Thursday, July 31, 2008

Playing Cards

An interesting piece was posted in the New York Times Caucus blog today, regarding the Presidential election and the increasingly aggressive debate between presumptive Republican and Democratic nominees, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, respectively. As the McCain camp has recently stepped up its game in ads portraying Obama negatively, Obama's response was that McCain was trying to "scare voters," show them that Obama is not like our past Presidents. McCain's campaign claimed that Obama played the "race card."

This got me thinking about the way our social characteristics are politically manipulated. I certainly believe Senator Obama has played the "race card" during his campaign, appealing to voters' sympathy regarding racial discrimination. Just as Senator Clinton played the "gender card." And Senator McCain perha
ps plays the "veteran card." President Bush, too, has often played the "faith card" during his administration. Many times, they called out one another's cards, playing them out again themselves!

These identity cards are used for man
y different purposes. Often they serve as mobilizing forces, rallying people around a shared identity, or emphasizing the importance and historic nature of a certain identity having greater value or potential in a leadership role when it historically could not. Sometimes the card is used to falsely accuse another of being racist, sexist, or intolerant of a characteristic, generally for a personal advantage. Other times they expose a genuine prejudice for a person's own political advantage, for example. Perhaps most disturbing, is when the identity card is used to devalue or minimize the existence of prejudice.

Professor Randy Pausch spoke true when he said, "We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand." It is important to use our cards as a tool for positive change rather than for a personal gain. It is important to use them to expose injustices and prejudices rather than to cloak them. Let's hope we can get away from politics as usual and see some real change.

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