The Bird Has Flown (a reflection)

That scream you may have heard from the Northwest top of DC was me cheering on with pride Barack Obama, the first African-American man to clinch the Democratic nomination, and he deserves it.

It’s been a long and often bitter road, and I am incredibly proud of the Democratic party and for voters for spilling out in huge numbers to make sure they have their part in the history we are all making. And now, onto unifying the party, and fighting McCain and taking back the White House!

—But let me take a moment to pause. Let me take a moment to reflect on Hillary Clinton, to reflect on people who held her candidacy so dear to their hearts, to reflect on the fact that the first realistic female candidate’s run is essentially over. You can say a lot of things about Hillary Clinton. You can say how the Clinton “dynasty” is no more about “change” than John McCain himself. You can say that Hillary Clinton is power hungry, Machiavellian, manipulative. But to many, Hillary Clinton is more than that.

Hillary wasn’t the poster woman for feminism that many had hoped. She didn’t take the issue of her gender in a powerful and provocative and brave way the way Obama did his whole campaign. And yet parts of her  campaign showed the world how far we’ve come, and how far we haven’t. We can and SHOULD berate Clinton for brushing aside Geraldine Ferraro’s comments, for using the word “assassination,” for being divisive when she should have been unifying, and for being, well, just generally a ‘sore loser,’ but we must not lose sight of what this all means. We must not lose sight of the fact that sexism is alive and well in the media. If we consider her to be a conduit for white priviledge, next to Obama, I think we should also reflect on the ways the she ISN’T.

I am someone who believes that in certain issues, Hillary Clinton did what she thought was best. An obviously brilliant woman, she put her own career on hold for her husband’s own political ambitions. Just a glimpse at her early writings shows that her mind was constantly working, for what she thought to be fair for this world, and though politics may have hardened her, and though I find many faults and frustrations with her, I do not believe her to be this monster so many are quick to call her these days.

When she fought for health care as First Lady, though it was a failed endeavour, don’t we believe that it was a valiant one?

As much as I respect Melissa Harris-Lacewell, African-American studies professor at Princeton, and blogger on TheRoot.com, this post leaves a horrible taste in my mouth. Really, Melissa? You fail to acknowledge that fighting for health care is NOT a white problem. Health care is EVERYONE’s problem. Your desire to box Hillary into an “white person” category makes you blind of the ways that she breaks the mold. You sing John Edwards’ praises for his constant commitment to “the poor” but fail to see the parallel of Hillary’s unfailing desire to change healthcare for everyone?

As you celebrate Obama’s victory, do not pretend that you know how some Clinton supporters may feel. They aren’t all the same. Some are bitter, mean, and sure, maybe propagators of white privilege. But others are good, hardworking, progressive people who do not wish anything bad for Obama. So many of them are excited about Obama’s win. Indeed, this is historic, and he has made great strides not only for African-Americans, but I believe for a country as a whole. But for many people moved by Obama’s campaign and his victory, there is a part of them that must wish Hillary had the same unifying effect on women. That they had a female candidate who could inspire, not apologize for her gender, and who could bring feminism into the forefront in a positive way. In gloating about Obama’s victory, then, do not pretend that you know how all Clinton fans feel. How people like my grandmother feel, a staunch liberal and fiery feminist who is elated about Barack clinching the nomination, but gets a lump in her throat knowing she will not be alive to see any woman in the White House. Do not assume every voter for Hillary Clinton wishes Obama some ill will. But let them grieve. Let us all reflect on what Hillary has done here. She deserves a pause. The first real female candidate ran and lost; however much of a feminist or anti-feminist she was, however good she was for women, however you might feel about this, it means something to people. It means something to me.

While we bask in the glory of having such a promising nominee, a man we can all feel pride in, hope in, who brought tears to my eyes when I heard him give his speech….may we also take a moment to think of Hillary Clinton. Her campaign indeed has changed things. The first woman has gone up to bat, has taken a lot of hits, has hit a lot herself, and has paved the way for women of the future to maybe have a little less gnarly path. May something in women be ignited: a sense of passion, of action, of pride, of perhaps a reawakening of women interested in politics. I don’t know when a woman will be elected President of the United States, but I know now it can be sooner than I would have thought 2 years ago. I know it’s not an empty hypothetical; I know it’s a distant but promising reality.

Let’s hope the next  woman who runs for president has the power to inspire, to be truly inclusive, to not brush aside comments that have racial undertones as if they are not hurtful. To be a feminist, to be a humanist. To fight for the underdog. Let’s hope she really has a chance. I want a woman we can all rally around, we can all be proud of and inspired by. Let’s hope she has to deal with less sexism because times will have changed, or because people are more aware, or because she simply won’t take it. Let’s hope that in many ways, she is a better candidate than Hillary was.

 

Here’s a toast to Obama, a man who gives chills up my spine when I think of him in the Oval Office. Here’s to his wife, hopefully the next First Lady, who is an inspiration. And here’s to Hillary. Because, for all her flaws, ain’t she a womanHere’s to all brave women of the world.

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3 Comments on “The Bird Has Flown (a reflection)”

  1. LDC Says:

    This is quite good! It’s one of the most balanced discussions of HRC I have read by a pro-Obama person.

  2. SAC Says:

    Sometimes we get caught up in our own passions for our candidates. We forget that behind even the most politically calculating of politicians there lies a life-narrative that breathes and exists just like us all, and deserves to be treated as such. In this article you’ve captured the essence of this life-narrative, that does feel the pain of the end of the campaign and its crafted future for the nation. Overall, regardless of one’s feelings right now, no one can deny that the Democratic party stands for the party of change, and that Obama’s and Hillary’s campaigns attest to the fact that just because some scoff at the notion of ideals in any system of government, that doesn’t mean their not worth fighting for.


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