I know that this blog is supposed to be devoted to food and food thoughts, but a woman can't live by bread alone. I need to reflect on the meaning of the Democratic Obama victory last week, for me. Almost my entire life, except for those few years when I was young and LBJ was in office and those short gleams of democratic leadership under Carter and Clinton, I have been living in a Republican (ever more right leaning and religiously ferverent) America. Only since this recent Democratic victory, did I realize how deeply the conservative climate has dragged down my spirit.
I first came to political awareness in my 20s--Reagan years. I felt so separate and disconnected from my country and my government, I began to cultivate a rock-solid pessimism/cynicism towards all programs for political renovation--whether they be Republican or the opposition from the beleagured Left. I had no where to anchor my civic hopes. My hopelessness increased as the nation bought wholeheartedly into the inevitability of the conservative vision. The pervasive belief in the ineluctability of human greed, the necessity of military might and American supremacy, the rightness of materialist and status ambitions, the soundness of unreflective dismissal of the poor, the abused, victims of war, the "enemy", and of the unconventional has left me feeling bleak and lonely most of my adult life. Furthermore, the argument that "what is, is right", and that "what is" is just a demonstration of our innate "human nature" has made discussion about how to change America impossible.
Sure, progressive voices continued to speak about civic responsiblity and engagement, about the poor and the needy, but they did so with little confidence as a minority in a nation that respected none of these political ideals.
I know that what people believe is human nature is always a product of context. If they see a world where greed, political apathy, and cruelty reign, they call it human nature. For this reason, I look forward to a renovation of human nature as the parochial and vindictive conservative worldview passes.
Don't get me wrong, I have not completely embraced the Obama utopianism pulsing through the nation (maybe just a little). I am brittle and suspicious from coming of age in an era of profound disappointment. I hear Angela Davis when she says that as far as Obama is concerned, America places far too much importance on individual achievement. With 2 million + Americans, the majority men of color, sitting in prison as a form of neo-slavery, one black man's movement into the White House does not substantively challenge the condition of African America. I hear my own inner suspicions that recognize Obama as a centrist Democrat who does not necessarily represent any substantive departure from status quo politics. His comments about "killing Bin Laden" are silly and offensive to me.
But, hell, after Tueday I feel different. I feel optimistic. I see potential and possibility. I am human, I gotta believe. I'm looking forward to hearing a president talk about our national responsibility to the poor and the abused here and abroad and actually mean it. I am looking forward to watching America's international prestige resuscitated. I am looking forward to hearing intelligent, well-considered political talk coming out of the White House, not condescension and pronouncement. And I'm looking forward to having government agencies empowered to do their work, rather than cynically undermined by de-regulationists.
I'm keeping my antenna up; I haven't lost my edge. But I am smiling alot more.