Category Archives: Presidential Elections

The Answers Are Blowing in the Wind

There are a lot of substantive issues that should be on the minds of the voting age public in the U.S., but if you check out the varied media headlines, you wouldn’t know it. A short list of substantive issues includes the recent rise in unemployment, the projected $500 billion federal budget deficit, the war in Iraq, (costly in human lives and dollars), the 47 million Americans without health insurance, the oil price bingo game that we are all forced to play, and the ever growing national debt ($9.5 trillion and increasing by the minute). However, to my dismay, I find myself choosing to ignore all of those substantive topics to address some of the decoy topics that clutter up the media.

First up is Sarah Palin and the Heart song, Barracuda. It seems that one of Gov. Palin’s nicknames as a high school basketball player as “Barracuda,” and in honor of Palin’s nickname, the Heart song was played on Wednesday and Thursday evening at the Republican National Convention (RNC). Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, the front-women for the band Heart, didn’t appreciate the appropriation of their song for use as Palin’s theme song and have sent a “cease and desist letter” to the McCain and Palin camp.

I admit that I am a fan of the Wilson sister’s band, Heart, and I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. However, while the Wilson sister’s are within their rights to ask that the Palin campaign cease and desist from use of the song as her theme song, the Palin camp hasn’t violated any copyright laws. Copyright is a tricky thing and it’s not my area of legal expertise, but the one thing that law school stresses is that when you don’t know the answer, do some legal research until you find it. Of course, you may wonder why I would care about this matter at all. I became intrigued because of another article that criticized the Obama camp for appropriating a Brooks and Dunn song, Only in America, to use as Sen. Obama’s exit music at the close of his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). As I am a country music fan and a fan of Brooks and Dunn, I thought that it was a brilliant choice based on the song’s chorus:

Only in America
Dreaming in red, white and blue
Only in America
Where we dream as big as we want to
We all get a chance
Everybody gets to dance
Only in America

There was one little glitch, Brooks and Dunn played the song at G. W. Bush’s inauguration in 2000; Dick Cheney used it as his exit song at the 2004 RNC; and G. W. Bush used it frequently during his last campaign for office. I didn’t have a problem with Obama re-purposing the song for his campaign; however, not everyone felt that magnanimous. Both of the performers, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn declare themselves to be Republicans, although one of the song’s co-writers, Don Cook, identifies himself as a Democrat.

Given that I find hypocrisy abhorrent, I had to ask myself, how could I side with Heart in their opposition to Palin’s use of their song unless I was going to also condemn Obama for siphoning off Brooks and Dunn’s song for his campaign purposes? As I was reading other blogs dealing with these song appropriation issues, I kept encountering a basic misunderstanding regarding copyright law and use provisions. I realized that if I did a pure legal analysis, that I had a basis for why both Palin and Obama had a legal right to use the songs as they wished.

The intent of singers and songwriters is to have their works heard. To support that intent, and preserve their rights a artists, their works are licensed to be heard in a variety of markets. We are all familiar with radio, but venues like concert and sporting arenas may also obtain a license to play a song. That music that you hear in the elevator is licensed. The way that this typically works is that the songwriters and performing artists contract with the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) to distribute their music. Any entity that is licensed with ASCAP can play a song distributed by ASCAP without getting the artist’s explicit permission. So neither the Palin folks, nor the Obama camp had to ask the Wilson sisters or Brooks and Dunn for permission to use the music as long as they had secured the appropriate licensing from ASCAP.

However, nothing in the law is ever simple; if it were, lawyers would be out of work! The ASCAP license only allows a song to be performed; if you want to use the song in a political ad or a promotional video, you have to obtain a license from a publisher known as a “synchronization license.” Singer Jackson Browne’s lawsuit against the McCain campaign for using his song Running on Empty in an ad is based on a violation of the sync license law. There is a backdoor to a possible lawsuit even if the user has a license from ASCAP. If for instance, Palin used Heart’s song to the extent that it becomes identified with Palin, then the Wilson sister’s could sue under a claim of a violation of their “right to publicity,” which allows you to protect your identity or image from being used for marketing purposes. However, the “right to publicity” laws vary from state to state and generally apply to commercial uses of an image, not political ads.

So the bottom line of this non-issue is that unless the Obama and Palin camps have totally lost their minds up in here and neglected to secure the appropriate ASCAP licensing, they can play whatever song that they like and the rest of us need to adopt as our theme song, Blowing in the Wind, a song about issues of substance. Written by Bob Dylan and first released in 1963, the song has been recorded by numerous artists, including Dylan, Peter, Paul, and Mary, Joan Baez, Sam Cooke, and my personal favorite, a cover by Stevie Wonder in 1966. The video is the Stevie Wonder cover.

Blowin’ In The Wind
How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
Yes, n how many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
Yes, n how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, n how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, n how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

How many years can a mountain exist
Before its washed to the sea?
Yes, n how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, n how many times can a man turn his head,
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind.

(My next nonsense issue to be addressed in an upcoming entry: the woman who called in to the Michael Baisden Radio Show to announce that she couldn’t vote for Barack Obama because he supported killing babies. Please Lord, deliver me from fools.)

An American Family

I just read today’s headline about Palin’s 17-year-old daughter being 5 months pregnant. I feel for the daughter; it must be awful to be in this kind of spotlight. However, I do wonder how concerned Palin is with protecting her family. She had to have know that in accepting the nomination, a big spotlight was going to be shone on her family. There was no way that her daughter’s pregnancy was going to remain private. Already, the conservative right is blaming the media, the Obama campaign, and anyone who dares express an opinion for exposing this young woman to such public scrutiny. Funny, but no one is blaming Big Mama Palin who put her political ambitions before the needs of her daughter.

I can’t help but see a certain irony in today’s headlines about Palin’s pregnant daughter. Her party has appropriated the term “family values” as being exclusively theirs. Her party affirms that it is pro-life, but rarely supports any increases in public benefits, even though most of the recipients of those benefits are single mothers and the benefits help them feed, clothe, house, and provide access to medical care for their children. I have problems with policy that is more concerned with the unborn than it is with the children already among us.

I read that Palin’s daughter will be marrying the father of her child. I can only hope that this is what she really desires. After all, her mother is going after her heart’s desire. She accepted the vice presidential nomination, thrusting not only herself but her entire family into the national and international spotlight. From my vague recollections of what it was like to be 17, I wonder if her daughter really wanted to have her moment in the spotlight. I wonder if Palin’s devotion to family values made her pause for a moment and think about her daughter’s feelings about having her life become open to inspection and criticism. I wonder if it ever crossed her mind, when John McCain asked, to say no.

Sen. McCain and the Politics of Misdirection

Sen. John McCain has run his entire campaign against Sen. Barack Obama based on the oft stated belief that Obama lacks the experience to lead this country. The McCain campaign has repeatedly discounted Obama’s demonstrated knowledge of domestic and foreign policy and characterized the Harvard Law School graduate as a political neophyte.

Just three weeks ago on Face The Nation, Republican strategist Karl Rove opined that he expected the then presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama to choose a running mate based on political expediency, not the person’s readiness for the job.

“I think he’s going to make an intensely political choice, not a governing choice,” Rove said. “He’s going to view this through the prism of a candidate, not through the prism of president; that is to say, he’s going to pick somebody that he thinks will on the margin help him in a state like Indiana or Missouri or Virginia. He’s not going to be thinking big and broad about the responsibilities of president.”

Rove then proceeded to single out Virginia governor Tim Kaine, who was also a guest on Face The Nation as an example of such a disastrous and ill-thought out selection for a vice presidential running mate, saying of and to Gov. Kaine (the man was sitting right there), “With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he’s been a governor for three years, he’s been able but undistinguished. I don’t think people could really name a big, important thing that he’s done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America.”

Funny, but I do believe that I could substitute Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin for Kaine and not have to change another word in Rove’s statement. Oops! I’m wrong, Palin was the mayor of Wasilla, population in 2007, according to the U.S. census–9,780. (The 105th largest city of which Kaine was once mayor is Richmond,VA., population of 200,123 in 2007, according to the U.S. census.) I’m not certain as to where Wasilla ranks in population among U.S. cities but somehow I think that it is substantially less than 105th.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that having experience as mayor of a tiny town and only 20 months as governor of a state not known for being densely populated means that one is not qualified for the office of vice president. Nor am I flat out stating that Palin’s anti-choice, pro-NRA, positions don’t exactly make her the poster woman for the women’s movement. Nor am I questioning the wisdom of selecting a running mate with whom McCain’s own camp confirms he had only met once before selecting her to be on his ticket; a running mate who could feasibly find herself in the position of having to actually step into the oval office, given the age and prior health issues that have beset Sen. McCain. I’m just fascinated with the difference in attitude that the Republican party has towards its own choices and the choices of the Democratic party.

That’s what led me to ponder why McCain selected Gov. Palin as his running mate. While I was busy pondering, headlines in newspapers and talking heads on my television explained it to me in terms that even a four year old could understand. The basic message appears to be that in selecting Gov. Palin, the McCain campaign has strengthened its position with women voters. All of the Hillary Clinton supporters, who were only voting for Hillary because she was a woman, will tumble for John McCain, and give up the vote.

With apologies to village idiots everywhere, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, is a class-A idiot if he really thinks that people supported Hillary Clinton because she is a woman. They supported Senator Clinton because she is intelligent, capable, and has leadership qualities; the same reasons that Obama’s supporters support him. What an insult to every person who supported Hillary to assume that they will fall over themselves to jump on the McCain bandwagon just because he has a female running mate.

I have no more patience with those who continue to assert that Obama supporters do so because he has a black father or that Hillary’s followers supported her because she was a woman. Get over yourselves and stop clinging to the belief that the only possible explanation for Obama’s or Hillary Clinton’s successes in this presidential campaign is because all black people support Obama and white women (feminists to boot!) support Hillary Clinton. Guess what, old white men are not the only, nor the best choice for leading everything. It’s a new world in the United States of America, and it’s about damn time.

Other countries have been able to broaden their horizons to encompass leadership that isn’t dependent on having a penis–India, Pakistan, Great Britain, and Israel are just a few modern governments that come to mind. As for race, it should be the shame of this country, founded on the proposition that, “all men are created equal,” that it has only seen fit to allow white males to ascend to the leadership of the allegedly most powerful nation in the free world.

Palin is a woman, and I certainly don’t disparage her for her gender, but neither am I going to do cartwheels over her selection. (Btw, I proudly identify myself as a feminist.) I’m choosing to have faith in the ability of the majority of women to think rationally and I am refusing to succumb to any concern that the rest of my gender is going to fall down and worship at the altar of McCain simply because he has Palin at his side.

If you must vote for McCain, let it be because you don’t believe that addressing the needs of the 47 million uninsured Americans is a priority, let it be because you believe that the wealthiest one percent of the population are entitled to even more tax breaks, let it be because you support an energy strategy that involves off shore drilling as a solution to the energy crisis, or because you agree with his position of staying in Iraq indefinitely, but for heaven’s sake, don’t fall for his Houdini-style misdirection act of selecting a woman as a running mate.

One of my favorite actresses is Bette Davis. I love Kim Carnes 1980s hit, Bette Davis Eyes. I know that Bette would never fall for some obvious manipulative ploy.

Obama Is the Nominee, And I like It!

“No way, no how, no McCain.”–Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton

I’ve been on that “working my ass off” hamster wheel again, but at 6:50 pm, I was given reason to pause. The phone rang and my long time friend, BT, aka boy toy, was on the line. Having just walked into the house, I was a little less than focused, and had to ask him to repeat his enthused statement.

“The black guy is officially the nominee!”

BT has known me for a long time, so he knew that he had to give me a few seconds for his words to sink in fully. There is a wonderful harmony in BT being the first person to inform me that Barack Obama was the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party by acclamation. I first met BT when he was a senior in my high school English class. He returned to work at the same high school upon his graduation from college, and we became good friends. He played a substantial role in encouraging me to have the guts to quit my teaching job and go to law school. He also happens to be white. I think that our friendship is the perfect reflection of the potential that this country has to move beyond the barriers of separatism based on race.

I didn’t talk with him very long. My call waiting beeped and knowing that it was my sister, I bid BT goodbye and switched to my sister’s call. I think that I screamed in her ear but I don’t know exactly what I said. We both admitted to crying tears of joy tinged with a hint of sorrow. Sorrow for all of the black men and women who are no longer with us, who never dreamed that this day would come. Sorrow for all of our ancestors who resolutely held on to their dignity in a society that intentionally and systematically sought to strip it from them. Sorrow for a childhood of “no coloreds allowed” and “white only.”

But it is a sweet sorrow, a gentle sorrow, soothed by time and comforted by hope. I have an audacious hope that America is standing on the edge of a new era, an era in which no child’s dreams will ever be deferred because of the color of his or her skin.

I know that there are those of you who continue to say that you are afraid of Barack Obama; perhaps you should be. You should also be afraid of me. I believe that all people are created equal. I believe that peace can only be achieved if we’re willing to sit down with our enemies and find mutual ground. I believe that it is our collective responsibility to ensure that all of us have the basic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, and health care. I believe that our public education system must be overhauled and shaped into a haven that brings out the best in every child. I believe that the purpose of government is to secure certain unalienable rights, and that among these rights are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” All of these things are among the reasons that I support Barack Obama. Clearly, me and Barack are very dangerous people.

Who knows what will happen when he becomes president? We might actually develop a doable strategy for bringing home our young men and women from Iraq. The wealthiest one percent of Americans may have to pay their fair share of taxes. Even the poorest among us may have full access to quality health care. Pretty scary stuff, but if this doesn’t leave you quaking in your shoes, let me share something really scary. Perhaps under the Obama administration, John McCain may actually have to live in one house like the rest of us!

I’m 53 years old, black, female, and southern. I grew up under Jim Crow laws. I witnessed the steady growth and eventual blossoming of the civil rights movement that killed and buried Jim Crow. At times I’ve been high on hope, and at other times, drunk on despair as to the status of race relations in these United States. I know too much about hate to believe that Senator’s Obama’s nomination will instantaneously heal all the wounds of racism that have ripped apart this country for generations, but my joy overflows that today, at 6:48 pm eastern standard time, a giant step was made in the right direction towards becoming the America to which we aspire.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,The Declaration of Independence, 1776

Love Train by the O’Jays was played at the DNC following Senator Barack Obama’s nomination for president by acclamation. I found this video on reliable YouTube.

The Caffeine Entry

Imagine if you will, a short, pleasingly plump, female hamster with adorable curly twists, running non-stop on a wheel for two weeks straight. Imagine that said hamster, having jumped off the treadmill for a brief respite, is now doing a happy dance and singing “Hallelujah.”

Let me be clear about something; I am very lucky to have a job that I find exciting, never boring, and intellectually stimulating; however, that doesn’t mean that on occasion I don’t want to scream poor, poor pitiful me as I slog through 50-plus hour work weeks when the state legislature is in session. North Carolina has a biennial legislature, so the current session is the 2007-2009 session. Every other year is a short session to make needed adjustments to the two-year budget passed in the previous year. This year is the short session which means that it did not begin until May and that the session will most likely end at the end of June or July.

Consequently, all of the legislators have been in a bill filing frenzy and I, and my colleagues, have been running on that little hamster wheel trying to write and publish, on a daily basis, an analysis of each and every bill that is filed. My typical work day has been 11 hours with one exceptionally long day coming in at 12.5 hours.

Okay, enough whining, I have a journal entry to write. The only problem is that so much has happened in the past few weeks that I can’t settle down on what topic that I want to address. Of course part of my inability to focus on a topic is that I’m buzzed on caffeine. (My sister reads all of my journal entries so this message is to her: it was an accident!)

I’m supposed to avoid caffeine because I have a wacky heart arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. My A-fib is classified as chronic which means that although medication helps, my heart does not stay in a regular sinus rhythm. My cardiologist recommends that I stay away from caffeine, as it is a stimulant. I am pretty diligent about doing so, although I cheat two or three times a year and have a piece of chocolate but I don’t drink caffeinated beverages at all.

Last week, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some decaf coffee beans. Today I had a craving for iced coffee. As I was pouring the beans out of the dark brown bag into my little coffee grinder, I had this nagging feeling that I was missing something but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I filled my very large insulated mug halfway with the coffee (made very strong to avoid dilution by the ice of the coffee flavor), added non-dairy creamer and two packs of equal, then added ice.

The first really large cup was so good that I had a second. Then I started feeling weird, little flutters in my chest, slight nausea and some mild dizziness. I decided that I was dehydrated and drank more iced coffee. Finally my brain caught up with that nagging feeling that I had when I was making the coffee.

“Sheria, what color bag does the decaf coffee that you always purchase come in?”

(I often have discussions with myself, doesn’t everyone?)

Self, “Green.”

Other self, “And what color is the bag that you used to make your coffee today?”

Self, “Brown. Oops!”

So here I sit, having had two and one-half large mugs of iced and highly caffeinated coffee. I promise you that I am not in danger of dying but I will be up until the wee hours of the morning. I’m dosing myself with plain old water in the hope of somehow defusing the caffeine high that I’m currently on, but I’m still buzzing like a bee on steroids.

Consequently, I can’t seem to settle on one thing to write about–there’s Hillary and Barack, Princess Beatrice and the British tabloids, the emails that I keep getting about French porn, or the advice on bathroom etiquette that my sister sent me earlier this week.

I just paused to read an email from a friend and was inspired by his comparison of Hillary Clinton to Evita Peron to create my own little vision of Hillary channeling Evita Peron. Of course, as I’m high on caffeine and doing the hamster dance, what began as a simple parody of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” turned into a little video project. The lyrics are pasted below the video. You’ll have to wait until another day for the French porn and the bathroom etiquette tips.

Hillary’s Song
Don’t cry for me, my America
I’ll never, ever leave you
All through Bill’s wild days,
and my mad existence
I’ve kept my promise
To go the distance

What’s In A Name?

My friend, BT, began sending emails to a small group of us, who are addicted to the presidential nomination race, a couple of months ago. Everyone now emails everyone with personal observations, news story links, and primary humor.

I received this email from AT, another member of the group today:

you know, I’ve changed my mind about Barack. I now no longer support him for president because I am very concerned that the people of West Virginia will be uncomfortable: Click to read LA Times story.

Naturally, I went to the LA Times story to check out what dire words could be responsible for such a change of heart. To my horror, the story was exactly as AT stated and I immediately began to share his concern about the people of West Virginia.

According to the news story,

“Obama may have emerged from his double-digit victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton in North Carolina and his razor-thin loss in Indiana on Tuesday with a virtual lock on the Democratic nomination. But, his performance did little to reassure political leaders here [West Virginia] concerned by his sagging numbers among once-loyal white Democrats, who have steadily abandoned their party over the last several presidential elections.”

I was particularly taken by the concern expressed by lawyer Clyde M. See Jr., a former Democratic speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates and two-time gubernatorial candidate. He considers Senator Obama to be a “fine speaker,” but worries that, “There’s a lot of bigotry in the country, not just West Virginia.”

I’ve never been to West Virginia but I have known a few people from various parts of West Virginia. I even had a romantic relationship with a man from West Virginia. Of course, he dumped me and I’ve been sort of ticked off about it ever since but I don’t hold the entire state of West Virginia responsible. (Steve W. if you’re reading this, I am so over you.)

I began to wonder if perhaps the LA Times reporter was getting a bit over excited about race relations in West Virginia. Over the years, there have been multiple occasions when people have shared their sympathy over my unfortunate status of being black and southern. They always seem a bit surprised when I reassure them that I love living in the south. Most of these people are well-meaning non-southerners who assume that no black person in her right mind would willingly choose to live in the south. There are days when I feel as if I may be a brick shy of a load, but mostly I’m in my right mind.

Then my mind began to wander as I tried to figure out if West Virginia was really a part of the south. Originally a part of Virginia, West Virginia bears the distinction of being the only state created by seceding from a confederate state. West Virginia was admitted to the Union as a separate entity from Virginia on June 20, 1863. People that I know from West Virginia don’t always agree as to whether it’s a part of the south. However, as most of those people have more of a drawl than I do, I’m calling them southerners whether they like it or not.

As I was pursuing this line of thought, I realized that I had not finished reading the LA Times article. and I set about doing so. As I continued to read, I realized that the reporter had chosen to focus on a particular W. Va. area, Hardy County, with a population that is 97% white. (According to the 2000 census, the state of W. Va. is 96% white.) According to the LA Times, Hardy County is “as conflicted as any rural and working-class Democratic bastion as it struggles to adjust to the likely prospect of the party nominating its first African American presidential candidate.”

I couldn’t help but wonder if the white people that I know, some of whom I count as close personal friends, knew that they were conflicted about voting for Barack Obama. All the white people that I know didn’t vote for Obama but neither did all the black people that I know; however, a lot of people in North Carolina voted for Obama in the primary, enough to give him nearly a 15 point lead over Senator Clinton. Maybe they didn’t know that they were conflicted.

I was starting to get really confused and worried about the conflicted folks in West Virginia, and I began to think that perhaps I should follow AT’s lead and stop supporting Senator Obama.

As I wrestled with my unsettled feelings, I continued to read the news story that had gotten me so worked up regarding my conflicted neighbors in West Virginia, and I came across the comments made by a Mr. Vetter, 64, a farmer and lifelong Democrat who regrets voting for Bush in 2000.

“I’ve got 50-some guns, and I wasn’t crazy about Obama’s talk about small towns,” said Sam Vetter,… “Besides,” he added, “Obama just doesn’t sound right for an American president.”

As Vetter’s words sunk in, I had what Oprah calls an “A-ha moment,” a moment of life changing insight that provides you with the solution to what troubles your mind. I didn’t have to stop supporting Barack Hussein Obama, all I had to do was persuade him to change his name!

Vetter said it, “Obama just doesn’t sound right for an American president!” That’s why the people of W. Va. are so conflicted, Obama’s name is just all wrong for an American president.

I immediately began to think of some possibilities and I think that I’ve hit on one. I need to write the current owner and ask if he minds if Senator Obama borrows his name. It’s a solid name, an American name. After all, the holder of this name has had a long political career. As soon as I get all the legal obstacles cleared, I’m going to have a long talk with Senator Obama to persuade him that he needs to change his name to Newt Gingrich.

Past, Present, and Remembrance

Yesterday while trying to catch up on my journal reading, a recent entry in Carly’s journal caught my eye. She wrote about heritage, about the long road to the very real possibility that a black person could become the next president of these United States. She wrote about the history of black people in this country and her belief that she was casting her vote for Obama for all of those generation who preceded her, who fought, struggled, and often died to achieve the present in which we live.

One of her readers left Carly a well-intentioned comment that reads:

“Who you vote for is your choice but vote for the future and not the past. I’m not sure which Democrat should be in office but I know that whoever it is will not change the past but will impact the future. Look forward with hope for change for this country certainly needs it. Hugs”

I didn’t take offense at the comment and neither did Carly. I know because she left her own comment that reads in part:

“I think my vote is for the future as well as the past. If you don’t know your past you sure can’t see your future.”

Her words stuck a responsive chord in me. I share Carly’s feelings of pride and hope and connection to my ancestors who are not here to see this new day in America. The past cannot be undone, but neither can it be ignored or forgotten. The blood shed, the tears cried, and the sacrifices made by those who came before me are not abstractions to be dismissed as no longer of significance. The past informs the present.

The commenter is right, the past cannot be changed but it can be repeated, played out over and over again unless we remember it truthfully and learn from it. On my first visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. I was struck by the importance of remembering, of recognizing the horrors of the past as a way of honoring those who suffered and memorializing that such horror must never happen again. However, in the flawed world that we live in, such horrors continue–Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, the list is long and seemingly never ending. Yet we must continue to struggle to remember, if we are to break the cycle of inhumanity to others whom we perceive as not us, as a “they” who is less than human, and fair game for destruction.

So I too will think of my African forefathers and mothers as I cast my vote for Barack Obama. But I also take pride that for the first time, a woman may be elected to the presidency. A piece of history that many of us choose to ignore or forget is the struggle that previous generations of women endured to achieve the relative equality that women now enjoy. The amendment giving women the right to vote nationally wasn’t ratified until 1920, less than one hundred years ago. Strong women, brave women defied the conventions of their time to fight for a right that we now take for granted.

In 1913, a women’s suffrage parade was attacked by a mob and many of the protesters were injured. The police stood by and did nothing to intervene and no one was ever arrested for attacking the protesting women. Alice Paul, a leader of the suffragette movement, was imprisoned for her audacity in advocating for women having the right to vote. Kept in isolation for two weeks, she was fed nothing but bread and water in an attempt to break her spirit. In response, Alice went on a hunger strike; other imprisoned suffragettes followed suit. Can you imagine having the men in your family, your husband, brother, son, turn against you, physically chastise you, for daring to participate in the suffragette movement, for having the audacity to believe that women were entitled to full citizenship and participation in the governing of this country?

Remembrance isn’t living in the past; it is honoring those who sacrificed so much to make our present. We can have no future if we allow ourselves to forget the past.