Obama it is... now the fun begins

So last night Obama clinched the nomination to be the Democratic candidate in the forthcoming election. Provided that Clinton doesn't raise a stink, which I sincerely hope she has the class not to, we shall be seeing him butting heads until November with McCain. This leads me to wonder about an issue that has begun to make me increasingly uncomfortable with my new area. While I absolutely love living in Bridgeport, and find it to be a lovely, quiet, and friendly place to be, I have already been exposed to an ugly undercurrent of racist views in some of the natives that I had been warned about before.

How will the folks of Bridgeport now react to me when they see my Obama pin on my bag, or possibly overhear me and some friends talking about this candidacy at the bar? Just Tuesday night I sat through the Wings/Penguins game at a bar where the other three occupants casually threw out passing jokes about 'shines' and 'spooks.' Really? People still use these terms? I have to admit it was a bit of a wake up call for me. I've come across that same kind of 'casual' racism (snide comments or jokes when the speaker is with his or her 'own kind') in circles before over the years, but never have I had people actually try to draw me into it. I was the only stranger at the bar that night, so eventually the occupants began talking to me about the game, the neighborhood, and so on - near the end of the night, someone made an unrelated, racial comment and looked at me for commiseration. Immediately the speaker noticed I looked uncomfortable, apologized (a surprise in and of itself), mentally marked me off and not 'one of them,' and never returned to that subject. After three overtimes and the Wings blowing it royally, I paid my tab and made a quick exit - hoping I hadn't met with the majority of my neighbors in that evening's outing.

The whole event reminded me of an incident when Dan and I were driving cross-country and had entered Idaho. We breakfasted in a beautiful town in the mountains where the people were delightful and friendly, and everything was idyllic. When we stopped for lunch later that day in another community, mostly composed of old hippies and artists, we mentioned how nice the previous place was to us, the person we were talking to simply said 'it's because you're white.' Apparently that quaint little town was the focal point for the KKK community in Idaho, and the location of their yearly rallies. Lovely. What decay can live beneath the surface of such beautiful places; I can't understand why people who live in such an open and friendly environment can be so closed off to so many others because of a physical trait.

This year will be a very interesting study in these very questions. Already there are people being interviewed on the radio about how there is 'no way' they'd vote for a candidate 'like Obama,' though they were all for Clinton - in fact, this latest turn has led some Clinton voters to change over to the McCain camp. One lovely lady on the radio spoke about how this race (the choice in terms was not lost on me...) had caused her to change from being a self-described liberal democrat to being a conservative republican. Clinton's major demographic - the non-college-educated whites - have begun to switch camps. What a shock, I guess.

But honestly, why should a perceived 'lesser of two evils (Obama v Clinton is a close call in some eyes)' be decided on skin tone and not stances? I really hope I won't have more reason to feel ashamed in my fellow countrymen and women this fall; don't let this one be decided on B.S. prejudices alone. Americans - put all the physical, unrelated issues aside and just listen to your candidates for once; it would do you a bit of good.

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