There’s nothing I love better than a smart, strong woman. Well, maybe one thing: A smart, strong woman whose heart is fully engaged. A woman whose depth and character and passion for positive change shine through the gloom of fear and mistrust like a beacon, lighting the way to safe harbor. When the time comes to stand up and be counted, she’s unafraid. I spent some time watching, listening to such a woman, last night.
Michelle Obama. “Be Not Afraid.” Before reading further, take this opportunity: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNuqLsOiZ5o –experience the power of a smart woman for yourself.
There’s no way to refine that message, no more eloquent argument to be made for positive change in this country. Without a script, without a pre-packaged, hackneyed spiel spiced with empty sound-bites, Michelle Obama lays out the single best argument for a Barack Obama presidency.
Freedom from fear.
Fear is not a sound basis for choosing a leader. Fear is not a sound basis for foreign policy. Fear is not a sound basis for any public policy. Fear clouds our judgment, narrows our options. Fear has become a tool used by the powerful to manipulate the public, to appeal to our basest instincts. We give our power away out of fear. We compromise our liberty and our values out of fear. We become stunted, suspicious and selfish. We are led to hatred and intolerance through fear. We are led to violence through fear. It’s US against THEM. It’s “America– love it or leave it.” It’s “You’re either with us or you’re with the terrorists!” It’s “Ask the wrong questions or disagree with my war and you’re unpatriotic! You don’t support our troops!” It’s “Elect me unless you want another 9/11!”
It smacks of a new brand of fascism. The old “Might Makes Right” credo. We’ve had enough. Fear has gotten us nothing but an endless, bloody occupation in Iraq, spiralling debt, a divided nation and the fear and loathing of the rest of the world. We have few friends left. We don’t even like ourselves.
Fear works. They’re using it again. Muslims are scary. Iraq–if we aren’t occupying it–is scary. Any nation who doesn’t think the way we do, live the way we do, is scary. Immigrants are scary, especially if they’re non-white. Gays and lesbians are scary. New faces on the political horizon are scary. Negotiation is scary. New approaches to old problems are scary–they’re naive, they’re irresponsible. The dearth of D.C. insider experience is scary. Liberals are both scared and scary. Stay the course and we’ll be safe. The fear factor begins to infect liberals, too. It wins elections. We stoop to conquer.
There is no safety in an environment of fear. There is no honor. We lose our better selves. We let the purveyors of fear-for-power think for us, act for us. They rob us of our common sense and our decency and we let them because it’s scary to think for ourselves. The price we’ve paid for a sense of false security is far too high.
“I’m tired of being afraid,” Michelle Obama tells us. But she has the courage to offer up her husband and her family life for a presidency that will change the face, the soul, of this nation. On the day Barack Obama is elected, she says, we will change the way the world sees us. That’s straight talk from a smart woman.
I suspect there will be another profound change afoot on day one of an Obama presidency: The way we see ourselves will change, too. No more cowering in fear; we’re better than this. Fear had made us lose our way. We’ll come out into the light with the courage to begin anew.