June 8, 2008
By nanci graves
This article discusses how Barack Obama's support for animal rights is a good illustration of his abilities to make the right connections.
There is often a certain amount of suspicion attached to dark horse candidates, if only because they arrived later on the scene and lack a history of connectedness. At the same time, such outsider candidates have a freedom to forge new links that didn't seem possible before. Once 'branded,' these candidates are likely to find themselves reigned in and forced to work within a narrower field.
For that reason, Barack Obama might do well to view what remains of his dark horse aura not as a liability but as a strong point of his candidacy. It could function in his favor if his own ability to grasp connections between ideas and actions gains wider public recognition.
One area in which I have appreciated Obama's unifying ability is in his clear understanding of why animal protection is important for whole societies. Here is what he had to say when interviewed by Vegans of Color:
Obama...cares about animal rights very much, "not only because I have a 9-year-old and 6-year-old who want a dog." He said he sponsored a bill to prevent horse slaughter in the Illinois state Senate and has been repeatedly endorsed by the Humane Society. "I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other," he said. "And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals."
These comments might be taken as a 'typical' Obama response in that they rather neatly combine his roles as ordinary family man, political activist and moral philosopher. They also illustrate the way he, whether consciously or unconsciously, echoes the wisdom of other idealistic men who came before him, as he does here in paraphrasing the popular Gandhi quote on the critical link between animal rights and politics:
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.
Having backed up his beliefs with actual legislation, he has also earned the right to suggest a connection between himself and Gandhi.
This approach inspires confidence, because we know that leaders who understand the connection between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans are less likely to slide down that slippery slope towards the dark realms where atrocities are justified. It makes one think that maybe Obama really is a gatherer rather than a hunter. Maybe he will reign in the US war machine. Maybe he will bring an end to the torture and abuse. Maybe he will sign laws to protect the rights of humans, animals and the environment. Maybe we can with good reason trust him to design policies that will finally move the US forward into being a greater society than it has been so far.
In other words, Obama remains a horse of a different color not because of his race but because of his intellectual and moral pedigree. Even if we don't completely accept the idea that a change is as good as a drink to a tired horse, we might also recall that the other side has been knackering a lot of horses of all different colors for a good while now. With more connective thinking like this, more people may be willing to grasp at Obama's ring of change this time around.
Nanci Graves is a teacher in Japan with a love for English and cats.