Politics fascinates me in a disturbing sort of way.
There are a number of narratives starting to form around the various candidates. I had heard in the past criticisms concerning Obama that black voters didn't consider him black enough, or that average Americans considered him an outsider.
Now, with Palin chosen as the Republican VP, there is a new narrative forming, a new question being asked: Which candidate is the most American?
Palin is held up as a sort of ultra-American, due to her boundless support for guns, babies, and all the other evangelical, 'Christian' virtues.
Mark Shea, on his blog Catholic and Enjoying It, quotes a commentor thus:
"I haven't read all the comments, but it isn't surprising that MM doesn't like Sarah Palin, for the same reason that a lot of ordinary Americans like her. I think the reason many people have responded positively to her is that unlike any of the other three people in the race, she seems uniquely American - not Americanist, but American. Motorcycles, hunting, outdoors, apple pie, cookouts, motherhood, self-reliance, hard work, ambition -- all wonderful aspects of what uniquely makes up American culture. Obama could have come out of the burbs of Paris; Palin couldn't have come from anywhere but America."
I find this sentiment somewhat disturbing. America is supposed to be a melting pot, isn't it? I didn't realize there was anything that qualified you as being an American except agreeing with the ideas of liberty, justice, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as many other things covered by our country's founding fathers.
American culture has never been homogenous. We are a land of immigrants and of disparate temperaments and beliefs. To expect some sort of unique 'American' culture, which you can use to identify all the 'genuine' Americans, seems kind of shallow.
Americans are not identical clones of each other, nor is American culture homogenous. It is diverse. It has always been diverse. To single out one part of that diversity as being the defining set of 'American' traits is doing an injustice to our country's history and its greatness.
This seems to have more to do with political maneuvering than with truth or fairness. Conservatives and Republicans are trying to cast Obama as an outsider, someone who isn't truly American. They want people to start identifying him as the Other, something unknown and dangerous. They want him to seem like he came from "the burbs of Paris," as in the quote above.
So what if Obama is black? So what if he's got a funny name? We all have funny names. It just depends on who you ask. America has always been a country of immigrants, a country of outcasts and misfits with funny names and quite often conflicting cultures. The uniquely American aspect of our country has been our attempt to put all such differences aside in pursuit of a common dream of liberty, happiness, and justice. We have not always been successful. Or even mostly successful. But where we have been successful, it has been a real achievement.