I just paid a visit to Gryphen at The Immoral Minority, one of my favorite blogs. He’s one of the Alaskan bloggers I stumbled upon back during the 2008 presidential campaign, and though my faithfulness has waned a bit in the years since the election the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself curious to see what’s up by him. He’s an unabashed liberal, and I lean that way, so I often find him entertaining, even if sometimes he does make me wince a bit.
Anyhow, today’s post was a response a response someone made to a post earlier today (Gryphen is clearly more devoted to his blog than I am to this one; as far as I can remember, this is the first time ever I’ve posted twice in one day). It was a little confusing, but basically here’s what I’ve pieced together. Gryphen came across a picture of President Obama with a crowd. In the foreground is a little African American girl. Her face bears tribal paint. She is saluting.
It’s a lovely picture, and Gryphen says so under the heading, “Leaders Should Inspire. Clearly This One Does.” He speaks of pride, and inspiration, and how this picture expresses those feelings for him, and invites readers to comment on their own response to the photo. Go read his post; you really should.
As I noted, Gryphen is an unabashed liberal blogger from Alaska who achieved a certain level of name recognition in the last election. Along with that recognition he also acquired a number of followers who are clearly Not Admirers of President Obama or his good pal Gryphen, but of Sarah Palin. And one of those followers was apparently up and angry at 3am this morning. Gryphen’s post went up at 3. By five minutes after three there was an scorching response informing Gryphen that if he were more open-minded it would remind him of Ms. Palin–I believe the word “adore” was thrown around. Apparently there was a picture attached, because in his follow-up post Gryphen posts a response to the angry blogger, along with the picture he or she provided. Here it is:
To me, both pictures show a politician interacting with a crowd. The Obama crowd seems happy. The girl who is saluting sums up something important for many of us.
To me, the Palin photo also shows a happy, perhaps somewhat raucous, crowd. The little girl seems a bit shy, but overall the subject matter seems more similar than different.
So while I don’t necessarily see the same thing in this photo that the folks at The Immoral Minority seem to see, I am left with Gryphen’s headline: “Leaders Should Inspire…”
And I find myself thinking of the post I wrote on Inauguration Day in 2009, on my now-pretty-much-defunct political blog. I posted it just before I wrote this one, so it’s right here. It’s sort of long, mostly about how I spent the day fighting with an abusive collection agency on behalf of my neighbor lady, but here’s the guts of it:
… there is something incredibly beautiful and moving about a nation devoted to equality, to respect, to dreams. There is something powerful about the sweep and bounty of it, the scope of a vision that spans a continent, and a hodgepodge of peoples who when it comes down to it all want the same things: to realize their dreams, to feed their families, and to live with some degree of dignity and freedom. There is something about the phrase, “…amber waves of grain…”
That lump in my throat has been an embarrassment to me not because I thought the idea of America was foolish, but because I came of age in an era marred by a series of unjust wars, corrupt governance, and cynical, avaricious, money-grubbing politics. I was embarrassed because the gap between what we could be, and what we were as a nation was so great. We had lost our vision. The man I see smiling down at his wife has given it back.
Gryphen’s headline, and the reader’s angry response, brings something into focus for me. Leaders inspire. Like Candidate Obama, Vice-Presidential Candidate Palin also inspired. The difference lies in what they inspire. President Obama inspired hope, inclusivity, civility, and a dream of a better America. Sarah Palin inspired angry mobs.
Three battered years later, President Obama still inspires me to believe that an America where everyone has a fighting chance to succeed is still possible, where the prosperous among us understand that prosperity is a gift to be both accepted with gratitude and shared, where we can express our differences respectfully, where we are all necessary, all valued–and all responsible for each other. He inspires me to believe that the American Dream is for all of us, for me, for you, and for the strangers within our gates. He inspires me to believe that America’s best self is still worth fighting for. President Obama inspires me to be my best self–and to share that best self with the people in my home and community.
But the issue is broader than that. After all, President Obama is, well, the President. Sarah Palin has chosen not to run for office. A fairer comparison these days might be between what the two parties seem to be offering at the moment. Who inspires conversation? Who inspires their followers to listen? Who inspires compromise? Who reminds America that we truly do succeed or fail as a nation, and that as Americans we have taken pride in the fact that we are all created equal, and that every child born in America is entitled to tools to carve out his or her own success? And who is dedicated to dividing us, into perpetuating their power by rendering us powerless? At their most fundamental level, they are pursuing a policy of division–Democrats vs. Republicans, union vs. non-union, rich vs. poor, men vs. women, conservatives vs. liberals, Wall Street vs. Main Street, country vs. city, Christian vs. everyone else, those who “belong” vs. immigrants.
Who is willing to compromise? And who is holding the nation hostage, hoping for national failure to improve their chances of seizing power? And who is not even taking the trouble to conceal their basic priority? Does that inspire you? If so, how?
What it comes down to for me is simple. It’s not just a matter of which leader inspires me–what’s more important is what a leader inspires me to do. I will vote for President Obama again not because I have profited financially from his administration–hamstrung as Congress has been by Republican intransigence I have come to believe that simply limiting the harm they have been able to inflict is a worthy achievement. It’s not even because I think he believes like I do on policy. I will vote for him because he inspires me to be a better person.