Why Barak Obama --- Jane's perspective

Obama flag

Those who know me well, know that I have never particularly fit into the Democratic Party. After nearly two decades as a paid advocate for ending the death penalty, I still remember those 1992 Clinton campaign ads about being a different kind of Democrat, tough on crime, pro-death penalty. My father, a committed Republican, put a voter registration form in my hand on my eighteenth birthday. I cast my only GOP vote for my dad for county office in Upstate New York years ago. For years I lived in third party self-exile. It took an extraordinarily honest, progressive 2006 Democratic candidate for County Executive to get me to finally register Democrat, like the vast majority of voters in my current home of Prince George's County, Maryland. This year, at age 44, I cast my very first presidential primary vote for Obama.

But to really share why I voted for Obama, I need to tell you a story about my eight-year-old son Guthrie.

Public school is a challenge to my tough, creative, kinetic younger son. This school year started out difficult; he was twice evicted from music class. Days later his father found a yet-to-be-colored-in handout with the outline of an American flag crumpled under the family computer table. When asked about it, Guthrie complained about having to sing "God Bless America" too much in music class. He also protested having to recite the daily Pledge of Allegiance.


Guthrie's childhood thus far has been during wartime, and in a household opposed to the war. I will he honest, he has not seen much adult modeling of pride in country or flag at home. And okay, yes, we did name him Guthrie after the American icon who wrote "This land is your land" in direct response to vacuous patriotism of God Bless America. But while his older brother could reconcile the world and his parents politics from a young age, Guthrie has an innate propensity for dramatic rebellion.

That was last fall. Winter brought the presidential campaign into our home and community. Obama is in the air, having won the state, and even more overwhelmingly, our county. Dad volunteered for the campaign. Obama ads saturated local TV programming for a few days:"We can end this war. We can save the planet." Guthrie informed me he too had voted for Obama in a pseudo election at school.

It was primary election day, a school holiday in Maryland, when Guthrie came to me excited to share his most recent drawing - an American flag with "Obama" written over it. His carefully drawn stars and stripes, while not anatomically perfect, optimistically celebrate in red, white and blue.

My son who had dismissively crumpled that school assignment a season earlier, had created his own version of the American flag in his free time! Was he exhibiting a pride of country suddenly being modeled by his politically cranky, Gen X parents? I certainly believe an Obama Presidency will make the rest of the world look very differently at the USA. Why wouldn't even the hope of President Obama make us look at ourselves differently, make my young son look at his country's flag differently?

And this difference, this change might be just enough for a profound paradigm shift away from our nation's brutish role in the world. A step toward peace and stewardship of the earth?

I must confess that I have been used to voting out of fear. I'm used to opposing war and environmental devastation -- under both Bush and Clinton. Nor have Guthrie's day-to-day struggles with school and the world just gone away.

But in this seemingly magical, historic moment, me and my Guthrie, we have pride and yes we can hope.

Jane Henderson
Brentwood, MD