Saturday, October 25, 2008

Real Words, Real People

Early voting is going on here in Deming, and business at the County Clerk's office, located in the county courthouse down that way on Gold Street, has been steady from what I hear. (My friend Jane up in North Carolina voted early, too.)

The head of the local Republican organization has letters in the local paper often enough that he functions as an unpaid columnist. His letters mainly exercise the talking points of the campaign although he has some thoughts of his own about abortion, one of his favorite topics.

In another of New Mexico's counties, the local Republicans made news in a way they might not have wished. A woman named Marcia Stirman, the head of the Republican Women of Otero County, had a letter published in the Alamogordo Daily News referring to Senator Barack Obama as a "muslim socialist."

Wrong on both counts, but her mind is made up and will not be reached by facts, no matter how they are presented. The Associated Press took an interest in her, so they interviewed her and she elaborated: "Muslims are our enemies...why we are trying to elect one is beyond me."

The Otero County Republicans commented on this to say they are going to ask Ms. Stirman to step down but had no other comment.

When "muslim" is uttered as an expletive, like a brand-new "n word," and when the word "socialism" doesn't mean what it truly means, hung like a hood over the heads of moderate Democrats who support free trade, will the Otero County Republican spokeswoman take her moment in the spotlight to be a voice of sanity? Is Stirman merely being punished for P.R. reasons, because she said things that are unfashionable yet tacitly believed by her group? Or will the Otero County GOP make a statement, for this half-a-minute the spotlight is on them, to say, "We are intelligent people and desire a decent politics, a politics of truthful statements and honest opinions?"

We can't help noticing, here in the burning house, that there is real fear about this black man who might well be our next President. To look dispassionately at his voting record, you see a mainstream Democratic Party politician, even if he does have more panache than most. Yet there is such terror among some of us, that some terrible thing is about to happen, and the anguish of knowing that this disaster is looming, wondering why can't everybody see it??

Whether you have voted early or not, today is not too soon to consider how we might speak to our neighbor with compassion. It's a silly campaign with little to no sense on display, but there are real feelings on the streets. There is a house I drive by every day on Second Street, in a poor part of town near the railroad tracks and the juvenile detention center, a ramshackle house that has lost its ram and its shackle, looking barely inhabitable, and the newest thing I can see anywhere on the property is a crisp Obama sign displayed on the front window. In the same neighborhood, a beat-up old car has a fresh bumper sticker for McCain. These are real people, not campaign ads.

What words will serve them best?


Doorman-Priest said...

Holding my breath for the result and praying hard.

Pam said...

Here in my diverse neighborhood in the heart of McCain country, there are a wealth of both McCain and Obama placards.

As for me, I got my voting over with the second day of early voting.

I'm just plain sick of all this. Let the chips fall where they may. I'll pray for the next President, whoever he may be.

He's got his work cut out, as does the Congress.

Jane R said...

Good words, Algernon. Much to ponder. Thank you.

I was at the campus ministers' monthly lunch at school (although my official job is being a professor, the head of campus ministry always invites me) and someone had the good idea of having a gathering the day after the election for anyone at the college who wants to have a reflective space (whatever the results of the election) with some quiet time and some queries (we're a Quaker-founded school) to think about and respond to if the Spirit moves. The question at the end of your post is very much like a Quaker query.

quid said...

I did my civic duty on Monday. I think the local party is done by asking Ms. Stirman to step down, although they made national news they didn't want to make.

I am with Andrew Sullivan.. with the exception of the Palin "movement", I sense the lessening of identity politics. Sullivan said:

"...the broader truth is that vast numbers of white Americans are prepared to vote for a black candidate; and in the early part of the primary season, vast numbers of black Americans were perfectly happy to cast their vote for a white woman. More interestingly, the polls suggest overwhelming Latino and Asian support for a black candidate, erasing fears that those racial dynamics would come into play."

We're on the right road. It's taken a long time to get there. Not everyone will ever get on the road.