Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Obama is the Nominee; We, the Whole People, Have Hope

It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union.... Men, their rights and nothing more;
women, their rights and nothing less.

-- Susan B. Anthony

From the first moment a woman dared to speak that hope - dared to believe that the American Dream was meant for her too - ordinary women have taken on extraordinary odds to give their daughters the chance for something else; for a life more equal, more free, and filled with more opportunity than they ever had. In so many ways we have succeeded, but in so many areas we have much work left to do.

-- Barack Obama,
in a speech in Washington D.C., Nov. 2005

My maternal grandfather was a deeply traditional man. Like my paternal grandfather, he was a decorated WWII veteran; like most men of his generation, he sometimes struggled to come to grips with the many social, cultural, political, and sartorial changes rippling through England--and, indeed, across many parts of the world--in the 1960's and 70's.

It would be an understatement to say my grandfather was a bit old-fashioned in his notion of women's roles. Furthermore, he was the sort who could ignite a rollicking post-tea argument simply by uttering a derisive word or phrase. As he did on one particular summer evening, when I was ten, responding to an item on the BBC evening news that Britain was experiencing high unemployment (and yes, Grandfather litbrit is probably responsible for the lion's share of my Shouting at the Teevee DNA):

My Grandfather: Well of course we have high unemployment--women are taking all the jobs.

My Mother and Grandmother, simultaneously: "Wait a minute, what do you mean by THAT?"

G: There would be plenty of jobs available if all those women weren't working.

Me: "So if a girl goes to school, and then college--because she's clever--she shouldn't then work, you know, do something she trained for, something she's really good at...because men...what? What about me? I work hard in school--are you saying I shouldn't be a doctor or teacher because I'm a girl?"

My Mother: "Yes, Dad, what about Deborah? When she grows up, I mean. She shouldn't be whatever she wants to be? Is that what you're saying?"

G: No, no, NO. Of course I'm not saying that. different. She's Deborah. She can do, and be, anything she wishes.

This was as much of a concession as anyone could expect, but it was indeed a concession, evidenced by the tiny twitch of a smile fluttering at the corners of my grandmother's lips.

Love, coupled with plain old hope and ambition for one's progeny, has a way of sharpening one's perspective on all manner of issues; in the case of my grandfather and old-school sexism, it completely inverted his worldview.

And while I am loathe to play the parent card here--you know, do that condescending bit where People Who Have Kids tell the rest of the world how very differently one feels about everything when one is a parent; honestly, you can't possibly understand, blah blah blah--I recount the little story above in order to make a point: with a reasonable degree of certainty, one may count on a parent's love to figure prominently in his or her plans for the months and years--make that, for the lifetime--ahead. It may even figure prominently in what gets shouted at the television henceforth.


Senator Barack Obama--son of Ann, husband of Michelle, father of Malia and Sasha, and now the Democratic Nominee for President--is a friend to women.

Also at Cogitamus.

1 comment: