Voting for an image of America: 2008 Reflections

I wrote this just before the end of the 2008 Presidential Election. 

We hear people talk about how this election is one of the most important of our time. It’s an historic election… etc, etc. Most people think it’s so important because it’ll either see the first Black President or the first Female Vice-President. 

I don’t think that’s why it is important. 

I think America has lost its way. Many Americans have become disillusioned with our country because we’ve lost sight of the ethics and morality that made the concept of America so amazing. While the US is still the best place to live in the world, we’ve lost the respect of much of the world because of our actions. We’ve also lost respect for ourselves. Gitmo. Abu Ghraib. Waterboarding. Valerie Plame. The “Patriot” Act. The list goes on and on… 

I believe the reason this election is so important is that we are voting to determine the new image of America. Electing Bush the first time… didn’t really happen, but still… America didn’t know he was so horrible. Electing Bush the second time (and by that, I mean the first time) was a decision made in fear, but it signaled to the world that Bush’s bad behaviors were ok with us. Most people look back and realize it was a mistake. Or do they? Bush has a 23% approval rating at the moment, but John McCain is obviously getting a lot higher approval rating from the voters, so many of them do not believe John McCain will continue the path that Bush has chosen. Or maybe they do, but they also think Obama is a secret Muslim. Who knows? 

Whichever way you vote though… your vote is essentially painting the picture of what we want America to be. 

Both campaigns say they want to change Washington. I only believe one of them because only one has consistently shown that to be true, the other started using “change” as its message to create a new media narrative when the VPs were chosen. 

One campaign focuses on Hope and how we can work together to make America better for generations to come, the other focuses on Fear by trying to tell you that you are Anti-American if you support the guy who is so obviously a terrorist. 

One campaign reveres intelligence and reason, while the other despises and insults it. 

One campaign supports a bottom-up economic strategy while the other favors a top-down. 

One campaign favors international engagement, the other favors an isolationist approach. 

The image of America that I want is the one in which we can be proud of our actions and choices on the world stage. One that takes care of Americans, but also helps around the world where it can. The image of America that I want is the one that other countries aspire to be not just because of economic power or military power. The image of America that I want is the one that is admired in all arenas. An America that is intelligent, well-educated, fierce in the defense of its people, and compassionate to the circumstances of all. 

I want an America that is us, not me. 

I cannot make all of these things a reality. 

You cannot make all of these things a reality. 

Barack Obama cannot make all of these things a reality. 

WE can make things a reality. 

I don’t believe people are voting for Barack Obama because he can fix the whole country by himself. I believe that people are voting for Barack Obama because they see in him the qualities of hope, compassion, intelligence, and reason that they want for their country. 

I’ve said all along this campaign isn’t about me; it’s about you — Barack Obama

I believe a vote for Barack Obama is your personal decision to redraw the image of America; to recreate who we are as a people.