i dont vote
November 9, 2008 § 1 Comment
i wrote this as a response to moya’s discussion over at quirky black girls about ambivalence toward the election of obama…so i am posting it here as well…
i didnt vote. i never vote.
i guess i am of two minds…but them i am usually of two (or more) minds. the day of the election, i went to arabic class. my teacher had scheduled the class an hour earlier than usual because he wanted to get to grant park in time in order to celebrate obama’s victory. i was kind of surprised. he grew up in gaza, studied at bir zeit in the west bank and obama is very pro-israel. now, obama’s position on israel has not gotten alot of press, but frankly, when he announced that he believed in an undivided jerusalem, i was pissed. let me unpack the phrase ‘undivided jerusalem’ for a moment. jerusalem at the moment is one of the most contested pieces of real estate in the world. the israeli government has built large israeli settlements surrounding jerusalem in order to make the ‘facts on the ground’ that all of jerusalem and the land surrounding jerusalem belongs to israel. at the moment there is west jerusalem (israel) and east jerusalem (palestinian) and then surrounding east jerusalem massive israeli settlements that block east jerusalem palestinians from being able to reach the rest of the west bank without going through a series of military checkpoints. it can take hours to travel ten miles to the nearest city in the west bank. i am not talking about abstract people, or dots on a map, i am talking about my friends that can’t go see their family or their family land (if the israelis havent already confiscated that family land for israeli settlements).
on the other hand (the other mind) i think about my daughter. my little biracial daughter who is seriously going to grow up thinking that it was the olden days when a person of color could not lead the empire. she is going to shrug her shoulders and be like: whatev, mom. the way that i used to be when my mom used to tell me stories about integrating her high school in rural south carolina. when i was a teenager, in my (integrated) high school i told everyone that i planned to become president of the usa. i wanted to change the world and the presidency seemed like the instrument to use. i would tell people that i refused to say the pledge of allegiance (it was required that everyone in the school stand for the pledge every morning…welcome to virginia) until racism ended in the usa. a fellow student asked me how was i going to be president of the usa if i wasnt willing to say the pledge…and my lil 13 year old self quipped…well when i am president then obviously racism will have ended! in that school i was considered really radical for thinking that i (a geeky lil black girl) could be president.
and now obama’s first announcement post-election is rahm israel emanuel as chief of staff. this guy is part of the clinton circles, and even back then he was considered to be a conservative, hard-line pro-israel guy. this aint good. this is more than not good.
but most palestinians i know celebrate obama as president more than i do.
i was watching nbc when they called the election for obama. and i gasped. and all i could say was: omigod. omigod. omigod. the empire is about to get really smart. the empire will no longer be a blundering instrument setting fires it can’t manage, its world image spiraling into idiocy. the empire is about to become ( to paraphrase obama) a scalpel and not a hatchet. and that aint better. an empire more intelligent and effective about achieving its goals, is ‘change we can believe in’, it just not change that i want at all.
did i mention the couple of tears that rolled when nbc made its announcement? and how silly i felt about those tears? i can’t tell if they were happy or sad ones.
but that evening, for a ‘moment’, i started twirling around my empty apartment, lost in my own dream of what it could mean if there was such a thing as ‘black privilege’. i know. i know. but, what if when i traveled, or just walked through my neighborhood, people saw me and saw world power. it was a heady feeling. not one i was comfortable with. more like i was dizzy with. it was like the flobots song: handlebars. and i realized that i had never associated this feeling with ‘freedom’ or ‘power’. and that white folks and i lived in really different worlds, with really different definitions of words.
so in the end of this election, i guess i stand where i started. its like ive been saying for years…i have given up alot of my hopes for what a president should or should not do. i just want a president who can pronounce the names of the leaders of the countries he is screwing over. check. i just want a president who won’t bomb a country until he can find that country on a map. check. and frankly, i want a good looking prez, if i got to listen to them for the next few years, let me at least be able to turn the sound down and enjoy. check.
by the time i left high school i decided i wanted to be an artist not a politician. and when i look at obama i made the right choice.
why didnt i vote? because i dont believe in nation-states. and there is no vote that i can cast (not even a write-in one) that says: our country cannot should not exist. do not talk to me about what my people died for in order that i could vote…fighting for the vote was a tactic, not the strategy. and it is the sad fact that folks do not understand the difference between a tactic and a strategy, between a symbol and a goal, a figurehead and a mountaintop that makes me ambivalent.