This photo, which I saw posted by Sullivan, struck me in a way not many have recently. It was taken a few dozen miles from my Philadelphia home, at a rally I now wish I'd attended, rain and cold be damned. (Video from the event here. McCain canceled his Quakertown event an hour away due to the same weather.)
There's the obvious Ebony-and-Ivory, kumbaya angle - but it's not the color of their skin that moved me.
It was the expression on their faces.
The Black lady's face is filled with hope, adoration and expectation. She's freezing, but she's happy. The White lady may be feeling the same emotions, but her face tells us that she's putting an Obama pin on her coat for more than just the hype. She's the stereotypical Hillary voter that no one said Obama could get, the woman who was won over more by policy than by rhetoric.
This is the genius of Barack Obama's run. A biracial man from Hawaii, a man without a father, a man who has had to be so many things in so many different worlds has constructed a movement within a campaign. Like Barack, I'm an Ivy League alumnus. I write this appreciating what it takes to be a chameleon in American society, a Black man that has to keep one foot in two very different social climates.
One might think that there is no greater difference between the Obama and McCain campaigns than this: one man took his values and personal qualities and made his campaign fit them, while the other changed himself to fit his campaign, sold his soul, allying himself with those who once sought his personal destruction in the interest of gaining power. But that's not accurate. With the great exception of his POW internment, John McCain is not a man who's ever had to fit into an environment that wouldn't change to fit him. Everywhere he's been, McCain's been able to dictate the conditions of his environment, whether it be in the Naval Academy or his public service or his first marriage. (Read more here.) John McCain's history with the media is the only thing keeping him from being fully indicted as heading a foolish campaign that, in fact, reflects exactly who he is.
Obama's life has been just the opposite. Everywhere he's been, from Hawaii to New York to Chicago to Washington, he's been the "skinny (Black) kid with big ears and a funny name", having to struggle in various ways to fit in. The opposition loves to say that he's never struggled with anything in his life, feeding their affirmative-action fantasy with notions of this Black man's unfettered ascent into his present situation. So many more Americans than the GOP wants to admit realize that's (ahem) incorrect, and have more than his two books to back them up. They sell him as "That One" and "The Other", but the fact remains that America has found many common threads with Obama. I am one of those people, a (formerly) pudgy Black kid with glasses and yes, a funny name. Those like me see ourselves in Obama. And surely in some way, whether it be cultural, social or purely political, these two women sense a connection to the candidate they've been told is too different, too un-American, too "other".
That is something you can't scare away with an epithet or a lie.
I could be way off with both women. It's a photograph, and while it speaks 1,000 words, many photos require many more to explain them. But I see in these women's faces a reflection of disparate sides pulled together, and finally, a nation changing its color for the chameleon for once.
(Photo: By Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty.)
Labels: Barack Obama