them said nothing at all, just looked thoughtful, and then concerned.

But we ended on a high note, agreeing that we will all work together for whoever the candidate is in November.

With our mail in ballots, Oregon's election is different. The majority mail their ballots quickly (our household already voted for Obama and mailed our ballots). Some voters wait until May 20th and turn their ballots in directly to the collection centers - libraries and other designated places. We've done it that way in the past.

I've seen estimates that Obama will win 60% of the vote here in Oregon. I hope that is true. Although he is on the cover of Time magazine and the cover of The Economist this week, it isn't officially over until he has enough delegates and the convention ratifies his nomination in August.

With new delegates endorsing Obama daily, and a steady stream of delegates and supporters leaking away from Hillary and coming out for Obama, we are turning our attention to the next contest - winning the general election. Besides defeating John McCain, there are numerous House and Senate seats for the Democrats to turn over, including (R.) Senator Gordon Smith here in Oregon.

Senator Smith has been a faithful advocate for my niece, who was born with Noonan's Syndrome, and he has been so collegian on environmental issues that Democratic Senator Wyden has refused to campaign against him. So I will be sorry to see him go, but he voted with Bush on too many other things, and we need a solid Democratic majority in Congress to enact the changes that are so necessary.

We voted for Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley for U. S. Senate, but if challenger Steve Novick wins the primary, we will happily vote for him in November.

I'm over half-way through "Dreams From My Father" and will write a book review on that soon.

Time for a sauna now and it has a built-in cd player. I'll be listening to Resonance.