Mark Naison: The Future of The Nation Is in the Hands of Obama Campaign Volunteers- Thoughts After a Weekend of Watching Football

Roundup: Historians' Take

After spending most of my weekend watching football, I am feeling very worried about the outcome of this presidential election. The millions of people who spend their weekends in football stadiums watching men- most of them black- bang into one another at full speed and scantily clad cheerleaders- most of them white- shimmy and shake, are going to be much more comfortable with John McCain and Sarah Pallin than they are with Barack Obama.

You could easily see John McCain pacing the sidelines as a coach of a college team or hanging out in the owners box in a pro football stadium He would be completely at home in that setting. And Sarah Pallin would turn heads, whether in cheeleaders garb, or a designer dress, in any football stadium in America.

While there is a big difference between a presidential election and a football game, in a media driven society, there is a tremendous temptation to portray the two with comparable imagery.

McCain and Pallin are a publicists dream. They are the kind of people many Americans would like to be; flashy, courageous, glamorous, possessing a charisma that comes from immersion in activities that have been powerfully identified with the national character - hunting, fishing, flying planes, accumulating cars and boats and houses Plus they are white If this election were a pure popularity contest among white voters, they would win in a landslide

However, this election is more than a popularity contest. The country is falling apart It is bogged down in failing wars, its economy is on the verge of collapse, its infrastructure is aging rapidly and its energy policy is completely unequipped to face the twin challenges of global warming and diminishing fossil fuels.

Many Americans, even those who possess residual racist sentiments, sense this, and they are worried, but the candidate asking them to address those issues is someone who along with the his racial background, carries the burden of being cerebral. Where would Barack Obama be on "Any Given Sunday?" Certainly not on a football field! And can you imagine Michelle Obama jumping up and down in a cheerleaders outfit? I don't think so! The Obamas are insightful, eloquent, and able to speak knowledgeably about all the important issues our nation faces, but there is nothing comforting or familiar about them to the tens of millions of white Americans who follow football or NASCAR. For many white Americans, Barack Obama represents a cohort- Black Intellectuals- that they have had little contact with, and in some instances, didn't believe existed! Trusting him to lead the country is a stretch!

This places a tremendous burden on the millions of us who believe that Barack Obama's election alone can save the nation from catastrophe. We not only have to go to swing states and talk to people door to door, we have to engage relatives, neighbors and co workers in conversations about the election, even those we are afraid to talk to about serious matters, even at the risk of making enemies.

But in doing so, we have to be as calm and as patient as the candidate himself. We represent the future Barack Obama talks about, a future where the best minds of the nation are directed toward solving problems and helping those in need rather than getting rich. Those of us who are educated have to talk frankly about our own advantages and explain that those advantages mean little if the country's economy falls apart and large numbers of our fellow citizens are suffering And we have to talk about issues. We have to discuss problems in the country's economy, health care system, foreign policy, energy strategy and explain why we think Barack Obama's program offers the only hope of reversing the growing decline in the living standards of working class and middle class Amercans.

It is this kind of grass roots effort that is the real strength of the Obama campaign, not only because it encourages an in depth discussion of issues, but because it exemplifies the kind of civic mindedness and idealism that the nation needs to revive a society undermined by years of publicly sanctioned individualism and greed. Winning this election requires hard work, sacrifice, compassion and ability to reach out to fellow citizens we were are not fully comfortable with, attributes we will need even more when this election is over. We, the millions of members of the Obama campaign team, are part of a movement to change the civic culture of an entire nation to one in which community building, mutual aid and strong and compassionate government are restored to honored place they had in the last economic crisis the nation faced - the Great Depression.

Are we up for the challenge? Can we win people over through the strength of our own example. The stakes are very high

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