I had intended to blog throughout the Democratic Convention. But there came a moment when I just wanted to be a spectator. Partly this was motivated by the fact that my husband Alex and I were simultaneously shopping for (and finally picking) a new apartment, an endeavor that diverts one’s attention considerably.
So I took a couple of days off from writing just to soak up the historic events. I especially enjoy lavishing myself with the rich sounds and sights of major speakers’ rhetoric, turning every nuance of what was said or not said around in my mind and analyzing their delivery.
Last night, Alex and I went to watch Obama’s speech with a group of friends who were all charged up and ready to go out and work for him. Dawn, a young woman who’d attended the first few days of the convention, had brought hats and placards, and the flags we frequently waved to signal our approval of some speaker’s point, were provided by the host, Loretta, along with all-American Chinese food and ice cream sandwiches for sustenance.
That afternoon, a wave of sadness had washed over me unexpectedly. Yep, I thought I’d gotten over the fact that the Democratic nominee wouldn’t be a woman, and that not even the vice presidential candidate would be a woman. For so long, I thought sure….
I wanted to be in total celebratory mode that America would have its first African American major party nominee. And I do celebrate this incredible advance, but not without a dash of bittersweetness.
After all, the civil rights movement of the 1960′s and 70′s awakened my social justice instincts and drew me into the front line activism that led me to work for women’s civil rights and reproductive justice for over three decades. But it was also the way civil rights organization leaders, virtually all men, tended to treat gender-based injustice as having lesser importance, that made me realize we needed a women’s rights movement too.
Obama’s speech was excellent, but not quite great, comforting if not moving. Strong on substance as it needed to be, yet not as strong on the rhetoric as he can be. I don’t remember any of his specific lines, which is a clue. And though the warm-up speeches by Al Gore and Dick Durbin touched on reproductive rights, Obama’s spoke only in a downplayed, appeasing way about reproductive justice, even though he stood on the podium in a state with a pending ballot initiative that intends not just to outlaw abortion but to take down many kinds of birth control with it, granting fertilized eggs full personhood status while demoting women to second class citizenship:
What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose, and that’s what we have to restore.
We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country.
The — the reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than they are for those plagued by gang violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals.
I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in a hospital and to live lives free of discrimination.
(I left in the gun control part to illustrate that women’s rights to reproductive self-determination and gay rights get equated to just another policy issue that it’s ok for people to disagree on. Would he say the same about civil rights based on ethnicity or religion? I think not. And pray tell, why didn’t he mention his co-sponsorship of the Freedom of Choice Act?)
I’d thought all along that a ticket with both Clinton and Obama on it, in whichever order, would be the American dream ticket that would affirm for me the reason my grandparents came to this country from Eastern Europe almost 100 years ago.And if he didn’t go with Clinton, that he should choose another women such as Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius or Arizona’s Gov. Janet Napolitano, women who clearly have stellar executive experience, if he wanted to attract those 18 million voters–especially the majority of them who are women–who cast their lot with Hillary during the primaries.
Now that John McCain has chosen Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, the already immense rock Obama was pushing up a steep hill to garner those women’s votes just became infinitely heavier. Though Palin is staunchly anti-choice, pro-gun, and anti-gay rights, she
is a young, attractive woman whose presence on the ticket coupled with the absence of strong pro-choice rhetoric from Obama will lure many voters into the complacency about reproductive rights that contributed mightily to George Bush having two terms. The Rush Limbaugh and evangelical hard right are gleeful about this pick.
It’s probably a good thing I took a few days off. Looks like there will be no rest for the foreseeable future.
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