Timothy Egan is absolutely on target in his recent opinion piece in the New York Times (Stranger in a Stadium, August 27,2008) that the key to Obama's success at the Democratic convention and in the campaign will be "whether the stranger in the stadium sounded like someone who could lead (the American people) to a better day."
But for a tiny minority of the population like myself who are descendants of Japanese-American folks who lived on the West Coast of the United States prior to the outbreak of World War II and were subsequently rounded-up in the wartime internment, the comparison he tries to make between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Barack Obama in the beginning of his piece falls flat on its face.
Any points FDR may have made prior to his election with his forgotten man speech as alluded to by Egan were wiped out in this community when our family members discovered they were just "the forgotten man"whose liberties and civil rights FDR actually wanted to forget. The author goes on to assert "The nominee (in regards to Roosevelt) did not look or sound like most Americans..." Egan's failure in the same breath to mention the obvious then completely cripples the entire analogy - for me.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was always (white) mainstream. To this date, every one of the major political parties in this country has eventually fielded candidates who share this particular quality with FDR.
For the majority of Americans a white candidate has always defined normality. This is the mindset our entire culture has taken with it into all our presidential elections. So we find novel and question someone who comes to us falling outside the perimeters of normal, without stopping to ever ask if what we've defined as the reality of the universe continues to serve us?
To a non-white Asian-American female and contemporary of Egan who had the privilege of briefly observing him under my maiden name on a handful of occasions in the student coed dorms at the University of Washington, when I was the roommate of a student from Orinda, CA by the name of Kay Knudsen with whom he used to converse, who'd come up from Calfornia to become a Husky and share an address from 1973-74 at Haggett Hall, North Tower, fifth and sixth floors.
The 2008 election year will mark (unlike Egan) a very special first occasion in the half century plus life of this native citizen and American voter. For the very first time since registering to vote promptly following my eighteenth birthday, I'll be able to support a candidate whose life story on so many levels has familiar parallels with my own having read Obama's book "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance" (New York Times Books 1995) .
I highly identify with those experiences described in Obama's book where Egan says he was
"trying to fit into his identity" into the larger framework of the American experience. But I can scarcely believe the sheer novelty of having the general electorate deal with unaccustomed issues like this which were always within the normality of mine!
After eagerly following the course of presidential campaigns for years since my introduction to politics as a seventh grader in Wayne G. Angevine's (a former Washington state legislator turned seventh grade social studies instructor) homeroom class at C.W. Sharples Junior High during the 1967-68 school year, this will be the debut of an election where a ballot a candidate whose overall look and feel is more like me.
Unlike previous presidential elections I won't have to go a great distance or try to find a fit with the slate of candidates (some of whom over the years don't even bother to appeal to political blocks including me) or be forced to suspend or convolute my beliefs in order to make-a-match with a particular political wannabe like Cinderella's ugly stepsisters tried to make with a certain crystal clear cut-glass slipper.
(Ed. note: if you belong to a small enough minority as to never constitute a significant block, all the hope, faith and work in the whole world won't ensure you ever count.)
And while this year for the majority of Americans this poses a bit of a dilemma, for people such as myself there's a little bit of a silver lining in this totally unexpected turnabout. There's a window of opportunity to entertain the possibility more of my fellow citizens may have a moment of clarity, an eye-opening insight of the magnitude, to drum up the kind of compassion folks like the Dalai Lama have mentioned and emotionally get what it's like to feel when you belong to the rest of the population.
For once I can entertain saying to my fellow voters - "Welcome to the real world folks ! The very same world a good many of you have had the luxury and options to overlook. Tell me what it's like now the shoe's on your foot?
This knowledge will surely bring us that much closer to the day the United States will be the nation of all our dreams, because the true peace and unity so many people profess to desire will never take place so long as the majority sits comfortable and satisfied amidst the blessings of their sheer weight and number.
As long as political parties engage in the kind of campaign activities writer Egan mentions in his article that named and un-named Republican boosters of McCain are using to target Obama to cause unease among voters, our country will continually hobble or even regrettably further fracture, falling short through deliberate design of the potential we've been blessed as with so many similar campaigns designed to ensure and nurture a only people like us mentality. And regardless of this phenomena or any universal delusions the culture chooses to maintain, be assured that ultimately we always get the government we justly deserve.