Friday, October 03, 2008

I Buried an Obama Voter Yesterday

I buried an Obama voter yesterday morning at Arlington National Cemetery. Now I have to find at least two new ones here in Virginia to honor the one we lost.
Well, actually it's more accurate to say that I officiated at the commital service and, later in the afternoon, at the memorial service for a 95-year-old woman who lived one of the richest and fullest lives I could imagine. Her name was Sally, and for the sake of her family's privacy, I'll leave it at that.
When she died last month, I remember thinking, "the only two things that Sally would be disappointed about in death are not seeing what comes next in the lives of her great grandchildren and not living long enough to see George W. Bush leave the White House."
She could not stand George Bush!
That last time I visited with her, early this summer, we got to talking politics. This was just after Obama had sewn up the Democratic nomination, and she was so excited by that development. She reflected back on all the remarkable change that she had witnessed over 95 years in this country, and found renewed hope and excitement at the prospect of casting a vote for Obama this fall.
She was born on a farm in South Dakota prior to World War I, when travel was literally horse powered. Married to an Air Force officer, she traveled the world and had the broad-minded vision of one who was well traveled and thoughtful.
Though I didn't say this during the memorial service, as I think about her life I cannot help but compare her to Sarah Palin. Both women of the Great Plains and upper Midwest, the young governor does not hold up well in comparison to the 95-year-old farm girl.
Sally was, for more than 50 years, a member of the congregation that I now serve. She came close to leaving it twice, that I am aware of.
First, about 15 years ago, when the church welcomed into leadership its first out gay elder (or member of the church board). Sally did not consider leaving because the congregation elected a gay elder, she considered leaving because some folks in the congregation were up in arms over it. She thought, "where is the mercy in them?" and "the man is clearly right for the job and his partner is lovely."
That first gay elder and his partner of more than 20 years were at the service yesterday.
The second time she considered leaving was when I told her, a few years back, that both Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice were members of Presbyterian churches. She was deeply committed to peace, having served in the Red Cross during World War II, and she could not tolerate the War in Iraq and those who dragged us into it. In the end, she just said, "well, they are not Clarendon Presbyterians!"
She was a passionate believer in equality and in peace. Sarah Palin could have learned a thing or two from her.
When Barack Obama takes office in January, I will go to Sally's grave and lay a flower and a copy of Post.


mike said...

Democrats will vote for the Democrat. Republicans will vote for the Republican. That’s how it has always been.
John McCain and Joe Biden are politicians. They know their numbers, and they know Washington.
What is different about this election is culture. Where is America going, culturally?
This is where Barack Obama and Sarah Palin come in.
Some say race is a factor against Obama, but I say it is the opposite: Obama has been propelled upwards by his skin color. The positive ‘racism’ (Black-Americans supporting him, White-Americans feeling guilty about the legacy of slavery) far outweighs the few remaining pockets of negative racism (traditional bigotry) that still exist in our country.
Whereas Black-Americans account for 12 percent of America, women number about 51 percent.
This is where America’s reaction to Sarah Palin gets interesting. It is not only sexism at play, but regionalism too. Keep in mind that America’s reaction could be vastly different from the media’s reaction, which tries to intervene in how America thinks and observes for itself.
For the last decade, American women have been trying to become either the fifth ‘Manhattanite’ cast member of ‘Sex and the City’ or a ‘Desperate Housewife’ on Wisteria Lane. The White male executives who created, packaged and marketed these female stereotypes have made plenty of money as women across America spent time and money trying to become ‘Carrie Bradshaw’. But somehow, these wanna-be’s never lived it up as glamorously.
Sarah Palin is all about God, Family, Country and Shot-Guns. She is a completely New American Woman. She was not constructed by a Public Relations agency in either New York City or Los Angeles. She is not a Hollywood creation. Sarah Palin is simply a product of American small-town wholesomeness: happy childhood, hard work, self-discipline and a bright, and almost chirpy, outlook on life.
Sarah is not the high-maintenance, drama-seeking, bulimia-suffering fragile caricature of a working woman as peddled by TV.
Her husband, Todd Palin, is not a neurotic metro-sexual obsessing over the price of organic arugula, or whining about his commitment phobias to his shrink. He is a man’s man, and frankly, a woman’s man: just your regular American guy—wholesome and uncomplicated.
Sarah and Todd are American ‘retro’, but it is retro made cool all over again. They are a brand of Americana that has been tested and true—genuine, confident and mature.
Something happened to the Obama brand on the way to the election. It is as if the fashion gods decided that “Didn’t you know? No one wears Obama after Labour Day.”
Once exotic and different, the Obama brand has been turned into something weird and creepy. “Obama’s Witnesses,” “Obama’s Blue-Shirts,” “The Obama Youth Fraternity League”…Plus, after the initial swooning over him, most people still think that there’s something “off” about Obama; as if he’s hollow, or hiding something.
Today, the Obama brand has become decidedly “uncool”. That’s why people tuned out from watching him debate McCain.
On the other hand, Americans are discovering that they are intrigued by Sarah Palin. The TV pundits may want to spin things their way, but the surest measure of who won the Vice-Presidential Debate is that, at the end, the vast majority of viewers walked away from their TV sets and said to themselves, “I’d like to see more of Sarah Palin—unfiltered and uncut.”
The Obama camp may be celebrating too early. There are still plenty of people out there that haven’t made up their mind, and Obama’s triumphalism may begin to sound like arrogance, and he’s already been accused of that.
This is indeed a culturally interesting time to be an American.

cledster said...

Mike, I won't engage in a debate about the politics. I do wonder if you actually read the original post, which was a celebration of the life of a wonderful, vibrant woman?

RobMonroe said...

I agree with cledster.

David - thanks for sharing this wonderful story. It's hard to remember just how much things have already changed - and joyous to look forward to things changing in the future. I hope you get to make a special trip in January.

Laura C said...

I loved Sally! What a spirit. Thanks so much for this tribute. She was always a joy to visit, and very generous with her time and energy, especially given her age.
What's up with Mike?