I finished watching the first season of "24" on DVD recently (I know, I know... I'm like the last person in the world to have finally seen it. Whatever.). It's a pretty good show, and the black guy running for president seems like a very strong and determined character... good presidential material. It got me to thinking and it made me wonder whether the TV show "24" had any impact on helping Obama get elected this week.
I'm assuming the black guy in "24" got elected in Season Two, but did the strength of the character and the popularity of the TV show help open America's minds to the possibility of a black president? I'd like to think that we are so evolved that we don't harbor any prejudices, but that isn't true. In fact, I have argued that if you can simply notice that someone is from of a different race, then there is some minute, theoretical discrimination going on inside you (with the definition of discrimination being "the process by which two stimuli differing in some aspect are responded to differently"). Doesn't mean you're a bad person or that you are racist - it just means that you may respond fractionally different to a person of a different race, which is just natural... it's just that there are just varying degrees of "responding differently".
However, familiarity will generally reduce that inherent level of "responding differently" (or discrimination) to the point where, hopefully, it's imperceivable. When you meet someone from a different race for the first time, you will likely have a standard reaction (regardless of race), plus an added degree of a different reaction (based on race). That different reaction might range from hatred (real racism) to wondering if their English is any good (ignorance) to wondering if they play basketball (stereotyping) to wondering about the dot on their head (just plain noticing a physical/cultural difference). But then, after three years, perhaps that same person is now your best friend. Any different initial reaction you may have had to them based on their race or culture, has probably melted down to absolutely nothing, or something so minute, it's imperceivable. Perhaps it was almost nothing to begin with, but now it really is nothing - your mind doesn't even register that they are a different race, because you are so familiar with them.
So did the black presidential candidate on "24" help build some familiarity in the voting population to allowed us to view Barack as a normal candidate and evaluate his platform based on its own merits, instead of viewing him as a "black candidate"? Or was the inclusion of a black candidate as a character in the television show a reflection of society's pre-existing belief that we would accept a black president in this day an age? Or does "24" and Obama have absolutely nothing to do with one another? I'd be curious to hear your thoughts.
There have been a lot of examples in TV where there have been "firsts" that have gone on to shape views in society. If you're old enough, you might remember Hill Street Blues when they showed bare ass on network TV for the first time. That was big deal, and today, you can get away with showing girls in thongs all the time. Also, Ellen coming out of the closet was a big deal, and today gay and lesbian couples enjoy far more freedom and less prejudice than ever before. So I wonder if "24" is one of those steps that helped society evolve a bit.
I won't rant too long on this, because everyone has already beat it to death... but what a horrible, horrible decision McCain made in selecting Palin to be his running mate. Anyone with any kind of brain could have figured out this was going to be disaster. It was very gutsy and actually proved to be very positive for the campaign for about 12 minutes, but even if you were the evil genius who foresaw that, wouldn't you also be smart enough to know that it couldn't possibly last long enough to carry you through to the election? Barack might have beaten McCain under any circumstance, but McCain definitely lost it with that decision to add Palin to the ticket.
There can't possibly be a rationale person in America with an I.Q. over 110 that can honestly say they think Palin is qualified to be Vice President. I'm pretty sure that if you got Palin alone in a room, she would tell you herself that she isn't qualified. None of this is her fault. If McCain or Obama picked me to be their running mate, heck, I would go for it! But I'm going to get destroyed and laughed at - even though I'm highly educated, a good orator, very intelligent and successful - but I'm not qualified to be Vice President. With enough time, I could GET qualified, but I'm not qualified right now. Despite that, if I got the nod from Obama or McCain, I would still give it a try, right? So you can't blame Palin for existing. The mistake wasn't Palin herself; it was the decision to select her. I would pay a lot of money to hear the real true story of how she actually got picked by the Republicans. How did that conversation go? I'm dying to know how they came to the conclusion that Palin actually gave them the best chance to win.
So, like it or not, Obama is our new president. We are in some shitty times right now - my 401(k) is destroyed, I have lots of friends out of work, a have a friend shipping off to Iraq, and this blog is looking more and more like it could my new full-time job. Let's hope for the best over the next four years and give all our support to the new guy in charge, because it's all we got. Even if you don't like the election of Obama, you still have to admit it's a pretty amazing testament to our country... there are people who, in their lifetime, have seen separate water fountains for black people and now a black person as president. I think we can now truly say that you can achieve anything you set your mind to - which is probably a good thing for all of us.