Traverse City Record-Eagle

Columns

January 13, 2013

Loraine Anderson: The real face of America

I flash back to my nephew's wedding dinner in Austin, Texas. It was November, a good month for weddings there — finally cool enough to be outdoors.

It was also the first weekend after the U.S. presidential election.

Obama had won, and the Sunday morning political news shows were all about the whys and "wackos" in the Republican Party — the commentators' phrase, not mine.

The Republican Party — which often calls itself the "Party of Lincoln," at least in the North — no longer could ignore its dinosaur losses: the Latino vote, the women's vote, the youth vote.

I admit I somehow felt vindicated. The 2012 election year was nasty, ugly, long and insulting to many groups of Americans. As far as I was concerned, the GOP deserved the comeuppance it received from voters, just as the Democrats did two decades ago for allowing unions to have such a strong grip on their party.

TV political commentators pointed to Texas as a model Republican state that had learned how to live with ethnic diversity. They interviewed and showed clips of the state's Hispanic twin brothers — fifth-term San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Democrat in the U.S. House.

The newspaper and television hype over the yet-to-come "Lincoln" movie started that morning, too.

All in all, it was an interesting trip that also involved a tour of the state's capital and museums.

Texas was a "slave state" during the fractious pre-Civil War era 1820-1860. Its history is so different from ours in Michigan, which was the first then "western" state to send soldiers to Washington, D.C.

Think Alamo, King Cotton, cattle drives, Bush, Big Oil, Kennedy assassination and LBJ. Think powerful.

As I watched the Sunday morning political talk shows and read newspapers, my mind's eye kept turning to the wedding reception hall the night before and the awareness that overcame me as I watched people eating, dancing and laughing — many meeting for the first time.

We were white, Hispanic, Thai, black, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, rich, poor and middle class — all somehow related by extended family or friendship.

"This is the real face of America and it's beautiful," I thought. "This is what it means to be American."

A lump rose to my throat. I felt proud to be American, a rare election-year sentiment.

I thought of Obama, our nation's first black president, who I believe will eventually be remembered as a great American president, statesman and leader.

The national pride, lump and tears, too, came again on Christmas Day at the State Theatre during the final scenes of "Lincoln" when Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in the United States.

Thank you, Mr. Lincoln.

Loraine Anderson can be reached at landerson@record-eagle.com or 933-1468.

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