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October 15, 2008

Why Obama, by Liza Monroy

Why Obama is a series of guest essays by musicians and authors, where they share their support for Democratic United States presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama and offer arguments why he needs to be elected president of the United States.

Liza Monroy, the daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, spent her high school years attending an international school in Mexico City. Her articles and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Newsweek, the Village Voice, Time Out New York, Jane, and other publications. She lives in New York City.

Her debut novel, Mexican High, was released earlier this year.

In her own words, here is Liza Monroy's Why Obama essay :

Why I’m Voting for Obama

There’s no question that it’s time for change. With, at the time of this writing, just 22 days left until the election, the impending feeling that the Bush years are ending is finally here, and the excitement is palpable amongst my peers. Along with these past eight years—between the time I was twenty years old and now—came some of the most jarring tragedies my generation has ever witnessed: September 11th, the invasion of Iraq (WMDs? Iraqi freedom?), photographs of the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib, and now, the tanking economy. Change is needed more than ever, and it’s happening. What will it bring? The passion, energy, and hope of Barack Obama or more of the same—possibly worse?

Only by understanding others, by opening rather than shutting down lines of communication, through words rather than war, can we progress. America has never been more unpopular abroad, and for the past eight years, this reputation has been cemented. We could have a VP who didn’t get a passport until 2006, who would be running this country should anything happen to septuagenarian John McCain. I am frightened by the notion. Obama, on the other hand, has a global sensibility. He has traveled to Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and lived abroad in Indonesia. He was born to parents of two nationalities, a Kenyan father and American mother.

Travel is not only more possible than ever, it’s more important. It’s the only way to gain first-hand understanding of the world, to see things for yourself, to interact with people of different cultures and beliefs. Between a man who chose someone who seems, from her remarks in the interview with Katie Couric, to view travel as fundamentally elitist, an activity for the upper class who are sent to Europe with backpacks (to paraphrase Palin), and one who has this international perspective, how can there be a question? Maybe it’s because I grew up this way, moving from country to country with a mother who is a US Foreign Service officer, that I believe travel is a fundamental part of a complete education, but without this understanding of and openness to others, terrible things can happen, and they already have.

These days, I’m teaching an essay writing course to freshmen at Columbia, Obama’s undergraduate alma mater, where I began graduate school to earn an MFA in nonfiction writing after the publication of my first novel, Mexican High (Spiegel & Grau, June 2008). For one of the students’ assignments, we are looking at images from Abu Ghraib and the Iraq War. Most of my students are voting for the first time, many weren’t as aware of the issues of these past few years until now. They have seemed as shocked and disturbed as I was upon first glimpsing these images. Of torture, Obama has said: “The secret authorization of brutal interrogations is an outrageous betrayal of our core values, and a grave danger to our security. We must do whatever it takes to track down and capture or kill terrorists, but torture is not a part of the answer - it is a fundamental part of the problem with this administration’s approach. Torture is how you create enemies, not how you defeat them. Torture is how you get bad information, not good intelligence. Torture is how you set back America’s standing in the world, not how you strengthen it. It’s time to tell the world that America rejects torture without exception or equivocation.”

Whereas McCain, himself a former victim of torture, voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, when formerly he claimed to be anti-torture. Anything to get elected, right?

And what about my right, as a woman, to have an abortion should I need one?
And what about the environment, when at a rally in Omaha Republican supporters enthusiastically cheered, “Drill baby drill!”?

When I look at and listen to Barack Obama, I can’t help but notice that, quite simply, he is Presidential. He is thoughtful, articulate, and clearly in possession of an innate intelligence. He doesn’t feel the need to try to appeal to voters through putting on a façade of being “down-home” (see McCain’s refrain “my friends” or Palin’s hockey-mom go-team-USA posturing). Obama is a politician, yes, but an unmistakable aura of authenticity surrounds him. He represents the opportunities this country can provide—raising oneself to one’s true potential through education without having come from a privileged background. Obama clearly cares deeply about the United States, but also about foreign policy, an area neglected by the Bush Administration, and with a candidate selecting a vice presidential nominee who apparently has no inherent interest in global travel, who knows?

This is a plea to two generations, mine and my students’— those of us who may not have felt compelled to care in any deep way about politics until recently, and to those who are beginning to, those who are voting for the first time in what may be the most important election ever.

So in answer to the question, Why Obama?

Because this country needs him.

Because the time is now.

Because why not.

Liza Monroy links:

Liza Monroy's website

Barack Obama link:

Barack Obama presidential campaign website

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Why Obama essays
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews