Día de los Muertos ~ and why I’m voting for Obama

Dia de los Muertos procession, photo by –Mark–.

Día de los Muertos, held every year on November 2nd in the Mission district, is my favorite city parade in San Francisco. It’s not exactly a parade but a procession that

honors both death and the cycle of life… It’s a moment to contemplate our existence and mortality and for remembering deceased friends and family. — Marigold Project, the organizers of the event.

I’ve participated every year since I moved to the Bay Area in 2008. I feel joyful, tender, and calm walking in the midst of the festive crowd usually with a friend or two carrying a candle in memory of my mother and grandmother. It’s a chaotic mix of celebrating and mourning, participating and observing life and death simultaneously.

Day of the Dead shrine to my mother ~ Linda Susan Wood (1943-2003)

Recently I finished reading Status Anxiety a book by Alain de Botton. He examines the causes of status anxiety, including the rise of meritocracy in modern times and the shifting worldview on the roles of the wealthy and the poor from a time when financial and social hierarchies were fixed. He elaborates on Three Useful Old Stories about Failure:

1) The Poor Are Not Responsible for Their Condition and Are the Most Useful in Society
2) Low Status Has No Moral Connotation
3) The Rich Are Sinful and Corrupt and Owe Their Wealth to Their Robbery of the Poor

And continues with Three Anxiety-Inducing New Stories about Success:

The rise of these stories have been accompanied by momentous material improvements across society, but at a psychological level, their contribution was to make low status all the harder to endure.

1) The Rich Are the Useful Ones, Not the Poor
2) Status Does Have Moral Connotations
3) The Poor Are Sinful and Corrupt and Owe Their Poverty to Their Own Stupidity

In my mind these two sets of stories roughly define the difference between Obama’s worldview and Romney’s. Obama’s understanding that the middle class is the backbone of a healthy, and prosperous society versus Romney’s 47% statement perfectly illustrates this difference. My thinking is more inline with Obama. In my opinion…

We’re All In This Shit Together ~ The Mantra Trailer, 2007

These are hard times, but the important thing to remember is that we are in, whatever we are in, TOGETHER. Certain essential things, involving the life and death of the community are beyond profit margins and are best regulated or supported by government for the broad prosperity of the middle class… like natural disaster relief for instance.

I don’t think the path of privatization at the cost of the community is the forward thinking direction for our country at a time of limited global resources and exponential population growth.  Forces bigger than the actions of any leader are reorienting our economy towards sustainability. A new era of status tallied by the quality and strength of our relationships and NOT financial power is dawning. We will have to fight for it. It’s a difficult transition and Obama gets this. Romney doesn’t or doesn’t care.

Community shrine at Día de los Muertos, San Francisco.

Alain de Bottom’s solutions to status anxiety include philosophy, art, politics, religion, and bohemia. According to de Bottom, experiencing a piece of great art or the power of nature, recognizing our mortality, participating in religious rituals and the political process are all levelers of status defined by financial wealth.

Day of the Dead memorial, Garfield Park, San Francisco

Which brings me back to Día de los Muertos, a public procession of the living dead –made of flesh and bones, rejoicing in the blessings of life and remembering collectively, our dead loved ones whom we are soon to join. Celebrating the Day of the Dead reminds me that human worth based on monetary wealth is a fiction that I don’t have to buy into or vote for. We are all equal in death.  We all have one life to live and one vote to give.

Many thanks to –Mark–  at flickr for generously sharing –via the Creative Commons— these amazing portraits of this year’s Día de los Muertos celebration.

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10 Responses to Día de los Muertos ~ and why I’m voting for Obama

  1. john wiercioch says:

    THanks for the heartfelt and considered post. I agree very much that community is at the center of things. I live in the city Roanoke, VA, where Obama famously gaffed by leaving out the word “alone” {“You got a business, you didn’t build that (alone)…” even though within the context of the speech he made it very clear that he was referring to all those who have touched all our efforts and contributed to our interwoven successes. The subsequent snatching of the phrase turned it into a sound bite and rallying cry portrayed to mean something else. So it is challenging in our era to know where to draw the lines about social and political viewpoints being posted. Like you Sherri, I believe thoughtful and sincere online discussions are desired and ought to be encouraged, provided respect prevails, just as we ought to do in real conversation. It takes much vigilance (on FB at least) because beyond carefully articulating one’s own views, we become the monitors of each “online dialogue” we establish, and I am still surprised how often rogues dive in and attack with blistering ignorance. Yet I have also had many interesting and engaging and insightful shared discussions through FB by doing just what you have done. So thanks for the courage to post your convictions.

    Here’s what I posted on FB late Tuesday night: “Much work and big challenges ahead for us all: creating a tolerant path that honors other points of view, moves us toward bettering ALL lives (without envy over success nor judgment over those troubled), that assists our neighbors in need without creating dependencies, and doesn’t compromise our collective future financially, yet treats the resources of the earth sustainably. Whew! Fortunately, none of us has to do this alone–we are all in this together.”

  2. blandina says:

    Great post, I love the pictures and also found very interesting the New Stories about Success. Good points for meditation.

  3. Patty says:

    The thing that is not working is the passing of levies under the guise that it is for the kids. This money will turn into admin raises. They did that where I live and now many of us are trying to figure out how we are going to pay an 18 percent increase in our real estate taxes to throw good money after bad. 25% of the kids don’t graduate and turn to the welfare system with their out of wedlock babies (more of my money) to live while they turn a quick buck by becoming thugs and meth manufacturers. The family system is so broken in this town. Another 3 1/2 years and I am out of here. This downfall of the family system is not Obama’s fault. It is each person that makes a decision not to contribute to society, but become a leach. Yes, I am bitter and tired of working so hard for the little I have in order to support the welfare state that Ohio is becoming.

    • Patti, I really appreciate your perspective. So many of us are enduring hard and stressful financial realities – including myself. I’m not sure who you voted for but I remember how bitter and depressed my friends and I felt after George W. was reelected. We dreaded the outcome of another four years of the his administration. The one consolation was that it was out of our hands, the majority had voted him in, and all we could do was witness the aftermath.

      Now we have four more years of Obama. I feel hopeful that the outcome will be positive this time –that our communities will begin to heal and many of us who are currently struggling will be doing better… but who can tell the future?

      This is the time for all of us who voted for Obama to back him up and commit to our local communities, families, and friends through both small and large actions as much as we are able. I hope those who feel bitter about the outcome of this election will take some time to rest and allow others to struggle on their behalf for a short while.

      May we all be blessed and renewed over the next four years.

  4. Joyce says:

    Very good post Sherri and I will be voting with you!

  5. Lisa F. says:

    I can see your reasoning. However, I am voting for the other guy.

  6. Kristin L says:

    I love the way you’ve framed this around community. I’ve long felt that “in it together” aspect, but never really put words to it. While living in a country that, while democratic, might be considered socialist by some American pundits, I observed many communal benefits of a broad middle class and strong government support of all people regardless of income.

  7. Jeff says:

    Excellent and thoughtful post, Sherri. Hope you are well.

  8. Sandy says:

    All good reasons, but, guess my vote will cancel yours out. Sorry.

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