A few years ago I appeared on the Glenn Beck show and discussed my "briefcase" story about how my best Christmas present ever was destroyed at my junior high school in Harlem. Glenn asked if we could take a tour and so the next week we headed uptown for a special show. Toward the end Glenn asked who I voted for. I said Barack Obama and explained not for political reasons but to repay a debt and I mentioned Rosa Parks. A lot of people I've never met were seriously upset and disappointed.
If there was more time I would have explained my vote in greater detail not to appease anyone but to illuminate my thinking, my family's history and America’s history.
As a child I used to visit my grandparents a lot in the heart of Alabama. Back then those visits were grueling. Using the bathroom in an outhouse and washing by standing up in a metal tub because they had no indoor plumbing until the mid 1970s. Yet, even then I knew my grandparents were special people. In the heart of the south during turbulent and dangerous times for black people they carved out a big piece of land that had crops, cows, chickens, pigs and a couple of horses. (One summer my grandfather told me this brown and white cow was mine filling with pride and a sense of wealth I carried throughout my childhood.) In addition to their house there was another, cobbled together like an abstract painting, down yonder.
My grandfather used to wear shoes that were so turned up they almost pointed true north. He ate with his fingers in an elegant and efficient manner and knew how to get everything done. My grandmother was rugged and fierce. I would watch her work the iron stove with astonishment as she moved wood around with her hands impervious to fire and hot embers. With all due respect to Scarlett Johansson my grandmother was a real life super hero. Together my grandparents were the kind of rugged individuals that built their lives without handouts but single-minded determination.
Yet, I always felt a sense of worry about a kind of fear and kind of violence that permeated the air. That aura hit me when we went to a nearby wooden shack that served as a candy and soda pop store. Run by an old blind white women I used to wonder how come people didn't just take stuff and run. Sure, there was southern hospitality and honor that still is distinctly different than attitudes up north but there was also that aura of a kind of punishment that would go beyond basic justice. That aura of fear always hurt my feelings.
You see, my superhero grandmother never used a pillow when she slept; instead she would simply cross her arms. She slept that way so she could hear the nightriders. Living a proud and resourceful life through those conditions put me and my cousins and now our children in a position to better experience the American Dream. For that I will be forever grateful. It was a debt I thought I could partially repay in the voting booth four years ago. I was planning to vote for McCain but months but the fact is his campaign was a disaster. Stopping for TARP only to vote for it and muffling Sarah Palin while underplaying his experience at the exact moment the nation needed experience was frustrating and made my decision easier.
Fast forward to the present and what will drive my vote for the White House this time. Well, it's going to come back to the notion of debt. A few weeks ago I became a grandfather for the first time with the arrival of little Cassidy into the world.
At 4 pounds twelve ounces she is so tiny and so precious. I know I have to be a warrior to make her path in life easier for her to pursue happiness. With this role my main goal is to remove hurdles when and where I can. Among them the giant debt America has piled up in the past four years. Then there’s the movement toward mediocrity, class envy as a weapon and less unity in the United States.
Four years ago I voted to repay a debt; this time around I’m voting to remove debt.
This time around I'm voting to remove a different kind of aura of fear that's felt by all Americans- a fear we may no longer be the beacon of the world. I'm voting for the right for people to be rugged individuals like my grandparents who did build it themselves.
I'm voting for baby Cassidy and all the babies of America for a chance to excel in an atmosphere of opportunity rather than shuffle along on a crutch of hope in the shadow of fear with the weight of massive financial debt. This is not an endorsement, it’s up to the candidates to convince voters who to pull the lever for, but people keep asking me.
I’m voting for Mitt Romney this time around.