Why I Voted For Obama
This week there are many stories I could write about. I could write another security column about how terrible the TSA is at stopping terrorists and the loophole that makes the no-fly list useless. I could also talk about the implications of the disturbing database being created in the UK that will store information about all phone and Internet traffic in that country. I could talk about politics again, commenting on the anger and threats coming from some McCain and Palin rallies. I could talk about the ACORN nonsense and why it is just that, nonsense. I could write about the the great job that the EFF is doing to fight the retroactive immunity granted to the telecom companies this summer. I could write another tech article about how just last weekend computers came within a hair’s breadth of passing the Turing Test, the classic test for artificial intelligence. I could even write a trivial story about how TV Guide, a relatively well-known magazine, was sold for $1 this week. And maybe I will write about some or all of those in the coming days. Right now, though, I feel like there is something much more important: the election on November 4th. Now I know, that qualifies as politics which I’ve already discarded as a topic, but I feel like this election transcends mere politics, I believe that it is more important than that.
Our country stands at a crossroads. Before us are two paths: the path of fear and division that we have been on for the last eight years and the path of hope and unity. No matter which path we end up on come January 20th, it will certainly be possible for us as a country to switch to the other path in the future. This election will not set the course of America forever in stone. It will, however, set our course for many years to come.
We have spent the last eight years in fear. In fear of foreigners, in fear of what is different, in fear of our government, in fear of each other. We Americans have lived divided, clustering around those who agree with us because they are safe and we are certainly in our knowledge that those who disagree with us, even other Americans, cannot be trusted. We are all guilty of this to some degree or another. All of us have taken refuge in partisan news outlets (Fox and MSNBC) or partisan clubs on our campuses (College Democrats and College Republicans.) We see more and more people clustering together with those like themselves, refusing to associate with others who disagree or who are different. We have turned a blind eye to the homeless and the needy, letting more and more people slip into poverty because we can’t bring ourselves to care about people who aren’t part of our group, whatever that may be.
Instead of focusing on solving the problems of disease, hunger, poverty, and inequality in the world we have chosen to use our resources in a violent and divisive war that has caused untold civilian tragedy and has yet to come close to achieving its objective. Instead of working together with other nations to make the world a safer place by securing nuclear weapons and eliminating the root causes of radicalism and extremism, we have chosen to walk our own path apart from other nations while trying to simply impose our will on them through force and decree. Instead of making the world a place where everyone competes on a level playing field and the best ideas are recognized and implemented, we have chosen to encourage greed and the concentration of wealth to such an extent that the great American Dream is no longer achievable for far too many. Instead of protecting the civil liberties and freedoms that make our country a shining example for the rest of the world, we have chosen to shred our Constitution and give up our liberties for false promises of safety.
This other path, though, presents America with a whole new realm of possibilities. The path of hope and unity is one that runs towards are bright and wonderful future, free from the fear that has dominated us for too long already. This path leads to equality for people of all races and nationalities, all sexual and political orientations. This path leads to a promise to all Americans that they will be allowed to compete in a fair market that does not favor the wealthy over the needy and that when they fall down, their neighbors from across the country will reach out and help them up. This path leads to us all taking a more active role in our communities so that we can work together to fix our schools and bridges instead sneering at each other from behind closed curtains and locked doors. This path leads to a safer America and a safer world by eliminating hunger, poverty, inequality, and the other terrible conditions that lead to tragedy, extremism, and terrorism. This path leads to a country where no one is afraid to talk about their views on religion or politics for fear that the government is listening. This path leads to a brighter future where advances in science and technology lead to longer lives, cleaner energy, and new capabilities we haven’t even dreamed of yet.
John McCain’s ideas and actions have repeatedly shown us that he, like Bush, believes in a politics and culture of fear and division. He doesn’t believe in diplomacy with our enemies, he would rather rattle his saber than sit down and speak with them like an adult. He doesn’t believe in running a substantive campaign where candidates talk about the important issues of the day, he would rather run nothing but negative ads, claim that his opponent actively seeks to harm the country, and use the same robo-calling outfit that smeared him in 2000 to sling equally nasty mud at his rival. He doesn’t believe in a healthy democracy where everyone feels free to speak their mind without fear of who is listening, he would rather allow the government to spy on anyone without a warrant and provide immunity for the companies that aided Bush’s violation of our privacy. He does not believe in justice for all, he would rather allow the government to hold innocent people in jail without being charged and without access to an attorney. He doesn’t believe in creating a strong social fabric by bringing Americans together to support each other in times of need, he would rather everyone be on their own, scrambling to get to the top while pushing others down. He doesn’t believe that the growing separation in our society based on race, class, religion, and political view is a problem, he would rather see a continuation of these as seen in his tax plan, the pride with which he took credit for giving 700 billion dollars to the wealthiest people in America, and in the proclamation by his running mate that she enjoys “visiting the pro-America pockets of our country.” This path of fear and division, taken to it’s end, leads to fascism and a police state. We have seen this before in the world and we will see it again. But America is better than that. America is too great a country for us to let its promise slip away to such an obscene fate.
Barack Obama’s ideas and actions, on the other hand, have shown us that he believes in this better path of hope and unity. Obama believes that we should all take responsibility for ourselves and our neighbors and offer a helping hand to those in need. Obama believes that everyone should be treated equally before the law whether they’re a wealthy, white businessman; a poor Latino from the bad part of town, or a foreigner detained in another land. Obama believes that all Americans love their country and that dissent is one of the highest forms of patriotism. Obama believes that all of our children deserve the very best education available so that the stark lines between the rich and the poor can begun to be erased. Obama believes that we should embrace those who see the world differently than us and talk with them regardless of whether they live next door or on another continent. Obama believes that by coming together, America and the world will be able to accomplish truly amazing feats that will transform the world into a better place for all. The path of hope and unity, though we may falter along the way, will bring us to this better world where poverty, hunger, and disease are no more and where we come together to solve problems and help the least of us. This path is not short or easy, but the destination is glorious.
I believe in this future, in Obama’s future. I believe that it will make a better America and a better world. I believe that by reaching out for what we hope instead of pulling away from what we fear, Americans can accomplish the most amazing and wonderful things. The Democrats and Obama certainly do not hold the only key to this future and the path I’ve laid out is not the only way to reach this goal, but no other path is as straight and clear as this one is. It is the one that asks us what we can do for each other instead of what we can do for ourselves. Certainly McCain and Obama have many policy differences that can be pointed to when making a compelling case for one or the other, but this misses the larger point, the larger difference. That difference is one in their visions for the future of America and how we get there. What the future of America should look like is a perfectly reasonable thing to disagree about, but I would imagine you’d find few Americans that don’t want stronger communities and better schools for our kids. Or that don’t want politicians who work for the people instead of major corporations. The question is, how do we get there? I believe that one candidate has clearly laid out a better and more thorough plan to lead American down the road to a brighter future. That’s why today, I voted for Barack Obama. And that’s why on November 4th, I hope you’ll join me.