She is an evangelical Christian, a no-bones-about-it anti-abortionist, a huntress who delights in killing and eating moose, who has no patience with federal laws protecting polar bears and no qualms about drilling for oil in Alaska’s national parks. She scoffs at the theory that mankind is partly responsible for climate change. She is Caucasian and a one-time beauty queen. She has five children.
Sarah Palin (pictured with John McCain at right) sounds a lot like the women of a bygone age, doesn’t she? An age in which a woman’s first duty was to bear and raise the nation’s children. You can see their pictures in your history books – those Aryan goddesses of war – and you might remember them from television and the movies. I am old enough to recall the America of the Forties and Fifties (at least as it was mirrored in the movies and magazines that we could get in Jamaica) and no black or Asian female image from that period lingers in my mind.
Marlene Dietrich, Betty Grable, Ingrid Bergman, Rita Hayworth, Arlene Dahl, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe – and all the other Hollywood beauties who populated my daydreams – were as white as apple blossoms. When I came to live and work in North America, I saw the same type of womanhood depicted on television – in shows like “Leave It To Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” “Happy Days” and “Little House on the Prairie.”
It was as if African-Americans, Native-Americans, Inuit-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and Asian-Americans did not exist. Even the legendary Charlie Chan was played by a white actor. But that was before The Jeffersons started moving on up, before Bob Cosby, before Redd Foxx… before Cicely Tyson (below, right) and Halle Berry (below left), – and long before Oprah Winfrey.
I suppose that’s the America John McCain is nostalgic for. Back then, Americans called the shots. No question. They had the dollars. They had the Strategic Air Command. They had The Bomb. When America said jump the world asked how high. Not the Russians, of course, and not Castro’s Cuba. As I recall, Kruschev pounded his shoe on the desk at the United Nations and said “Nyet!” Castro said something in Spanish that can’t be repeated in a family blog. But, by and large, it was America’s time, and America was Caucasian. At 72 years old, a Caucasian-American ex-soldier like John McCain might be forgiven for recalling that time with fondness.
But that America is no more. Caucasian-Americans no longer have “whites-only” water fountains and seats in the front of the bus. They no longer have segregated schools, restaurants and bars. This land is not just their land any more. America today is a diverse country and they have to share its bounty. It’s been decades since Bob Dylan noted that “the times they are a-changin’.”
Caucasian-Americans are still in the majority, making up about two-thirds of the country’s population. But immigration has added a large number of Hispanics and a smaller – but substantial – number of Asians. And other minorities – African-Americans, Native-Americans, Inuit, Pacific Islanders and Caribbean-Americans – have emerged from the shadows to take their place in the universities, the professions, the country clubs and the voting booths.
The world it is a-changin’, too. Just about everybody has The Bomb, is getting The Bomb or knows where and how to get The Bomb. The American dollar is no longer king of the world’s currency. Europe (not to mention a rejuvenated Russia) is flexing its economic muscles and China and other Asian countries are joining the world’s industrial superpowers. Meanwhile, ancient enemies are locked in an apparent struggle to the death in the Middle East, threatening to trigger Armageddon at any minute.
It’s a much more complex country and a much more complex world. It’s not the country or the world that John McCain remembers and Sarah Palin represents. McCain’s idea of the perfect running mate makes the choice for U.S. President even more obvious than before. A vote for McCain is a vote for America’s past, a past that can never be recaptured – even if you wanted to recapture it. A vote for Barack Obama is a vote for the nation’s future.