Tuesday, November 4, 2008
This One's for You, Hazel…
My grandmother, Hazel Cameron, died on December 15, 2001.
She was a bombastic old battle axe who proudly wore her Democratic political affiliation on her sleeve. She was also a wife for 51 years and a white woman who raised two biracial daughters in the 1950s and 1960s. When she passed, it was the first time I'd seen or heard my grandfather cry.
Tonight makes two.
When Barack Obama was announced as the winner in Virginia – pushing him over 220 electoral votes – Mrs. Bootleg and I exchanged simultaneous, identical fist pumps. The West Coast polls were mere moments from closing and California (you, too, Oregon and Washington!) was guaranteed to put him over the top.
Considering I attended community college for awhile AND worked in the defense contracting industry before 9/11, I can honestly say that today was the least productive day of my life. All I could think about was Hazel and how this election would've shared her personal stage of great moments with the birth of her grandson, Jalen, which she missed by a little over two years.
So, of course, I cried, too.
I called my mom at 8:00 PM. She'd been politically apathetic for as long as I can remember, but she submitted her absentee ballot before mine. She was speechless. She shared my hope that Obama would win, but also my doubt that America would vote for him.
A few minutes later, I called my grandfather. 82-years-old. Born in 1920s Alabama. Before you knew it, we were sobbing harder than the cast of Good Times when the James Evans character got killed off. African-Americans were essentially sub-humans in this country 82 years ago and tonight I'm having a conversation with my grandfather that I thought we'd never have.
Still, I'm not naïve.
The political maneuvers during this presidential campaign were often despicable as some of the fringe lunatic factions from the right made desperate attempts to paint Obama as, basically, "the scary Black Muslim guy". Meanwhile, I was very disappointed in Obama's reluctance to talk about race – beyond his famous damage-control speech early in the spring.
Obama's election doesn't silence the ignorance of the extreme kooks out in places like rural Ohio, rural Missouri or all of West Virginia. It also shouldn't be played down so as not to offend the majority demographic of this country that's held the highest office in the land since America's birth.
In the last month, both sides have pulled every hypothetical boogeyman from under the bed and tried to scare America out of voting for the other guy. The reality is that these are the most uncertain times my country has faced during my adult life. No one – not McCain, not Obama – knows what challenges we'll face in the four years ahead.
So, I voted for the guy who I'd rather ride into tomorrow with.