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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Timothy Egan Gets The "Stranger In The Stadium" Right - But Here's More From A Turnabout Perspective

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.

10 comments:

JosephMcG said...

Thank you, Mizu, for honestly and clearly claiming the discomfort I feel. So few folks I know have risen to positions of leader because of the quality of their character rather than the color of their skin... I truly wonder how Robert Kennedy would have done... I sorrow so much for the way we treated Jimmy Carter...
And I never expected, in my lifetime, that a person of color would be nominated (by any party) for president.
With me this is not "I told you so moment," for me that deep part of me which has always perceived itself as being left out or less than now has a time when I can see my self as a responsible and gifted human being.
I am a sixty eight year old man and I know that the world young Americans might create, where the quality of one's character comes first, might become a reality before these young Americans have to step aside for the next generation to take over.
"Might" is a big, big word because I think we as a people continue to let our fears, hurts, and ignorance block us from taking in people with any kind of objectivity.
Mizu, thank you for being real...

JosephMcG said...

Mizu... one sad moment I experienced last evening was the applause that Obama received as he celebrated FDR's toughness in the way he presided as president in World War II...
And I look back at American history and, time and time again, I recall how many times we jailed people who disagreed with our view of national security and fought wars to protect our way of life.
Really, for me, this all is so much of a mixed bag... but, first in my mind, really, who are the number of American citizens who have been ostracized, jailed, or killed because they were perceived as being different from what we, as a majority, chose to see was right.
So... thank you for joining me, I think, on that hard, hard place in America where one cannot say my country and I are always doing what is morally correct or practically effective.

Joseph

Stephanie Frieze said...

Mizu, I can certainly understand your feelings regarding FDR. After 9/11 I worried about what would happen to Americans of Middle Eastern decent of whom my youngest is one. What happened to Japanese Americans during WWII is a dark chapter in American history as is slavery and its legacy. I am grateful for the good FDR did during the Great Depression and WWII and hope that it in some measure makes up for the bad.

I hope that Americans will vote for what the candidate stands for without regards to their color or the gender of their runningmate. Voting for someone only based on their color or gender is a bad as voting against them for the same reasons.

Lorraine Hart said...

Feels like America is in puberty and, hopefully, this moment in history shows a glimpse of maturity in the country's promise.

Lorraine Hart said...

I definitely agree with your last statement too though, Stephanie. As much as I long to see a female face and competency at top levels, I'm not fooled for a minute by the GOP pick for veep. Under her watch, "sportsmen" have been allowed to go up in small planes to shoot wolves. This shows a slip in ethics too large to entrust a country to. We've been on a road to derision and disaster...the same roadmap will surely get us there.

As I was taught, "All My Relations" means ALL.

Stephanie Frieze said...

Ladies, does John McCain really believe that we are going to vote with our hormones? Sarah Palin is the female version of George W. Anit-choice, pro-drilling, and a card carrying member of the NRA she says she’s honored to run for Vice-President of the United States of America, just as soon as someone tells her what the VP does. The more I find out about her, the less I like her.

We had ample proof that sexism is alive and well in the 21st Century during the primaries. If the Democrats don’t give Sarah Palin the same treatment that Hilary Clinton received during the primary process, they will deserve to lose. Too often Democratic candidates cannot believe that anyone will believe Right Wing lies and are slow to react. John Kerry is living proof. We know the Swift Boat debacle was a pack of lies, but at this point it doesn’t matter.

And if Hillary Clinton’s supporters are really have their panties in such a bunch to be threatening to vote for McCain just for spite, then the United States will get the government the people deserve. The entire campaign process lasts far too long. If we are going to know who the candidates are before the convention, the money spent on these parties might well be spent on fixing some of the things that are broken in this country than on such events.

JosephMcG said...

I am hoping that these next few weeks the candidates will focus on the issues rather than slamming one another...
And I think Lorraine and Stephanie if that happens, quality of character will have won a big battle over fear and hopelessness.

Joseph

M. Sugimura said...

Ladies & Gentlemen!

It is such a shame that the sideshow aspects of the campaign take such an inordinate bite out of what valuable time could be used to focus on those hurdles and challenges which stand between pressing dilemmas and concerns of today and the America we envision.

May I recommend a look ata great blog entitled Art to Go by art critic Regina Hackett entitled "Documenting the context of social change" posted yesterday Friday, August 29, 2008 at the internet site a major metropolitan newspaper to the north (Seattle PI).


Hackett's sharp and no-holds barred observation in regards to attitudes noted and then forgotten by political journalists in paragraph 4 is worth its weight in gold.

It ought to be cut out and pasted across the top of laptop screens of all would-be writers and commentators across the nation from coast to coast who are trying to cover the election: "Covert can roll back into overt or disappear, depending on the context."

Note: Hackett's blog also ends with a powerful example of an about face by one powerful politician which wrought significant change - whether it was brought by bowing to the tides of change or a truly sincere change of heart from within.

Kim Thompson said...

I am late to the party on this one, but wanted to add a little note. Mizu, this piece is well done overall and I particularly like your last comment (to note: I worked with Tim Egan and his wife a bit on a local political show in the early 90's when I interned at KCTS--nice people, smart people).

The GOP ticket, well, 'nuff said about that (see above).

I am worn thin of some of the marketing and antics of ALL of the key races. Like Joseph, I want issues. I wanna vote!

M. Sugimura said...

Kim -

In regards to your internship at KCTS - what a small world! :)

Mizu

P.S. After Tim Egan received the National Book Award for "The Worst Hard Time" - Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels proclaimed Dec. 13, 2006 "Timothy Egan Day" and there was a little celebration held basically during rush hour on an otherwise dismally rainy day at the Central branch of Seattle Public Library downtown with what notables who could be cobbled together.

Of course there was a book signing after and I have my own autographed copy on a shelf beside the computer I'm using to write this as we speak.

One interesting anecdote testimony about Egan which sticks in my mind is it was said while working as a reporter in the area he learned to read documents upside down. Handy huh?