I was tired yesterday because I stayed up late on Tuesday watching election coverage, then went to sleep, set my alarm to wake again, then went to sleep, then set my alarm to wake again. I was late out the door because I watched Obama’s victory speech and more associated coverage before making breakfast. I’ve friends that have spent days monitoring college votes, popularity votes, exit polls and making colour coded map predictions, I’m not that geeky but I’m keen and emotional about stuff like this and here’s why:
1) When I was 18, in love with a philosophy student, incredibly well read, smart and conversational I was incredibly patronised by an English Literature classmate who suggested in earshot to another friend that people like me might not be terribly informed about current affairs. He was probably a little bit right, maybe a lot but it was incredibly sexist, rude and he really didn’t know me at all. As you can tell, it left me smarting.
2)When I was at university my worldview widened via subjects like intellectual history, sociology, philosophy of religion, and hermeneutics.
The biggest gift or legacy Manchester gave me was the sure certainty that the world was not always as it had been; I learnt that the value of people, communities and society rested on leaders understanding of science, culture, money, power, war and G-d and this had changed and changed.
I learnt that people changed the world by words, protest, activism, putting their bodies against injustic and systems of oppression and using their voice in the day to day as well as the moments in history. Now I live knowing that what we know now will change and shape me and the world always into what I hope is something that is better, stronger and more aware of itself and the oppressed and the vulnerable we should be looking out for and discovering.
3) Feminism, liberation theology, gender & queer theory have inspired me to challenge the unwritten rules and norms that imprison people and hold them down. I have become so aware of the ways that Western, and sadly ‘Christian’, white, male, heterosexual agenda serves the political and economic decisions in my country and other closely linked to it. That we are all living in, operating in and colluding with systems and structures that oppress and distract us from really caring about ourselves, our world and each other.
4) Danielle, Kai, Marlene, Barbara, Patricia, John, Fiona, Rory & Anne are just some of the people I have met and cared for in my adult life that I will never forget. Who live with pain, abuse, rejection, disorder, chaos, loss and loneliness – sitting beside me with all their important papers in the world folded up in a carrier bag, walking along to a social activity alone, participating like a child, getting their own house with a set of 4 glasses, cups and plates. To me these people will never be independent, work, manage their own home or family – they are widows and orphans within the ‘system’ and society that those who have a lot should take care of.
5)The Wire & The West Wing helped me to understand the ssystem’ from a perspective, although American, they are powerful descriptions of the mess and mass of humanity struggling its way through wonder and woe in life trying to help, love and survive.
From the politician to the policy maker, the educator to the foster carer, the criminal to the journalist; we are all social guardians flailing around being a bit crap and a bit good at the same time.
6)I think Obama being voted into the White House in 2008 changed the world and I believe that this second term has changed the world again, it’s letting the USA (a powerful and popular/unpopular country) in these difficult times set an example of taking care of it’s vulnerable. It is inspiring people who have never before voted in their lives to feel like they have some power but more than that it means there’s some language out there that is talking about grace and hope rather than strength and blessing, it’s talking about opportunity and liberty and hard work, its talking about unity and diversity in the same sentence.
I surely know about the criticism that rail against the West; America the UK and share some of it myself, I feel powerless in influencing that at a systemic or global level but powerful in using a voice where I work, worship, family, socialise, vote and write to praise the good and humble stuff when it shows itself.
I stayed up all night because I think it’s important to know the world – it is far from just; it is far from free;
However, I’d rather see a leader like Mr O than Mr R. I have a weird and probably not wholly reliable feeling that President Obama despite the system and the crocks of s**t (and his own failings) wants a free and just world and will do what he can, with the time that he has and that’s all that any of us can really do.