Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Michelle Obama as wise woman

Michelle Obama caused an uproar when she said she said she was proud of her country for the first time.

The prevailing ethos in America is that you should be proud of your country - it's axiomatic. Anyone who isn't damn proud isn't patriotic.

Of course, I have to give credit that not all Americans feel that way - doubtless if such a comment was made in Australia in the midst of a political maelstrom, it would be followed by a similar spluttering of talkback radio and columnist apoplexy. But in Australia, that would be followed by a decent dose of critical analysis.

According to Wikipedia, she first said, in February 2008: "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback." However, she subsequently modified it for political digestibility.

I am sure that, amongst her welter of feelings at the time, she felt proud for several reasons: that Barack was on board for America, that a black man had gotten that far, that black America had someone really substantial to look up to, that somehow an imbalance was being redressed.

Yes, it was about skin colour. But more, it was about an overturning of the dominant paradigm, in favour of - in Australian terminology - a fair go. And it's hard for that to fall into place without a minority figure at the top.

I read an interview with her in a women's magazine - which was more insightful than I expected. Michelle was impressed that Barack Obama had started his career helping deprived communities. And he went to law school intending "to figure out how to use these gifts not to help myself, but to help others".

Her expressed hopes were simple: universal access to full education (university and beyond), universal healthcare, and an improved America in the world. Yet she still appreciated that these are big agendas, that will take years of work from everyone, not just the [next] president.

As I've mentioned before, on a personal level, she said "we are always measuring our progress by how our kids are doing... not unlike most parents. We're as good as our kids are. If they're happy and whole, they're feeling confident and loved, and they're doing well in school and have friends... then I feel like whatever else is happening, it doesn't really matter."

Okay, that might sound a bit like a truism. But the sum of her thoughts suggests that Barack Obama has partnered with someone who is equally intelligent, thoughtful and ethical. The full article is available here, and is worth a read.

No comments: