Monday, June 23, 2008

Social Constructs of the Presidential Election

The current Presidential race has been deemed historic by many, referring to some candidates' race and gender. The social characteristics of candidates have been more contested than professional skill, capability to lead a nation, and political stance. Rumors about Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama's faith background have additionally been rampant this election season, as questions about the relationship between religion and politics increase.

The Wall Street Journal ran an article today, about how "Obama Walks a Fine Line With Muslims," where a website dedicated to refute "smears" against his campagin emphasizes that Obama "has never been a Muslim" and is "a committed Christian." While the campagin is working to dispel the false rumor that Obama has ties to radical Islam, it is at the same time, when done in such an offensive manner that seemingly marks being Muslim as a smear to a good reputation, harmful to his image of inclusiveness.
As was asked by so many before me, so what if he was Muslim? So what if he is African-American? So what if Senator Hillary Clinton is female? So what if Republican Candidate John McCain's age would potentially make him the oldest President?

The characteristics attributed to race, gender, faith, age, and other indicators, are all socially constructred. America has always prided itself upon the notion that these characteristics are meaningless, that universal values grant everyone basic human dignity and equal protection of rights. Our next President could very well be the first African-American President, or the eldest President. History, however, should not be made based on these characteristics, but rather on the level of knowledge, skill, and potential of these Presidents. While it is historic in the sense that it is a "first," and a stand against the discrimination rooted in our past, it is Obama's grassroots efforts and opposition to the War in Iraq, and McCain's calls for energy independence that I am proud of. More importantly, I am proud of our nation's citizens' ability to (hopefully) look beyond social constructs and recognize the political and social value system that these candidates stand by, regardless of their race, gender, faith, or other characteristic.

Our 35th President, John F. Kennedy, famouskly remarked, "I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President, who happens also to be a Catholic." I hope we can remember that the current Presidential candidates, and any future ones, are representatives of their political ideology and stance, espousing their ability to lead this nation and defend its values, engaging diversity and encouraging pluralism, rather than figure heads for a social construct.


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