Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's Time

It's off to Invesco today... there's probably going to be much crying all around (turns out Democrats are BIG on crying). I need tissue...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What's Right With Kansas

I had the pleasure of meeting KS Rep. Raj Goyle (D) this morning at the AAPI Caucus. Over the past couple of days I kept hearing of the amazing job Rep. Goyle had done in getting elected to a district he himself describes as “the reddest of the red.” Admittedly, this was the first I’d heard of him (in fact, I really had no idea of the current extent of desi representation in state and federal government, and it only seems to be expanding, slowly but surely.) So, like I mentioned this was the first I’d heard of Rep. Raj Goyle and I had no idea what he looked like. So, imagine my surprise, and embarrassment, when I figured out that the desi seated in front of me for most of the caucus was indeed Raj Goyle.

Rep. Goyle is a super-energetic, dare I use the “i”-word – inspirational – speaker. He addressed the caucus for just a few minutes, talking primarily about his campaigning experience, but he had folks sitting up and paying attention. I have to say, as someone who gets a bit apprehensive of talking to random folks, especially about politics, just the idea of an unknown brown man knocking on (presumably) a large number of white doors, makes me want to stand up and applaud – pay my respects. It must take a lot of ‘steel in your spine’ to pull something like that off… and successfully too! In his speech, Goyle mentioned that when he started off with his campaign, he knocked on thousands of doors, only to soon realize that polls had him 19 points behind. And of course, as any truly committed person might do, he kept going… knocking on thousands more until, ultimately, this democrat won a traditionally republican district – i.e. the 87th district of Kansas. Yeah, Desi Power!

Rep. Goyle is the son of immigrant parents from Punjab. When I asked him about what made South Asian candidates tick, he noted that the drive to succeed, to scale greater heights, that characterizes South Asian immigrants and their descendents, helps aspiring politicians to connect with their future constituents. I guess the ‘model minority’ perception does have some benefits… one that can be critically negotiated if it means having more brown folks in office. Of course, it’s not enough to have ‘brown folks’ in office, it takes the right kind of ‘brown folks.’ And Rep. Goyle seems to be of the right kind. Check out his Issues and Ideas page.

I asked him if he intended to run for national office, but for now he seems focused on winning a re-election. So go ahead and support him... we need more progressive people of color in office, no?

You know that question folks seem to be bandying around these days: “What’s wrong with Kansas?” Well, you can read a book on that… but it seems to me that folks like Kathleen Sebelius and Raj Goyle something must be right with it… what?

And hey, there's lots more desis out there running for office... and there'll be even more in the near future. Soon, desi rashtrapati?

AAPI, APAI, APA... what?

I’m sitting right now at the AAPI Caucus meeting. It’s the second one I’m attending, the other being this past Monday. As an Indian, I guess I kind of fit into this rubric and I feel relatively comfortable within it because it is within this community that I became politically active at Oberlin. At Oberlin, one of the issues we grappled with was the ‘inclusion’ of the P or PI within the rubric. During my time at Oberlin, I knew exactly two Pacific Islanders, neither of whom were particularly active in the community. I’m not even sure how they identified, except that they probably put down A/PA on various official forms, just as I have had to do pretty often. I don’t feel particularly comfortable with this census categorization, except when I’m around it as a political community. In any case, sitting here in the AAPI caucus, the situation of Pacific Islanders is absolutely no different than anywhere else… the number of PIs can generally be counted on one hand, if not one finger. And often, those charged with PI outreach are Asians/Americans who live, or have lived, in Hawai`i. Now, I don’t think Asian Ams. are resistant to having PIs among them, but they are relatively indifferent – the common understanding seems to be we’ve included them in our name and now its up to them to join us. Of course, most Asian Ams. aren’t even aware of the diversity of PIs – they’re awareness is probably limited to ‘Hawaiians’ and a couple of other groups. (Until a couple of years ago, you could count me among them… admittedly, the increase in my awareness is attributable to my being in a relationship with a politically active Pacific Islander.) And there’s absolutely no way that Asia Ams. grapple with the same issues as PIs. The fundamental difference between the two groups can be captured in one word – ‘colonization.’ The AAPI rubric is as absurd as AANA (i.e. Asian American Native American). But what makes the indifference, lack of awareness and absurdity starkly evident is that the majority of the speakers at the caucus stumble over the ‘PI’ part, hesitating about where exactly the letters P and/or I fit into the label. And of course, when not using the abbreviated version, the group is addressed simply as ‘Asian American.’

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Change of Heart?

Hillary Clinton just finished her convention speech and for once I think she did a spectacular job. I have to admit, sometimes I have looked at her and wondered what might have been... I am after all a feminist and there is a big part of me that wants/wanted to see a woman as president or even vice-president. I mean can you imagine how powerful an image a "first black" and "first woman" team might have been? And despite Barack's blackness, I do think that there would be something equally, if not more, powerful about having a woman up there. Unfortunately, during the primaries I did not think Hillary Clinton was that woman. (Maybe it was the people she was surrounded by. I think political strategists are full of it... something that worries me about Obama and his GE campaign too.) Today, though, I saw something in Hillary Clinton that maybe her supporters have seen in her all along. I still do believe that Obama was the right choice. But today, I was deeply moved by Hillary Clinton... again, not for who she is per se, but rather for what might have been.

I'm off to donate to her campaign for the first time.


Miget gets the credentials today, so I'm stuck in my hotel room. It's actually not too bad, kind of relaxing. Besides, it's giving me time to browse the internet for Convention news. I just received a video that's left me torn.

I've seen plenty of riot police since arriving in Denver. But generally, they seemed to be just lounging around on their cars, or riding along on their horses and bikes. I did see an image of them lined-up, batons at the ready, a full show of force, but besides the absurdity of the fact that they were armed at an anti-war protest,I figured it was just a stance of intimidation, not a real threat... after all, I've been part of some peaceful protests like this one, and the police don't really do much other than elicit irritation, anger and the occasional muted boos from protesters. But I guess I'm still incredibly naive... Here's proof of it.

Police Trap Peaceful Protesters in Denver

Protest Denver 08

I am a Barack Obama supporter - not because I think he is perfect but because I do believe that he has the potential to be something that this country really needs, i.e. a smart, critical politician and moderately progressive about issues of justice - social, economic, environmental and global. I do know that just as he has disappointed progressives during this campaign, he is very likely to disappoint as president as well. But I do believe, maybe naively, that his election will mark a major turning point for the U.S. - not in terms of what will have been achieved, symbolically or otherwise, but what is possible, what is achievable. In terms of U.S. politics, I tend to be hopeful just as much as I tend to be cynical. And given that a lot of people whose political sensibilities I trust and respect support Obama, I feel more positive about my own support for him.

Today, though, I feel torn and somewhat guilty about my excitement at being at the Convention. As Miget remarked this morning, being around this big group of Democrats is extremely seductive, 'seductive' being the operational word. Because being there at the Pepsi Center with thousands of cheering, excited crowds... or even just walking on the street and passing across hundreds of pass-toting folks, makes you feel not only super-privileged but also lulls you into a false sense of security and excitement. Ideologically, I am in agreement with what the protesters were marching for. And in fact the police violence just proved their point. I can understand why these folks don't want to support Obama or any mainstream candidate for that matter. And why should they vote for someone who they see as just more of the same, or who as far as they are concerned represents little to no change?

But then again I think about this article I read about HRC supporters who refused to support Obama. The author argued that these supporters - mainly white, upper middle class women - stubbornly stuck to HRC not because of the issues but because they wanted HRC in the white house, not some "inadequate black male." And so thanks to them, those who always already bear the burden of bad policy - i.e. poor women, women or color, immigrant women - also have to bear the brunt of the actions of foolish folks that harbor a deep sense of entitlement. If HRC folks were issues voters, they'd know that Obama actually has more progressive policies than Clinton.

I'm not suggesting that the non-voting actions of the protesters are of the same nature as these HRC people. But I can't help but wonder if their actions - even if they are ideological- or issue-based - will have the same effects. Most of the protesters seemed to be young, white, possibly middle class - I saw just one black woman in the video. I don't know if they realize the impact that their non-vote might have. It reminds me of the Socialist group at Oberlin - the issues they addressed were of importance to working class folks - most of whom are people of color. But, while I was at Oberlin, there was probably just one person of color in the group. I attended a couple of meetings of the group but understood soon why activists of color couldn't position themselves in the group. It really takes a lot of concerted effort to address issues of race and immigration with groups such as these and most folks here tend to think well, we talk for everyone and everyone is welcome to join us, so if they don't that's their problem. I think most of these folks would have a hard time articulating why issues of race, nationality, gender, sexuality matter, and matter differently, when addressing large issues of, say, the establishment of a quasi police state.

I agree with these folks that the political system needs to change massively. But ultimately, politics is about us and our ability and willingness to force change. But in order to create radical change, I believe there first needs to be a small change. If Obama doesn't win we're bound to be in much deeper shit. And then the protesters march will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Obama isn't going to make any grand gestures, making change will still be left up to us. But we stand a much better chance of instituting change with Obama in office than with McCain. I hope that people will come to that realization very soon.

Of course, none of this is meant to excuse police violence. It is inexcusable. Obama needs to come out and denounce it. But again, I guess that's me being naive.

In Denver

It's been forever since I've pasted. I've been busy winding up my thesis, tutoring ninth grade math and working as a research assistant. But this week I'm doing something super exciting that merits a bit of blogging. I'm in Denver attending the DNC, sharing blogger credentials with No Rest For the Awake - Minagahet Chamorro.

And this evening, I was at the Pepsi where I got to see Caroline Kennedy, Ted Kennedy and of course, Michelle Obama speak...

In the time Miget and I have been in Denver thus far, I’ve picked up one invaluable possession – a badge with a beautiful image of Michelle Obama that states “America’s Next First Lady: Michelle Obama” Other than the fact that it’s pink, I absolutely love it. I’m a massive fan of Michelle Obama, much more so than Barack. Tonight, thanks to Miget’s magnanimity in sharing press credentials, I stood approximately 10 feet away from her. It was beautiful. If you didn’t watch her speech, you can do so here. (omg…I was so close, I’m one of those heads in the third row, a little to her left!!) It had some delegates sobbing... all sniffly and red-eyed.

One of the lines of attack used against Michelle Obama has been the labeling of her as “an angry black woman.” Quelle surprise! If smart white women are viewed as emasculating, imagine how a woman of color who speaks the truth would make male genitalia quiver. But as far as I’m concerned, if Michelle Obama is an “angry black woman,” more power to her! I love her for being fierce and saying it like it is…

On the way back from the Pepsi Center today, I discussed Michelle Obama’s speech with some delegates. They all seemed to think she did a terrific job… and they were all sold on the little showing by the family. When the conversation turned to what kind of first-lady Michelle Obama might be, one woman remarked: “I hope those D.C. handlers don’t get their hands on her. They don’t need to remake her. I want a first lady that’s worked her way through law school. Who knows what it means to work hard. We don’t need a soft and gentle woman… we need a strong woman.” I was with her till this point… nodding away in eager agreement. She then said, “That’s why I voted for Hillary.” Anyone who’s heard me talk about the election knows I’m rabidly anti-Clinton. But there I was seated among Clinton delegates... The good thing though, they all seemed to be sold on Michelle Obama. So maybe the specter of Hill and Bill is truly about to dissipate. And how’s this for a replacement.