Thursday, November 8, 2012


My Grandpa Shellenberger would have loved Rush Limbaugh. He was born on Lincoln's birthday in 1898, in Manhattan, Kansas. Nowadays Kansas State has a few people of color there, but back in my grandpa's day most everyone was white.

We were waiting for our food in a restaurant in Sunnyvale, California, where my grandfather lived. Some people at a table near us were speaking Chinese. At another table people were speaking Spanish. There was a family of African-Americans there. Typical day in the San Francisco Bay area. None of this was lost on my grandfather, who said, "Are we still in the United States of America?"

The day after President Obama's re-election, Rush said, "We're outnumbered." Basically, it's the same world view my grandpa was expressing some thirty years ago. What a bleak, uninspiring way of seeing the world.

These lines from George Harrison's song, "Isn't It a Pity," performed by Eric Clapton, sum it up. "Some things take so long/But how do I explain/When not too many people/Can see we're all the same/And because of all their tears/Their eyes can't hope to see/The beauty that surrounds them/Isn't it a pity." We are all the same. We want to be happy. Safe. Loved. Purposeful. The skin we live in, and its color, is insignificant.

Empirically, Grandpa and Rush are right. Whites in this country are going to be outnumbered by Mexican-Americans and other Latinos, African-Americans and other current minorities. But rather than seeing this as something bad, something we have to build literal and metaphorical walls against, I see it as a good thing. I'm glad I grew up in the multicultural San Francisco area. When I was in second grade, Shernmin Chow taught me to eat rice with chopsticks. To this day, I can pick up every grain, thanks to Shernmin. Also, none of my other friends' parents grew kumquats, loquats and Concord grapes in their back yards.

I look forward to a day when a white woman who voted for Obama twice is unremarkable. I'd vote for him again. Or that I voted for Cory Booker or Julian Castro for president. And not because I'm a child, as Rush insultingly said, who likes Santa Claus because he's a giver of gifts I haven't earned, because I'm one of those "takers" ultraconservatives keep complaining about. I voted for Obama because he's proven over the last four years that he is a man of impeccably good character, who has righted the ship of state at a time when it badly listed in storms of war and financial and institutional malfeasance. He cares about people who can't do anything to help him, and he cares about the people who can. President Obama is a leader. Rush and his ilk are flame throwers, who divides the country into percentage points, takers vs. makers, white vs. black, American vs. immigrant. The reason Romney and the Republicans lost the presidency is not because the people who re-elected the president are greedy little children. They lost because they are more interested in enforcing difference than in finding common ground.

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