EAST WIND: There Was a Time …

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Miya IwatakiBy MIYA IWATAKI

“Americans…still believe in an America where anything’s possible — they just don’t think their leaders do.” — President Barack Obama

The president of the United States is the commander-in-chief, the face of our country. For the majority of voters, he/she stands for something — the policies, hopes and aspirations for a better future.

There was a time when the office of president had a certain decorum, respect. The past eight years of Republican efforts to undermine President Obama were very disheartening for me. I thought it couldn’t get worse. Then came Trump…

In this unprecedented election, all protocol, expectations, common decency, and statesmanship have gone AWOL. It’s been replaced with a media frenzy, feeding on sexual locker room talk, prepubescent insults, bullying and unapologetic lies. A unified national understanding or agreement on what democracy is (both little and big “D”) has been disintegrating.

Despite the intransigence of the anti-Obama Republican Congress, there still were vestiges of bipartisan support for the integrity of presidential elections. For example, even after Vice President Al Gore lost his highly contested election, there was a peaceful transition of power. But now we have a candidate that is fomenting distrust with constant claims that the voting system is rigged. These claims grow louder as his polling numbers go down. These unsubstantiated rantings are accepted as truth by his followers.

Denigrating the integrity of the election process is irresponsible and lacks thought and foresight on what future impact it could have. One only needs to look at the violent and chaotic aftermath of contested election processes in other countries. Threats of jail or inciting enough hatred to harm or kill a campaign opponent, or advocating incarcerating ethnic communities in camps (again)…the next steps could be outlawing opposition parties, violence and chaos. These are common elements under a dictatorship. Hmmm.

I am really into quotes. I’ve been collecting them over the years, and more recently in my writers’ group. While thinking about and jotting down what presidential candidates and campaigns once were before 2016, I began finding quotes from various sources that enhanced my thoughts. So I undertook this pairing exercise — matching “There was a time when…” with quotes. It was actually relaxing:

There was a time when a presidential candidate was looked upon as an example of what a young person could look to and aspire to.

“Being president has not changed who he is. It has revealed who he is.”  — Michelle Obama on her husband

“The two most important dates in your life are – the day you were born, and the day you find out why.”  — Mark Twain

There was a time when a presidential candidate inspired hope.

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something.” — President Barack Obama

“When they go low, we go high.” — Michelle Obama

There was a time when a presidential campaign exhibited civility.

”We should use our opinions to start discussions, not end them.” — Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

“Finally, the whole country will watch as a woman stands, politely listening to a loud man’s bad ideas about the field she spent her life in.” — Alexandra Petri, author-blogger, on 9/26 debate

There was a time when presidential campaigns were run on issues, not on Wikileaks.

”The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity.” — Abraham Lincoln 

There was a time when a presidential candidate was expected to inspire leadership and greatness.

”A good man apologizes for the mistakes of the past. A great man corrects them.” — Goethe

There was a time when presidential candidates debated policy, not petty put-downs.

“The only card she has is the woman’s card; she’s got nothing else.” — Donald Trump, 4/16/16

“If fighting for women’s healthcare and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the woman’s card – then DEAL ME IN.” — Hillary Clinton, 4/16/16

There was a time when the office of president was about the country, not the candidate and the party over the interests of the people. 

“Change doesn’t come from Washington, change comes to Washington.” — President Obama

“If you want to go fast – go alone. If you want to go far – go together.” — African adage cited by Sen. Corey Booker

There was a time when the office of president was one to be respected.

My father said, ‘The man who views the world at 50 the same way he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” — Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali

There was a time when a presidential candidate aspired to bring people together, not to create divisions based on sex, race, disability, choice.

“The only thing that needs to be divided by colors is our laundry.” — Michael “Big Mike” Cummings, gang intervention worker at Watts gang-community town hall, 7/17

“Excellence is the best deterrence to racism or sexism.” — Oprah Winfrey

There was a time when a presidential candidate had well-thought-out, honorable intentions and a humanitarian world view.

“Unless you have reflected on your own soul, how can you know the truth of the world?”  — Kobo Daishi, Jujushinron

There was a time…or was there?

GAMBARE!

Miya Iwataki has been an advocate for communities of color for many years, from the JACS Asian Involvement Office in Little Tokyo in the ’70s, through the JA redress/reparations struggle with NCRR while working for Rep. Mervyn Dymally, to statewide health rights advocacy. She also worked in public media at KCET-TV, then KPFK Pacifica Radio as host for a weekly radio program, “East Wind.” She can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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