Saturday, November 1, 2008

Election Call to Action

Another missive from guest blogger, Dr. Carla Seal-Wanner, who's up in New Hampshire getting out the vote, even as we speak:

Red, White, and Black and Blue all over? Not this time…

The psychic bruises McCain and Palin are inflicting on citizens in the path of their campaign march are proof that they will put America last to win this election. By delivering desperate fear-mongering speeches filled with attempts to defame Obama’s character, misrepresent his policies and values, and even incite racial animus; McCain, Palin and their surrogates are destructively exploiting the basest “red and blue” cultural divisions in America. Despite how much is at stake at this moment in our country’s history, they undermine the critical domestic and international concerns that unify us as a nation, by perpetuating the clash of cultures, values and worldviews. Their hate filled campaign rhetoric is insulting to voters who have moved beyond the negative stereotypes used to win elections in the past by pitting Americans against each other.

As a reasonably savvy life-long political activist I did not expect this of John McCain. But, as the McCain-Palin spectacle of hatred and deception has unfolded to reveal the demagogic tone of his campaign, I was reminded of the closing statement in the late David Foster Wallace’s devastatingly insightful Rolling Stone article about John McCain’s failed bid for the presidency in 2000, McCain’s Promise.* Wallace describes the multiple examples of the candidate’s attempts to deceive voters that led him to suspect McCain’s integrity. He concludes by admonishing us to consider if “the man behind the curtain” riding on the Straight Talk Express is not just a very bad wizard but also a very bad man. “Whether he’s (McCain) truly for real now depends less on what is in his heart than what might be in yours. Try to stay awake.”

With less than a week to go before votes are cast for our next president, my eyes are so wide open watching his campaign devolve into partisan win-at-all-cost practices, I may have to have them surgically corrected to resume their normal width after November 4th. Yet, like Dorothy who came to her senses in Oz just in time to realize it was not the ruby slippers she needed to send her home, but simply the recognition that she was manipulated by a wizard that never had her best interest at heart, I think voters across the country are waking up, clicking their heels together and remembering: there is no place like home. Home in America USA, the divisive tactics of the McCain campaign are backfiring.

The lies suggesting that Obama is unpatriotic, dishonest about his religious affiliation, influenced by radical domestic terrorists, embraces socialist economics, and perpetuates voter fraud have resulted in mobilizing thousands of volunteers to join his Campaign for Change. Citizens of all ages and walks of life are on the campaign trail spreading healing salve on the bruises inflicted by these smears. Reaching out to fellow citizens, they implore voters to stay focused on what truly matters – leadership that will bring us unity, peace and prosperity. Their tireless effort is aimed at solidifying votes cast for a president, vice president, senators, congressmen and woman who celebrate our diversity as strength not weakness.

As an educator, mother, and grandmother my nervous system has been in overdrive since the outset of this presidential election. As a fully wired early Obama supporter, I have stayed informed on the issues, joined campaign initiatives to spread his message of HOPE and CHANGE, made donations and participated in fundraising. During the primary, as both the Clinton and Republican campaigns waged Rovian attacks on Obama’s character I ramped up my involvement and contributions. In the general election, since McCain put Palin on his ticket, I worried these efforts to ensure that our country evolves from the damaging economic, domestic and foreign policies of the Bush-era may not be enough. So, I caved in to this anxiety, put work and family demands on hold until after November 4th and went to the battleground state of New Hampshire to campaign for Obama.

This is not an unselfish act. I could not live with myself if I did not do everything possible to elect the leader that America desperately needs to keep us on an evolutionary track. A different outcome could send America back to an unenlightened 20th Century mindset about everything from our foreign policy, equal opportunity and individual rights to the scientific understanding needed to keep our species and planet in good health.

Many share this anxiety. I have met union members, teachers, CEO’s, small business owners, students from high school to graduate school, house wives and house husbands, Democrats and fallen-Republicans who have joined grassroots campaigns across the country. Turns out it is empowering to stand up to deceptive, cynical campaign tactics aimed at tearing American down rather than building it up! Who knew that citizens who have real hopes and dreams for America could accomplish so much? Oh, yeah … community organizers know that!

So, stay awake and make history. Prove that the way to put American first is to demonstrate that HOPE is alive and well in our nation of immigrants. Don’t wait for Toto to pull the curtain back for you or stop to take a nap in a field of poppies. The world is watching to see if America will put America first this time.

*Now published in an unexpurgated book version: McCain’s Promise, Back Bay Books, June, 2008.

Dr. Carla Seal-Wanner, children’s educational media expert, formerly Director of Columbia University’s Graduate Program in Instructional Technology and Media, current Education Director of

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