Tag Archives: Palin

America voted – but did mine count?

Back in France. It was only a week but it felt like a time warp. Just as always, going home to Minnesota brings me back to a time when I was still bringing my laundry home, or living at home, or wishing I could get the hell away from home. But inevitably, there I was, back on my parents’ living room couch again.

I thought things would be different this time – a new president was in the White House, a senatorial recount was in the works and my formerly republican cousin actually voted Obama.

But I didn’t so much as feel the subtle breeze of change. Where were all the leftover Obama banners? Why wasn’t anyone revving up into heated discussions about politics? Why did those Franken lawn signs look so tattered?

I guess in my pre-trip American fantasy, I expected to walk into a politically charged environment where all conversational roads led to Obama. I not only expected it, but craved it too. After almost a year abroad, I needed my fix of American political blatherings. And on my first night at home, I got it.

“It’s so embarassing that Sarah Palin took her $150,000 RNC shopping spree here in Minneapolis!” Said my Texan Aunt Penny, who was staying with us for the weekend.

“What?” I screeched? Apparently CNN (my major source for news here in France) had failed to mention the fact that Palin had done all her and her family’s shopping at the Minneapolis Neiman Marcus.

Horrified, I also learned that the U.S. was wrapped in the Proposition 8 controversy, whereas in France no one seems to even know what it entails. With voices almost shattering the window panes, my family went off on the recent election, race and gender relations in America, those Katie Couric interviews and the epic Tina Fey impersonation of Sarah Palin.

But after that initial night, I can’t say that I was engaged in any other political conversation during the rest of the week. Sure, I found out about one of my friend’s new love interests, and yes, I saw my other friend’s new baby. But no, I never once learned what those last weeks of the presidential election were like. I wanted the flavors, the colors, the images that exemplified the most exciting political race of perhaps the century.

But no, all I got were babies, boyfriends and bars. Because while politics is important in everyone’s lives, it is still rather rare to have intense conversations on the subject with everyone you meet. In the end, politics is just a small part of life and one that gets glazed over when your relationship is on the rocks, you’re about to lose your job or you learn that you have a terminal illness.

And so, here I am back in France, having gained not too much insight into this past year’s political process. I can tell you, though, that getting in and out of the U.S. has taken on new suffering. Shoes off, belts in the tray, and don’t even think about making jokes with the security officers (I can’t say that the guy liked it too much when I answered his question of, “Do you have more than $10,000 with you?” with “No, I wish.”). Not to mention the intense racial profiling I witnessed getting off of the plane in Minnesota.

The officers were lined up against the wall even before we met with customs, accosting people who looked suspicious: in this case, all non-white people on the plane. It was a sickening, embarrassing display of not-so-Minnesota-Nice. I can’t wait until January when I have to register with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s ESTA system, which is computerizing the old system of green customs forms we all used to fill out on the plane. It sounds like just another annoyance in a travel process where I already can’t bring a bottle of water onto a 9-hour plane ride, much less enough fluid ounces of toiletries to keep me sanitary for 24 hours of travel.

So besides a few flying hiccups, I’ve come back to France without any grand revelations about the American political system, or even the overwhelming American political view (although I think voting showed us just a little bit about this). I’m just excited that, unlike in the presidential race, when it comes to Al Franken and Norm Coleman’s recount, my vote will actually count. Since absentee ballots are only counted after all others have been (and when there is a need to make up a significant difference) I finally feel like I got in on the American political process, even if it was from many ocean waves away.

Who knows, maybe I’ll have a viable shot in 2012.

This is not my culture of fear

Oh, there goes that Joe Biden, shootin’ off his mouth again. Just when we thought we democrats were in the clear, ole’ Joe lets off a doozy. And what a doozy it was, implying that an Obama nomination equaled a forthcoming “test” by the international community in the name of an unexpected war situation, terrorist bomb plot or nuclear missile launch by the North Koreans against America! The options are endless! Who knows what those crazy foreigners will think up if scary Obama is elected as the next most powerful man in the world. McCain and Palin’s act of jumping on Biden’s relatively mild remarks just demonstrates their attempt to reinforce the American culture of fear.

Biden’s comment wasn’t exactly the jumping off point for the republicans’ stabs at fear-mongering. We’ve all read the messages: Barack “Hussein” Obama, oh my! Obama is the anti-Christ! Don’t vote Obama, his name sounds like Osama – he must be a terrorist or a Muslim (heaven forbid)! Say no to the democrats – we wouldn’t want a president whose race represents a large majority of the world’s population!

What McCain and Palin seem not to have grasped yet is that the world is not afraid of Obama – they are afraid of McCain and Palin. Since my sojourn out of America, I have never once met a person rooting for McCain. His military experience does not inspire confidence but instead sends chills down peoples’ spines. Whenever I mentioned who I was going to vote for in the last few months, I always received a hardy, “I hope Obama!” Thus, threatening Americans with the prospect of a potentially “dangerous” Obama in the White House is not only preposterous, it is ignorant.

Speaking of ignorant, let’s take a quick look at the woman who is, as Jack Cafferty says, “one 73 year-old’s heartbeat away from becoming the next president.” Every syllable out of Palin’s tight lips is unintelligible, pathetic, uninformed blathering, most of which has been regurgitated from her disorganized notes, to which she is constantly making conspicuous glances during interviews and debates (I guess those republicans never thought what would come after that one winning speech at the RNC).

Never mind Palin’s embarrassing Midwestern accent (and I say this as a Minnesotan!), spewing things about Obama inciting the next bombing of America by the Iranians just for insinuating we have a conversation with a few of its lower-level leaders doesn’t even make logical sense. Calling him a socialist and saying that he’s going to take money out of blue collar worker’s pockets (some of whom aren’t even legally employed, as we now know) and throw it into the awaiting hands of the poor is an inaccurate manipulation of one sentence made on the campaign trail. And on that note, I would rather pay a little extra each month so that Joe the Plumber’s impoverished neighbor can put food on the table than to have Cindy McCain take all of my savings to pay for her yacht. But would the republicans ever admit that that is where your hard-earned money goes? As usual, the republican party is catering to the lowest common denominator, the most uneducated voters, the ones who will believe every soundbite out of context they hear on CNN.

But will the strategy work? What frightens me is that it already has in the past. Just look at President Bush, who can barely string five words together to form a cohesive sentence, much less to make a valid point. The dumbing down of America has been ever present for years, but throughout this campaign season, it seems to have reached new heights.

McCain and Palin’s grasping for straws this late in the game – blowing an innocent comment made by a notably blunt (and highly intelligent) speaker – shows that they are well behind in the polls and will do anything to win. This should be a warning sign to all to-be republican voters. Do we want a president who will capitalize on other people’s weaknesses, who will take those cheap shots just to get ahead? McCain and Palin must really be getting worried if they think one Joe Biden comment is going to swing all those electoral votes their way (oops, have they forgotten about that side of the game?)

I am already feeling a little pre-post-election depression. What will Americans talk about when this election is over? What will journalists and bloggers write about? And the bigger question, if McCain and Palin win, will they make those refrigerator magnets of the two with attachable clothing and machine guns like they did with Bush (or in this case, an oil rig, hockey stick and t-shirt reading, “I’m a Maverick!”)?

By then, of course, we’ll have the new president to complain about and I know we’ll enjoy the task heartily. The French may be known for their premier complaining skills, but I think this year, we Americans have got the title wrapped up.

Now where did that Bush magnet go? I think I dropped it under the fridge. It would so expertly complete my current image of Bush standing in white robes, a long black beard and holding a shotgun. Ah yes, here it is – a think bubble with the words, “Fermez la Bush.”

Yes, it’s decided. If McCain wins, I’m definitely staying in France. And if he dies in office and Palin starts running the show… I’m taking my friends and family with me.


If I were a white girl – by Barack Obama

This whole Sarah Palin business is getting out of control. First she’s walking onstage alongside The Maverick with her pack of five children, including her unwed, pregnant teenage daughter, and now she’s making appearances as a comedy spectacle on Saturday Night Live. What’s next? A strip tease for Gordon Brown? I wouldn’t put it past her, honestly. She has already had more than a handshake from Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who could hardly keep his salami in his sandwich upon their first meeting.

Sarah Palin as the attractive, young, white female has moved the conversation away from the business of being a vice-president to the glorification of the white woman. As much as people want to ignore the topic of race, I don’t think anyone can admit that as Americans, we have completely removed racism from our society. As far back as a few years ago, I remember a skit on a talk show where a man disguised himself as a white man, then as a black man, and went into a store in a shopping mall. The way he was treated during each experience was depressingly heart wrenching and showed that we’ve got a long way to go before we obliterate our long, embarassing history with racism. So why would this weakness conveniently not enter into a presidential campaign?

Race has been woven through the Obama campaign since the beginning. First, the most wealthy and famous American talk show host and black female, Oprah Winfrey, endorsed Obama and the media couldn’t stop talking about it. What did it all mean? Was it because they were both black? Did this mean that Oprah was going to pay good money to get this black man elected and maybe even give him some extra prime time coverage? Oh my! And now Colin Powell has rejected longtime friend and political party compatriot John McCain for the Obama camp. I’ve got it – it’s because they’re both black!

Not only the media, but the American people have run wild with the idea of race in this campaign. I remember early on, many African-Americans claimed that Obama wasn’t really African-American because his father was Kenyan, meaning he was a direct descendant of Africa and not generations beyond. His father or his father’s father’s father didn’t know slavery by the hands of a white American, meaning he could never know the everyday plight of the typical African-American – nevermind that many African-Americans don’t know their specific heritage or how long ago their relatives actually lived in Africa. And not only is Obama’s dad Kenyan, his mother is white, making him, once again, not “really” black. Right?

But then it seems that for the most part, Obama is considered a “true” black man by many people in America. Remember the Democratic National Convention when thousands of eyes lined with tears as the first black man was named a presidential nominee? The emotionally charged moment was felt by blacks, whites, Asians and otherwise in America because in that moment, Obama encapsulated his campaign slogan of hope, fully and completely.

And how about here in France, where most people don’t even believe Obama will win the election simply because he is a black man – for here, black people rarely hold office, much less distinguished ones. For a black man to be the next president is simply unfathomable for many French people. But like the Americans, Obama gives them hope.

So don’t tell me it’s not about race. If Sarah Palin were black, would all those pearl-laden, uber-coiffed, pin-striped suited white women in the audience at the Republican National Convention be cheering as loudly as they had been, seeing themselves in Palin’s reflection as “just a typical hockey mom?” Would they be laughing quite as hard about socialism jokes or flushing all their ideals about teen sex and contraception down the toilet? Would a professionally inexperienced – and corrupt – oil loving mother of five be doing as well in the polls if she were black?

This brings me to the now well-known forward circulating on the internet and through the email inboxes of me and my friends. It’s a letter published in a Colorado Springs newspaper entitled, “What if things were switched around?” Let’s take a look at a few of the points in the piece.

First, instead of Sarah Palin, what if it were Obama who had five children, including an unwed pregnant teenage daughter? In seconds, people would be calling this just another case of a black man’s irresponsibility. Whereas Palin as a black woman may have quieted the enthusiasm of McCain supporters, Obama in her shoes wouldn’t have even gotten to the plate, much less first base.

And what about education? What if Obama had gone to four or five different colleges, only to graduate with a B.A. like Palin, instead of getting his degree from a prestigious university with a law degree from Harvard to follow? On top of his already “low level of experience”, his lack of education would be a crushing blow.

The forward’s list doesn’t stop there, moving from Palin comparisons to those of Cindy McCain, Michelle Obama and of course, John McCain. Speaking of The Maverick, while Obama has had a strong, faithful, long-lasting marriage, John McCain is a divorcee who cheated on his first wife. Imagine the ultimate combination: Obama as the black man with a simple university degree, five children and an unwed pregnant teenage daughter, who had cheated on his wife before getting divorced and remarried, then gotten sued on corruption charges. I don’t care which side of the political fence you sit on – a black man with all these “credentials” would not be considered for a job as a high school teacher much less the president. So why are we revering two white candidates who embody all these qualities?

Americans should take a good hard look within themselves before going to the polls this November to decide what exactly they’ve based their choices on. I think we can all safely say that this presidential campaign has turned into a circus. But what I fear most, is that the biggest circus of all will turn out to be the McCain/Palin combination in the White House. Race issues not included.

If ever I have appreciated living in France, now is the time. I know we expats always say this before an election, but here it goes again: if John McCain becomes president, I’m staying in France forever.

Want to see more of the circus? Here’s some fun I’ve been having with the whole Palin craze. Enjoy… but responsibly.


McCain’s cheap shot

My friend emailed me today saying she was scared about November. Scared that the American people were going to turn their backs on hope and change, and say goodbye to Obama for good. As the Obama and McCain popularity margin inches ever closer together, and as hard as it is to admit, I’m starting to wonder if my friend’s fears aren’t grounded in a little grain of truth.

The recent cheap shot by John McCain of putting a woman into the VP slot has turned into not only a media frenzy, but a reason for ignorant Americans (sadly, most of them women) to drop everything they stand for in order to represent their party and cling to an idealistic vision where quantity outsmarts quality. The result? A rise in McCain’s popularity so quick that the Obama camp is left reeling – and taking down their Greek columns in hurried shame.

McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin is insulting, ludicrous and a slap in the face to every American. Not only did he choose his VP candidate based solely on gender, he chose a person he didn’t know existed until days before. The Republicans say the presidency is not for on-the-job training. Well, neither is the vice-presidency. And there’s something to be said for learning to work together, which isn’t something one can do by signing a piece of paper. The union of president and vice-president is like that of husband and wife. You need years of time together to know how the other person ticks, in order to make those life-important decisions. How are McCain and Palin going to work together to bring us out of this economic and international image slump when they don’t even know each other’s middle names (or that one of their children is an unmarried, pregnant teen?)

The problem now is that all the wrongs have ignored, and what is left of the very few rights have been highlighted and glamorized, swallowed up by the most vocal and ignorant citizens of this country. Months ago, republicans were teaching their children abstinence. Now, they’re teaching them, “it’s okay to make mistakes” and turning these irresponsible decisions into “challenges.” No one is talking about how the repubs plan to lower taxes for the wealthy, but they can’t keep their mouths shut about how the democrats will raise them for small business owners. Haven’t we learned by now that the trickle-down theory doesn’t work? Just another example of people in high places not paying attention in 8th grade economics class.

And putting a first-term governor into the second highest position in the country is just plain laughable. The political posturing is so obvious it hurts – but not as much as the fact that everyone’s buying it. First of all, what is the point of listening to, much less congratulating, Palin’s speech when it was clearly written by a talented group of writers who were off having cocktails and patting themselves on the back during her moment of glory? Calling her a “fighter” and ballsy is quite a stretch for a woman reading diligently off a teleprompter. I would have much rather had the writers themselves come out of the woodwork to read their trash than having to watch ten-thousand sets of pearls clapping excitedly to this newly fabricated hero.

Then, there’s the difference between the two conventions. Denver’s stadium packed in White, Black, Asian, Indian, Native American and Latin Americans – tall, short, fat, thin, well-dressed and sloppy. Everyone mingled and mixed like it was a day at the state fair. “We are family” blared through the crowd as those believers in hope danced and shook to the rhythm of change.

The republicans’ lack of color was obvious from the get-go. Nearly everyone was white, and there were enough tweed jackets and pearl necklaces to fill a football field. If we’re really all in this together, as the republicans claim, how come I didn’t see anyone representing MY demographic? How come I didn’t see MYSELF in any of their claims? If I’m not a gun-toting, anti-abortion tight-wad, how will I survive in McCain/Palin’s white, rich world? No amount of tight-lipped clapping will motivate me enough to get me to that scary place.

I will say, as a side note, that commenting on Palin’s duties as a mother should not even be discussed here. I don’t care what anyone says. The subject of parenting would NEVER come up in conversation about a male candidate. However, breast-feeding and caring for a normal, healthy baby is enough without the complications of Down’s Syndrome added to the mix. Try signing off that tax cut, Sarah, in between scurrying off to the bathroom to attach yourself to a breast pump. And I hope her husband is prepared to quit his job and accept the deluge of “Mr. Mom” jokes on the playground that he will be sure to receive. Gender equality is not laughing matter until it comes to role reversal, in which case no one knows what the hell to do.

The fact that McCain and Palin could practically be grandfather and granddaughter is enough to solidify my vote for the Democrats, not to mention the deafening sound of his ticking time clock. And the fact that Palin could be so openly comfortable with attacking Obama’s lack of experience when her range of power is limited to leading a state the size of Memphis, Tennessee for just one year, makes me wonder how anyone is believing any of this. But just look down the road at those clapping, pearl-encrusted hands and you’ll see that America still has its fair share of ignoramuses.

After all our years of struggle for equal, civil, abortion, gender and sexual rights, we seem to be right back to where we started: reading passages out of the bible while we sling a shotgun over our back, cast an evil eye at the gay man next to us and tuck a 100 dollar bill in our back pocket. Somehow, after all our hard work, the republicans seem to be moving closer to the nomination, stealing it away from the democrats’ deaf-turned ear and leading us along a road we’ve already been down.

And where’s the hope in that? Yes, we can’t.