Feb 4, 2008

Why My Tuesday Will Be Super

Tomorrow isn't just Super Tuesday for presidential hopefuls. It's also my birthday (and a big one, but enough about that). I wouldn't bring that up, usually, except that it feels very personally meaningful for me. If you'll indulge me, I'll explain why.

My family is from Gary, Indiana, a steel town outside of Chicago that has weathered the post-industrial age particularly badly, in part because, unlike, say, Detroit or Cleveland, it's a relatively young city that was built almost entirely on one business (steel), with few other historical roots to draw on. (In fact, to digress for a moment: The famous song from Music Man is meant to be a joke--i.e., Harold Hill is such a scam artist that even the beloved hometown he idealizes is a lie, since it was founded in 1906, and he claims to have learned his trade at "Gary Music Conservatory, Class of '05!"). As the steel industry began to falter, and African-Americans migrated to the area in the 1950s and 1960s, white flight converged with industrial collapse to create a notoriously dystopian urban wasteland.

My family was hardly unique in being among those who fled to the white suburbs of Merrillville, Hobart, Valparaiso, etc. What was unique was the response of my grandparents, Harold and Theresa Kendt, who though they did move to Merrillville remained members of St. John's Lutheran Church in Gary until such time as they had to move to a nursing home in Crown Point. I wouldn't say that the Kendt family was scandalized by Harold and Theresa's insistence on enthusiastically remaining active members of a church which, by the 1980s, served almost exclusively black parishioners; I'll just say that it was noticed and remarked upon.

And though I grew up in Phoenix, Ariz., I was raised in a very white milieu, the Midwestern branch of which had scant affection for Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. That historic Harold was a notable inspiration to one Chicago politician.

Whether he intended to or not, my grandfather Harold's example inspired and moved me no end. Now, race is certainly not reason enough, or reason at all, to vote for Sen. Barack Obama, as I intend to on Super Tuesday. But, speaking for myself, I will pull the lever for Obama on my own birthday in loving memory of my grandfather--a lifelong Republican who may not have seconded the letter of my choice but, I like to think, would approve of the spirit of it.

For those unmoved by such personal special pleading, I found this endorsement to be particularly on point.

Besides, I'm pleased enough with both Democratic choices that it will be a pretty Super Tuesday no matter the outcome.


Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Rob!
--from your old pal/secret admirer Scott Chernoff

Anonymous said...

Happy 29th! (I assume that's the significant year to which you refer, yes?)

And thanks for the link to the Hayes piece. It captured exactly why I'm supporting Obama (he got my vote yesterday, of course).