Politics does not exist in a vacuum. Contrary to popular belief, ‘politics’ isn’t a dirty word either. It is simply policies that govern a society. I haven’t given much thought as to how current political events, namely, the election, will shape our society.
Nancy asked me a question last night: whether blacks voting for Obama because he is black is the same as women voting for a woman candidate because the candidate is a woman. I have no idea how to answer this but the question primed me to consider the cultural dimension of this presidential race.
This morning I read an interview with Bernard-Henri Lévy on Salon that touched on the broader social implications of Obama being elected president. To Lévy, this scenario isn’t just about blacks being empowered:
…it will mean the end of a new American evil, which is the dividing, the Balkanization of American society. This is another counter-effect of a great idea, which was tolerance. You so much tolerate that you tolerate the American society to be in separate bubbles having their own peculiarities, and so on. Obama as president will mean all these bubbles submitted to a real ideal of citizenship. This is his message. McCain will not be able to do this. If McCain is elected, I can tell you the Iranians will close themselves in the Iranian identity. The Arabs will coldly, freezingly imprison themselves in the Muslim identity. The African-Americans will believe that the American society is more and more built against them. You will have an increase of the Balkanization. [emphasis is my own]
If Americans elect a black man (OK, I’m ignoring Obama’s mixed heritage for the moment) to the highest position in the nation, the American ideal of democracy will finally be married to equality, not just for blacks, but for all minorities. Such a scenario not only empowers ALL Americans, it also sends the message to the rest of the world that heads of state aren’t just a bunch of old, rich white men talking about opportunity and equality. This election has the potential to be a radical affirmation of American principles and values.
Nancy is exactly right: this is an amazing time to be alive.