Monday, January 29, 2007

Am I really that cynical?

So one of my favorite students of all time sent me a link to her blog and asked my opinion on what she posted. As she was of the first group of students to take my Human Struggle class, which was always controversial and massively based on opinion, perspective, and discussion, she noted, however, that we rarely talked direct politics and she was curious on my perspective, particularly on Barack Obama. Those in my American Experience class known how I feel about this fairly well as it was a topic of discussion for upwards of twenty minutes recently. But for those who don't, allow me post Lauren's blog and my response to it.

From Lauren:
Here's one last topic I want to cover before I end this. Once again, O&A this morning talking about how Obama will never be President. Anthony was saying that even though our cities (LA, NYC, Boston, San Fran, etc.) are very liberal and free-thinking, we don't understand how "outnumbered" we are by people that "use the 'n' word every time Obama comes on the screen." His argument was supported by the recent release of the music tours that made the most money in 2006. Aside from the Rolling Stones at #1, four out of the top 5 highest grossed tours were country singers -- Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, and Toby Keith, I think -- thus "proving" that there are more closed-minded Southerners than "we" think.

He went on to say that it would be "so easy" for the Democrats to win the 2008 election, since Bush has "screwed up so badly" this last term. Even some Republicans are going to be voting Democrat just because Bush is such a screw-up. All the Democrats need to do is "put any white guy out there as their candidate" and they have it in the bag. Any Democrat but a black man or a woman would win the Presidency.

I want opinions on this. Do people agree with him, and think Obama has no chance of winning?

I'm not completely sold either way. I hope and PRAY he has a chance, especially if the 18-24 year olds get out there and do their thing. Even a good Republican friend of mine said he would vote for Obama.

So -- even though he has my support -- what's the word? Does he even have a prayer of winning the Presidency?

I'd also like to point out that the radio guy commented on the amount of black Presidents on TV and in movies -- Morgan Freeman in Deep Impact, Tommy Lister in The Fifth Element, Dennis Haysbert and now D.B. Woodside in 24 ... why is it acceptable for us on TV and in the movies, but not in real life?

I want some comments. What do YOU think?

And my response:
I am not sure that Obama is the answer...but I am cautiously optimistic about him as a person. Perhaps the great cynic in me has finally taken over after the last election. When a country votes Bush back into office, the temerity in which the American Voter saunters up to the election booth and picks a candidate without studying platform gives Barack little to no chance.

Recently, I played a clip of him speaking with Conan O'Brien that I found on YouTube. Before playing the clip, I asked students in a class called The American Experience, who would all being able to vote by the next election, if they would vote for a candidate named Barack Obama. Without hesitation, there were several scoffs and refusals. Some responded that there was no way that they American public would ever allow an Arab into office after 9/11. After ten minutes of discussion, one student asked what nation he was running for president of as she thought we were taking about Iraq. Another one noted that if you said his name backwards fast, he actually sounds like George Bush: Obama Barack (Go Bomba Iraq). Once again, my heart chilled that someone was being turned down because of nothing that had to do with leading a country.

The electoral college was originally put into place so the American aristocracy could ensure that, in their opinion, dumb farmers did not vote for the wrong person and make a grievous error by giving that person ultimate power over the country and in some ways, the world. Maybe now, more than ever, we should look at who is in the electoral college, because, be that as it may, and although it serves as nothing more than a rubber stamp, perhaps it is time the electoral college made a statement. It is becoming obvious that the American public would rather watch Salad Fingers or Diet Coke and Mentos on YouTube than make an informed choice for President.

I don't know if Obama is the answer. But I like his story and I like his message, thus far. To this point in time, he has my vote. We will see as his ideas for policy and plan come more to the surface, if he further earns my confidence. I will dare say that there are few others, perhaps John Edwards, who have any chance of getting my support.

I will end this by saying that I have never supported a candidate who has actually won (although I was a big fan of Ronnie, but I was only four when he was elected). Starting in the 6th grade (1988) I supported Jesse Jackson, 10th & 11th Grade (1992) was Ross Perot, in college (1996) I refused to vote as I cared for neither Clinton or Dole, when I started my job in 2000, it was Al Gore (primarily as a anti-Bush vote) and then Kerry in 2004 (see Al Gore).

So, Mr. Obama. Even though I am on your mailing list (through, it appears that I have given you the Fredo Kiss of Death.

Not that the American Public will open its eyes long enough to give you much of chance. God, I hate being cynical.

Posted 1/29/2007 11:50 PM by Atticus Mody


jake said...

Wow, great post. I am a friend of Pete's who reads his sometimes daily blog. I thought I would respond with a couple of comments on his cynicism (or for that matter mine as well). There is a lot I would like to say but for now I will try and keep it concise.

I (like Pete) have never supported a candidate who won, although over the years my choices have differed (88 can’t remember, 92 Perot, 96 Perot – caveat I liked neither Dole or Clinton and I wanted to see a third party grow, 2000 McCain – you can still write in a candidate in this country, 2004 can’t remember the name but voted for the Green Party – see my 96 vote). Pete is absolutely correct that Barak faces an uphill battle; I/we had a teacher in high school that went around the room saying everyone’s name and if it was easy to pronounce AND didn’t sound too ethnic would joking say they could be president while those of us not in that category didn’t stand a chance. Witness the historical parade of US Presidents’ names, the lone exception being Eisenhower who won office after winning WWII.

But given the changing ethnicity of this nation – there will be no majority ethnicity/group within the next two decades according to the US Census – name preference will change but what doesn’t look like it will change is the current two party system. So far in our lifetime there hasn’t been a real race for the president. It is hard to imagine that conventions used to matter and weren’t just “Yeah Team” events. Conventions used to begin without the nominee being known and with the party platform undefined. Look at how a major convention shift caused Jesse Helms who until the 50’s and Truman was a Democrat to switch to the Republican party. Even primaries are continually jockeying for position so that their state matters more because conventions don’t meant anything today – the candidate is already known. These two parties will continue to nominate candidates who are middle of the road centrists backed by a party platform that appears to appeal to the extremes.

I think that the current lack of leadership will continue in this vein until we as Americans are asked to sacrifice. My wife’s grandmother is a dyed in the wool Democrat raised during the depression and she asked me what is needed to create change, change like the New Deal, change like the Civil War, change like Civil Rights, change like the Square Deal(had to through a Teddy Roosevelt reference in there). I replied that I think it will take hardship and therefore sacrifice and I still think that is the case. Bush missed the opportunity for this generation on 9/11. A nation was at his feet screaming for what to do and he replied – go shopping and act like that nothing affected us. All he had to do was say I want you to sacrifice; I want every 18-30 year-old citizen to give two years of service to this country whether it be in the military, Ameri-Corp, Peace Corp, or other form of national service, but he didn’t and we as Americans said OK and shopped. Men like Barak Obama, John Mccain and others won’t be heard until this nation is brought to its knees again by hardship where our lives are no longer comfortable. As long as we are not collectively asked to sacrifice we won’t change, it is too easy to turn on the TV/Computer/Radio and forget. We as a nation aren’t hungry, our immigrants are and keep us churning but for real change we all need to be hungry.

jake said...

I also wanted to add a comment on the Electoral College: I think there is an important part of the Electoral College that is over looked in today’s debate on its validity. This is the fact that it keeps our Federal union intact after all we are republic not a democracy. It keeps small states relevant by ensuring that candidates pay attention to the needs of the country outside the domain of the urban centers. It adds the same balance to the Executive branch that the two houses of congress add to the legislative branch (all states get two senators, big states get more representatives). For an interesting look at an election map look here 2004 Election Map which shows variations on the traditional blue/red state paradigm when population is considered. Unfortunately each state party picks how the electors are chosen which leads to the rubber stamp syndrome, but I digress . . .

Lo Lo said...

It seems as though I can't escape this topic, now that I've blogged about it. I feel such a heavy responsibility as a 21 year old college student to promote active research of candidates and voting among my peers.

This morning on that same radio show that started all this, the one man was saying how Obama being put forth as a candidate was the result of some guy saying, "He's black, and he's LITERATE? That man should run for President. Lack of inexperience be damned." I wanted to call into the show and scream at the guy.

How can we expect Obama to happen in a country that holds such fierce hatred toward a specific race?

jake said...

Experience doesn't seem to be a criterion for most candidates. Clinton's experience was running the state of Arkansas and W’s was running Texas. Neither of our last two presidents had global national experience. I would be curious to know how many of O&A’s listeners voted. No doubt they have the ear of a particular demographic – look at Howard Stern’s run for the Governor of NY in the early 90’s or Jesse Ventura’s successful run as the Governor of Minnesota, but I would be surprised if large portions of the listener base voted. 18-24 year-olds unfortunately don’t take advantage of their voting rights.

I think that the media seizes our differences because it leads to shock value and good stories – therefore good ratings. I think we are approaching a point where it is not race that will divide the country but rather education level.

Pete Mody said...

And to speak further to that, I think, in my experience, poverty has a larger affect on education than race or intelligence, even.

Jake, if you look at New Hartford, it had a poverty rate when we were there, one-third of what Ballston Spa has, which is where Lauren attended. Even though some students were perfectly fine in terms of their personal means, it changes the culture so significantly because it changes the long, broad view of life, and hence, the community/cultural importance of education.

It continues to drive an irreversible wedge between the haves and the have-nots and it can be overwhelmingly depressing. Lauren, I hear you. The responsibility is great and those ready to take up the baton and mantle seem limited. It also does not escape me that some of the worst students that I had, those with the least interest in life education, not just schooling, those who were the most socially irresponsible and shirt sighted and self-centered, now have two or three kids. By comparison, their classmates, students like Lauren, are at school and have none. One of the smartest couples that I know, my friend Michelle and her husband Jay, are not having kids. I am almost 31 and have none. How many kids will the student who is 21 and already has three finally end up spawning before he finds no more homes for his genetic material.

Taking this view, albeit somewhat limited is scope to anecdotal info, makes the American landscape a scary one to traverse.

And Jake...I too supported McCain in 2000, thanks to you pointing me in his direction, but since he did not win the primary, I was left without candidate.

And you're right as rain, in my opinion, about the dropping of the ball after 9/11. Because of the lack of real sacrifice, we have become a nation of "Me Me Me", where the biggest names are also the greediest ones. Might I point to one of my favorite whipping boys, Terrell Owens? The modern media landscape feeds it with the onslaught of reality TV shows that do nothing but feed into people's egocentrism by playing to their fantasy that they have a shot to become the next biggest think so they can by without working, because that is the dream that everyone wants.

The American Dream used to mean having an opportunity to escape persecution and oppression and to have an opportunity for employment to be able to provide for yourself and make a life for you family.

And I am not immune from it, as much as I despise it. As a first year teacher, when I could not pay my bills, I took on a second a janitor. I spent five years getting two degrees, a bachelors and a masters, from a fairly well-renowned private college...and I had to take a job I could have gotten in 10th grade. This was an affront to me that I had to clean a toilet after I had to work so hard. There is the largest difference between my generation and The Greatest Generation that included my grandparents. My grandfather would not have seen that job as demeaning, he would have seen that job as an opportunity. I try to remember that every day.

What it comes down to, really, is the sense of entitlement. That just by being sentient beings, we should just get stuff handed over to us, and Generation Y is worse, I am sad to say, than Generation X is. It appears that instead of unenthusiastically taking those jobs, they would prefer to just be unemployed all together. I am painting with a wide generalized brush, but in my experience, and having taught around 1100 students in my career to this point, this is largely just how it is.

One of the grossest examples of this, and something I was morbidly fascinated with for about three days, is the TV show, "My Super Sweet 16". It made me want to move out of the United States.

And the sad reality, before I make this into a novel, is that this movement is only gathering steam. I could give three stories from the first semester of this school year to prove how the idea of self-sacrifice for the greater good is a concept that modern materialism has pretty much hung from a tree and beaten with a stick.

And I have 23 more years of public education to go. It makes my head spin that as I hard as I work...I don't feel like in the long’s going to make one bit of local, national, or global difference.

DanB said...

Hey, I am one of Mody's former Ballston students. I happened to pull up his site, and looked here at his blog. And I read something that I found to be pathetic. Whoever Lauren is, she argues that Americans are closed-minded and how they are racist/prejudice. But she writes "four out of the top 5 highest grossed tours were country singers -- Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney, and Toby Keith, I think -- thus "proving" that there are more closed-minded Southerners than "we" think.". This is a complete stereotype. You think country music (which I happen to love) is all racist Southerners or something? Because its not! Maybe you haven't noticed there are also black country singers (are they racist too?). That statement you made is ridiculous. You are being a huge hippocrit (or however you spell it). You should think about your own views and ignorant opinions before you go criticizing others for being "closed-minded".

DanB said...

Oh yea, Tim McGraw recorded a song with a black rapper (Nelly). Yea, he's a real close-minded Southerner huh.

Butler said...

Nice Job Dan!!

wow its the stampede of Bspa students

Pete Mody said...

Fair enough, DanB (aka Hater of the Quarter Machine Guy), fair enough.

I guess stereotyping people who stereotype does no one any good and does not further the cause!