Thursday, September 04, 2008

Two Good Men

I just listened to the end of John McCain's RNC acceptance speech.  I've liked him for a long time, though not so much recently.  Tonight he sounded just a bit more like the "old McCain."  But there a few times where he said something that was inspiring, but contradicted either his own policies, or my views.

He said "think of something larger than yourself."  I'm game.  I'm on three nonprofit boards, have a day job, and a family.  So, um, why do we want to continue to give a free pass to the top 1%?  Aren't they supposed to "think of something larger than themselves"? Death tax?  If you die with less than about $2M, you don't have to pay any tax.  That covers most folks.  And you can't take it with you...  But although McCain spoke of equal opportunity, he wants to pass every penny of those millions to the middle-aged heirs who either already know how to take care of themselves, or somehow never learned how and so depend on getting more than the 60+% that would survive the estate tax.  This is the so-called Paris Hilton Benefit Act.  McCain also talked about freedom and equality for all, but opposes marriage for some people.

He also said something like this: "I've fought for my country, and I will fight every day of my life."  I think he's telling the truth.  But that's not me.  I want to WORK for my country, and for people not in my country.  I don't think it's always about fighting.

Just as I tuned in, McCain was talking about being blessed by early adversity that taught him to think beyond himself.  Now, he was the son of an admiral, so he had some privilege, but unlike his pal W, he made real sacrifices.  So I can see how John was both privileged, and at the same time, signed up for sacrifice well before being shot down over Vietnam.

That does not mean that his opponent, Barack Obama, has had it easy.  Barack was born in 1961, when the US had 50 states, in the newly minted state of Hawaii, but before many of the Civil Rights acts were passed.  My stepfather was Hawaiian born of mixed race.  I don't believe mixed raced children had an easy time in the US in the 60's, or in particular in Hawaii.  Barack Obama is much younger than McCain, but he even so, he was born at a time when his parents' marriage would not have been recognized in Virginia.

Barack Obama talks a bit about his past.  John McCain talks about his.  Both of them had their struggles.  Both of them talk about change.  One of them really represents change for me, and if he is elected, it will represent dramatic progress for this country.

Only in this time, when the standing president has an approval rating in the cellar, that our nation could realistically choose its first African-American president over another good man, a good man who just happens to espouse nearly identical policies to the standing president.  I suppose that we can, at least, thank George W Bush for creating a context for this historic opportunity.  It now depends on Americans to make the choice.  For the most part, the same Americans who chose Mr Bush over Mr Kerry four years ago.

Interestingly, it is not entirely the same America.  A few Americans who voted in 2004 have passed away, or lost the ability to vote.  A few other Americans have gained the right to vote.  Most of those younger voters are likely to vote for Obama.  (I should provide a link, but this is left as an exercise for the interested reader.)

Y'know... the race seems fairly close.  If it were not for the 4 year shift in the voter roles, McCain must might pull out a win, despite supporting the lion's share of unpopular policies.  That is the nature of things.  Each generation brings change.  The old guard resists, but change is unavoidable.

Two good men.  Two Americans.  Both have experienced adversity.  Both want the best for this country.  One will be chosen to lead.