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Wednesday 28 July 2004

Democratic National Convention


I turned on CSPAN last night (not the major broadacast networks), just to look at what was going on and tuned in just in time to see Barack Obama's keynote address. I'd seen this guy's name on the net recently, but didn't really know anything about him. He is definitely going places. He speech said almost all the right things. It's hard to give a powerful speech on a weak platform. He talked for a while about how war should be a last resort and not a first resort and said a lot of sensible things about war and peace. But the Democrats want it both ways. They want to be tough and annhiliate our "enemies," so then he talked for a while about how we need a strong military and should not hesitate to defeat our enemies and need to make sure to send in enough troops to actually win. Yes, clearly the problem in Iraq is that we don't have enough troops. If only there were more troops and mercenaries and more Iraqis in jail and more people killed on both sides and more bombs and more tanks and more violence and more death and more guns and more bullets and more troops and more convoys and more terrified 19 year old boys with guns running into houses in the middle of the night, rousting and arresting the occupants, only then, might we have peace in Iraq. More troops = more weapons = more violence = . . . peace?

Nevertheless, Obama's speech was excellent, especially on domestic issues, race issues, poverty, etc. Many people have commented that a major theme of the convetion is unity and true to the theme he criticized talking head for dividing the country into red and blue states. "we worship an awesome god in the blue states" and "people in red states don't want federal agents in their library records." Indeed. In many ways, he and many of the other bits I caught, primarily reached out to the urban base of the party. When he talked about poverty, he talked about urban, inner-city poverty and not rural poverty. CSPAN showed a DNC video about giving poor kids options and it was all about New York City. This video featured a Representative from NYC talking about growing up as a poor teenager of color and how he felt like he didn't have options. then it showed african american young men talking about dropping out of shool and having a lack of direction. The music under the track was urban contemporary. Then, after setting up the problem, the video turned to the solution: John Kerry. It also switched sound tracks at that point. The beat driven music switched (through a quite nice audio edit) to Enya. John Kerry brought beatless, white music to the inner city and turned black kids' lives around.

I went to a lecture last semester as music as a signifier of race and racial stereotypes. I certainly hope whoever did the audio for the video was only unconsciously tapping into that auditory shorthand. somebody at the DNC should have caught that. In that video, as in so much in society, "black" music = uneployment, thuggishness, crime, etc and "white" music = direction, uprightness, prospertity, hope. On the one hand, then Enya did fit in really well. It was that song whith the backwards synth pads. It sounded appropriately uplifting. On the other hand, it does send a deeper message. If the kids in the first half hadn't all been people of color, I never would have picked up on it. But suddenly, there's the picture of the white guy and the music changes.

That video was the lead-in for Obama's speech. And Obama's speech was quite good. I think I saw tears in the eyes of Hillary Clinton, but I'm not certain. He is clearly going to win his senate seat. He was already troucing his opponent, when it was revealed that his opponent forced his wife to go to sex clubs with him and tried to get her to perform sex acts with strangers. The dirty secrets of Republicans are soooo dirty. This was in divorce papers, which reports sucessfully sued to get released to the public. If you're going to run for office, maybe you shouldn't do things like that and maybe, if you do, you should be willing to give up enough money in the divorce settlement so that it doesn't go on your permanent record.

Obama kept mentioning his "funny name." You may recall that Bill Cosby recently criticised african americans for giving "funny" (read: African) names to their children. Obama's father was a Kenyan immigrant, so it's quite logical that he would have an African name, however, I can't help but wonder if his name references were a criticism of Cosby. Let's hope so, as I think Cosby was way out of line for making an issue of names and fashions. It's the kind of complaints that a bitter old man would have about the young people.

Ron Reagan

after Obama, Ron Reagan, son of our late ex president, gave a talk about stem cell research. It would have been compelling to have a scientist get up and talk about the politicization of science under the Bush administration, where scientists have been fired for reaching conclusions that did not match administration ideology and stem cell research has been halted, etc. Instead, Ron Reagan gave a creppy future scenario, science fiction like, where your cells would be implanted into a donor egg to create your own stem cell culture, which you would mine for cells whenever you had any medical problem. He was promising immortality. However, there is only so much healthcare to go around in the US. anyone who has health insurance can be immortal. And there are onyl so many donor eggs. Harvesting eggs is non trivial and allowing your eggs to be harvested has been linked to cancer. It seems to shorten the lives of egg donors. So rich people can be immortal with the eggs of the poor? Not a complelling vision of the future. Not one I'd support. Apparently what Democrats want. I know that they just picked Ron Reagan because of his name. I know that they probably care about the politicization of the NIH and the NIS and the WHO, etc. Nevertheless, I'm crepped out. I think folks not having health insurance, might, perhaps, be a wee bit more immeditaly compelling than the possibility of future research maybe finding a cure for currently incurable diseases. This is not a zero sum game. But how many people who can't take their kids to the doctor for strep throat until it's time for the emergency room are going to care about stem cell research. Obama talked about health care, but he talked about "buying" health insurance. Polls indicate that ther majority of Americans want nationalized healthcare. But insurance companies own the electoral process.

Kids for Kerry

I had it muted when a little orphan Annie, the founder of Kids for Kerry, (website) got up to speak. Cola insisted, eventually, that I turn the sound on. I could tell from the way she earnestly shook her head and the wide way she opened her mouth, that it would be bad, but Cola wanted to hear. We turned on the sound in time to hear her call for a "no-name calling day," where candidates would have one day of not runnign mean ads and then she said, "The vice president said a really bad word!" Coal shuddered. "Oh god! turn it off! turn it off!" If you say that phrase to Cola now, she curls up in horror, "No! Stop! Stop!" heh heh heh. muahahahaha.

in conclusion

I always kind of want to drink to kool aid. I want to beleive. I want to look at the democrats and see hope. But, you know, it's the insurance companies that see hope, not me. Obama, however, is a guy to watch. Running mate for Hillary? hmmmm.


Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

His father was Kenyan. His mother was white and from Kansas.

It's true about the exoticism. Because racists aren't really racists, they just object to "black culture." (Which presumably is somehow linked to your ancestors being in the US a long time . . . Colin Powell's parents were immigrants from Jamaica.) And, of course, like Tiger Woods and Halle Berry (sp?), Obama isn't really black. Alas, such chatter exists in right wing blogs.

I've heard it stated by some folks on the right, that it's "harder" for african americans with a long us-based ancestory to succeed. I forget if it's supposed to be because of internalized racism or the bad black culture...

But yeah, he's got oodles of charisma. Why can't he be running for president right now, dern it?

Anonymous said...

i was listening to NPR the other night with Terry Gross (sp?) and it was quite interesting. He talked about his father more than stem cell research so i ddin't know he was that radical in the research views.....

Anonymous said...

i was listening to NPR the other night with Terry Gross (sp?) and it was quite interesting. He talked about his father more than stem cell research so i ddin't know he was that radical in the research views.....


Charles Céleste Hutchins said...

You know, anybody whose family has been in the US for more than a couple generations has some mixed heritage. Almost every black person in the US has a white ancestor. So when a black person succeeds, well, they're not really black. Especially if they're, you know, half Kenyan. Even though his biography talks about pressures facing black men in this country, well, that's not really him.

All successful people are white, at least partially. seesh. You know, for example, that Jamaicans aren't really "african" americans.

Black culture is just bad bad bad, but those role models, oh, they're not actually black. you can't have them.

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