Or is it about generation? I keep hearing the criticism that Barack Obama is too inexperienced, too unseasoned by life, particularly voiced by people of my generation. And I'm wondering if what is actually being said is "he represents the new, not the familiar, and that's scary to me".
There are lots of things about Obama that are new and unfamiliar to my generation and my elders: his mixed-racial heritage, his emphasis on Hope and Change rather than business as usual, his confidence in our ability to work together to bring back the American dream, his lateral, rather than linear, approach to power politics. He's competent with technology, he uses it to reach his constituents, he's a challenge to the old ways of doing things. He's, if not the messiah, a thrilling speaker who seems to capture sincerely the innate sense--in me, at least--that there are better ways of solving America's problems than to just keep on doing what we've been doing.
Though I voted for him in our primary, I also cheered on Hillary Clinton, for her dogged pursuit of the nomination. I think a woman would also bring to the presidency a new vision. But Hillary is of my generation and she is more of a "business as usual" person. It seems to be the M.O. of the "older generation" to criticize and fear the actions of the "younger generation". And that's what I see happening here.
This human tendency is present in us regardless of our race or gender. We question whether our youth can manage without us. We question whether one so young can have the requisite wisdom to lead. We are afraid that a youth's confidence is not as solid as an elder's seniority. We worry that eloquence is not as valuable as battle scars.
These are reasonable worries, of course, but they also gloss over the deeper issue: are older people willing to let younger people take the lead? Will it mean too much new stuff to get used to? Will we be able to survive in a nation that is using technology that is way beyond us? Are we archaic? Do we have any use?
John McCain represents these fears in many, regardless of their age. Barack Obama represents those who are itching to get on with a new approach to politics and American life.
We all want our nation to regain the respect of other nations. We all want our nation to represent a high ethical standard. We all want our nation to lead the way in human relations and compassion.
But I ask, are the old ways better? Or are we at the point where we need to let go of many of the old ways and let the new ways begin to take the lead?