The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

Barrack Obama and the normalcy of difference

20 comments

Conan Drumm said...

There was one moment during the Obama speech where I felt a valuably inclusive point was missed.

His remarks (about race) were justifiably accorded to the progress of Afro-Americans but it needed also to be broadened out as a manifestation of inclusive social progress among people of all races.

He did speak to the issue of difference and inclusion - "Gay and straight, abled and disabled.." - and I think that does reflect the mindset of the American electorate.

MikeP said...

I'm just glad that the robocalls will finally stop.

Your post was an interesting perspective from a global perspective. Not to nitpick, but I think that when Jefferson wrote "All men are created equal," he was aware of the irony of owning slaves himself. But the target of his message was really to show that British kings did not have a "divine right" superior to other human beings.

We usually credit Lincoln with tweaking that phrase to include all men of whatever race are created equal. Are you familiar with his Gettysburg address?

Kate said...

Although race did play a part in the elections, I was surprised how little it seemed to matter to a lot of younger people. My youngest son and his friends don't see Obama's skin colour, or rather they do, but they don't see it as relevant, any more than they would if he had ginger hair or was left-handed. Maybe I'm naive, but it would be nice to think that this is the start of the normalcy of difference.

Kim Ayres said...

Conan - almost regardless of what he says, he's now a visual symbol of inclusiveness. Mind you, Margaret Thatcher was the first female UK Prime Minister and she did bugger all to advance the rights of women...

MikeP - surely it seems unlikely he would have written such a powerful document tongue in cheek. You cannot found the basis of an entire nation on such blatent hypocrisy unless you have no idea of your hypocrisy. At that point in history, slaves were not thought of as people in the sense of equals. The Gettysburg Address did set about giving that statement validity, but it took many decades and a war, not to mention another century of civil rights before it began to have more universal acceptance.

Kate - race, sex, age,size, disability etc, matter considerably less to people who are exposed to the varieties of the human race. The more we meet, the more we understand such differences are superficial

Ronnie said...

Even a sceptical oul' cynic like me can feel the genuine wish (hope)of people for something, anything, better than is available at the moment and presents a huge opportunity for Obama to steer the World away from intolerance in all it's manifestations.I havn't seen such mass happiness sice " the Wall" came down.

Charlie said...

I have no nits to pick, Kim; that is for other posts at other times. Your guest blog was simple, succinct, and elegant.

Well done, and I've tracked it back to my dump.

Kanani said...

Shelby Steele wrote a long and rambling editorial, and there were a few points I agreed with (and others I didn't.)

The question is whether or not people will be able to criticize or disagree with his policies without being deemed a racist or feeling they can't say anything because they'll be perceived as one. Those who can disagree and stay on point with the details of issues, are the ones who have jumped the racial divide.

Others, who stoop to name calling will show themselves to lack certain coping skills, and worse --mental functioning.

savannah said...

the normalcy of difference

that, sugar, is a phrase we have got to incorporate into our mindset form now on here in america. i'm off to read your essay before i shut down until after the move. my hope is that we as a nation will treat President Obama with civility and fairness, but most importantly remember he works for us and because of that we look to what he DOES, not how he looks!
xoxox see you again after the move! (i know i didn't really answer your question, but i will later.)

debra said...

I ran into a couple of neighbors at the polls yesterday, a woman and her autistic brother. The brother told me that being autistic helps him in elections because he doesn't see race or ethnicity as values---he merely listens to the words of the candidates and reads what they have written. Period. Then he chooses--without the filter of difference or perceived difference.

Mary Witzl said...

Amen to your post, Kim; I did pop over and read it, but for some reason I could not find where I was supposed to leave a comment! I've got six classes to plan, so it may be that my mental powers are a little (ahem) diminished.

Last night I sat with my family in a pizza joint and watched on a wide-screen t.v. as Obama was cheered by the crowds of weeping, hugging people of all colors and ages. I agree with Conan, though; Obama's victory has plenty to do with the progress of African-Americans, but it has a lot to do with the progress of white Americans too.

Kim Ayres said...

Ronnie - ah, yes, good old Pink Floyd!

Charlie - thanks :)

Kanani - name calling is always a sign of fear and impotence.

Savannah - hope the move is as hassle free as possible for you :)

Debra - when skin colour is about as relevant as hair colour or eye colour in terms of what makes us human, racism is always something that amazes me

Mary - glad you're still about and checking in on us. Sounds like you're keeping busy :)

Carole said...

I read your post also and liked it but found that as I tried to leave a comment I couldn't quite figure out what I wanted to say. Something in it or something in me struck a chord that wasn't flowing with the rest of the collective opinion.

I think when we say we are tolerant of others, it is like we are better than them. It comes with a certain arrogance. I remember my mother saying, "You can tolerate your brother for a half hour. I will be back soon." I perhaps have a negative conotation of that word.

And to hear so many people be happy that we elected someone of color seems like we are saying, "We are so cool, so open, so loving...instead of He is so capable, so good, the right person for the job." In other words it seems to be arrogant and still about us and how wonderful "we" are.

I for one will think there is much more progress in our country when a prolifer doesn't bomb an abortion clinic, or when when an environmentalist doesn't spike a tree, or when a vegan invites a carnivore over for dinner. Or when a conservative Christian American changes her way of looking at life by reading philosophical ramblings of a bearded foreigner...hey wait a minute...

Kim Ayres said...

Carole - you're right about the word "tolerance". I have a vague memory of this one cropping up before between us. I think it was in the back of my head when I decided to pair it with "acceptance" in the piece I wrote.

Perhaps there's a hierarchy of tolerance - acceptance - don't notice

I like your point about people feeling cool about electing Obama, but part of me feels why not a little indulgence? I think many people have been feeling shame, embarrasment, or cringing for a long time about the face representing the US to the world for the past few years.

Like all countries, and all people, there are different aspects which sometimes come to the fore. To my mind, one of the greatest strengths of America is it is a nation of diversity. Different races, religions and cultures from all over the world went to America to improve their lives and move away from stifling class systems and restrictive outlooks.

The worst face of America is the one that says everyone has to do it their way because God is on their side and they have more guns than anyone else. It is the position of the bully - I'm bigger than you so you have to do what I say. This has been the face for the past several years. But Barrack Obama is now representing that other, greater aspect of the USA - the diversity with common dreams.

Oh, and you want to watch out for bearded foreigners...

Kanani said...

Would you like to participate in Mimi's Blog Blast for peace? It's quite interesting... there are an awful lot of cat bloggers!

michael greenwell said...

sorry kim, i had to leave this comment at the other place too.


Racism is dead so, Obama's in and all us 'liberals' are happy.

Just imagine if McCain had won and we saw the following aspects of his campaign carried through:

- Continuation of the 'war on terror' including more troops into Afghanistan (back to the stone age not enough) and promises to cross borders (invade) others if they 'don't comply' - ie invade Iran and Pakistan.

- a promise to take intervention in latin America "further south" ie 'deal with' Venezuela and Bolivia

- national/single payer healthcare completely off the table.

- full support of the Cuba embargo

- refusing to be photographed with the mayor of SF so not to appear as supporting same sex unions.

- commitment to draconian immigration policies such as the mexico border wall.

- penal system and capital punishment off the table as is gun control

- 700 billion handout to companies who preach no nationalization and private competition

... hey ..oh ..wait a minute ... my mistake! That's a list of OBAMA'S campaign - I got confused.

PI said...

I think it is another step forward in the right direction. In my lifetime the changes have been massive. When I first visited the States the WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant)reigned supreme but gradually the world is becoming a big melting pot and differences in race, colour, creed and physical and mental health are being air brushed to good effect.
The sooner we realise that we are ALL God's children the better.
It's a shame people like the writer, James Baldwin aren't alive today to see the changes.

Kim Ayres said...

Kanani - I'll have a think about that one :)

Michael - I'm not naive enough to believe the world's problems are to be solved by Obama's election. My life is highly unlikely to be affected much by it.

But just because the whole world doesn't become a better place overnight, doesn't mean you can't look for positives where you see them.

I have a great deal of respect for your viewpoints, and the anger that drives you. It's that level of driven idealism that makes changes in the world. We need that kind of sustained energy.

For me, at this point in my life, with the Fatigue, I do not have that energy. I have to adopt a more Taoist approach to survive. Otherwise I end up an exhausted wreck on the floor.

I hope you never lose that drive and energy

Pat - a step in the right direction is always better than a step in the wrong direction :)

Jeff said...

Kim,

Well said my brother well said and I sure hope that our country and our world is heading in a better direction.

Peace

Kim Ayres said...

Thanks Jeff :)

MaLady said...

Kim, I read this post and thought and couldn't find words. Upon returning I have gratefully discovered that Carole and Debra (& your return comments) have said so much for me. It helps that my parents didn't tolerate a snitch of "diversity" in the good way - we were expected to not notice or care about external differences. Honestly, as entrenched in WASP culture as I am, I've rarely spoken with anyone who did care about race (3 times total, and they all backed down when I asked why).

I am very glad, though, that the minority groups in America and around the world heard the message of acceptance loud and clear.

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