Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hope, Part II: The Fierce Urgency of Now

Obama hadn't planned this run, this year, until he saw how our unity had been utterly and cynically gutted for political and financial gain. No one else was being a grown up, paying attention to the real problems and looking at ways to actually solve them. Political theater isn't public policy, especially in a nation whose fierce urgency needs a statesman, a visionary who still believes folks are folks with more in common than not, but a nation . . .

  • Whose fortune has flown away without feeding hungry babies,
  • Whose future is imperiled by internal combustion,
  • Suffering the mere beginning of the most appalling financial collapse in a century,
  • Whose healthcare costs more and delivers less than other industrial countries,
  • Whose schools diminish our children with meaningless, impossible tests and draconian consequences for failure,
  • In which science is suspect and creationism is as alive and well as it was in the Scopes Trial in the '30s
  • With years and years of untreated toxic waste ignored since Super Fund expired
  • Whose water and food are no longer reliably safe
  • Whose freshwater fish are not safe to eat
  • Having killed a million or more Iraqis and uncounted Afghanis, absolute innocents who just want to live like anybody else, but then we shocked and awed their world upside down,
  • That tortures prisoners, leaving barely human shells usually found innocent
  • Where dissent has been selectively criminalized
  • Whose infrastructure is archaic and verging on catastrophic collapse
  • Whose veterans are treated appallingly, and with nakedly unconcerned ignorance for the long term cost of denying timely care
  • Where the wiretaps are a whirrin' without oversight, all over everywhere
  • That imprisons more people than any country in the world
  • With more arrests for non-violent marijuana offenses in 2007 than ever before to enrich the private prison systems by 35-50 bucks a day they often get the prisoner to pay,
  • In which the land of the free and brave love their big guns to distraction, but still can't get over the gay
  • Whose Clean Air Act has been eroded
  • Where regulations once mandatory our now voluntary
  • Where it's hard to find justice, unless you have money, then you find boundless mercy
  • Whose people are sicker with each generation from a massive ecological/biological science experiment without supervision by even a mad scientist,
  • Conspiring to protect the corrupt, whose whistleblower protection has been weakened
  • That outed a CIA operative specializing in securing loose nukes in the Middle East in a juvenile effort to pass on blatantly counterfeit intelligence as evidence for war
  • Sequestered in the Green Zone, Saddam's golden palace and a thorn in the Iraqi side that indicates we don't even get PR and we invented it,
  • Guilty of obscenities at Abu Ghraib
  • That bombed Al Jazeera Baghdad in the first shock and awe
  • Guilty of a million or more Iraqi deaths,
  • Whose female soldiers face daily risk of sexual violence
  • Been robbed blind by sleight of hand mortgage bundles by amoral Wall Street concerns, gutting the treasury
  • Whose children's college education out of reach for growing numbers
  • The Bible says loans should be forgiven every seven and seven hundred years, but the credit card industry has made debt relief impossible for most
  • Losing our homes at record rates—stability, safety, and family rooms lost to parents who feel smaller and children who feel too old
  • For whom homelessness affects untold numbers of families, most of them children, with untold pain, shame, damage and despair

Why would anyone feel anything as electric as hope in the face of that staggering, yet incomplete list? At some point while dogging along, I was physically overcome with gratitude for the character of this skinny guy from Hawaii, and Washington, and Illinois, and Kansas. The little hairs on my neck stood up with a tickle and I got goosebumps. Obama. A deliberate, mensa man, who is not separated by his smarts, but engaged by them.

And with a wife who is among the most natively likeable, gracious, charming, intelligent, savvy political figures to emerge, in like, ever. That she is his touchstone reassures me, and the fact that they so obviously love each other assures me of their behind closed doors lovability. His children heal him and push him forward.

I think we kind of surprised ourselves by being smart enough to give him the job. There was no other rational way to go, but when has that ever mattered?

He is not rash or quick to anger. He is confident in his manhood and his intelligence, eliminating the ego endangering hangers on and sycophants. He actually has a good relationship with reality and actually seeks the truth. Who said you're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. That's been backwards, but not for long.

His Kansas roots show most obviously in his practical application of political theory and human nature. I'm sure he will make me unhappy with compromises he'll make. But I won't suspect duplicity, and I won't have to watch from a free speech zone as our nation's strength and treasure is squandered across oceans and behind mahogany doors to enrich the enrichened enough already.

I believe in good faith, critical thinking, and also that life doesn't begin until 1958 in Fairview, Mo. when I smelled the onions Momma was cutting and wanted her to take care of me and not make that stink.

I pre-forgive him my inevitable disappointments because above all, he is human.
He touches us in that place that makes hope in the face of nearly comedic calamity on every horizon, a reasonable and prudent attitude.

The only thing a fine education really sticks on you besides some letters, is the ability to learn on a wider plane than your uneducated self knew to consider. It's time for an elite thinker, with a good liberal arts education, degrees much maligned by have-nots and know nothings. Knowing history, philosophy, the dynamics of society in flux, mathematics, physics, culture and the written word means your panoramic view doesn't need to come from Walgreens.

, prepares one to synthesize information from across disciplines to see the panorama shot. Obama's got vision, and if ever there was a transformative figure, it is he, and if anyone ever needed one, it is we.

He has an astute and subtle mind, not the subtitled mind we've misunderestimated for too long.

One thing I'm sure of, Obama will never taunt anyone shooting at our kids to "bring it on." He's incapable of a simpleton's bullying taunts.

And he's pretty and can play basketball like Cassius Clay could box.

His plan to amalgamate the intelligence, ambition and passion of an entire nation behind renewable energy that will have us all rising to the occasion.

And while he backs faith-based programs, they're not Bush's bequest to the member rolls. His plan requires no religious test for participation at any point, either overt or covert.

Religion has been government's expensive and embarrasing concubine for too long. Our beginnings are as purposefully secular as was ever imagined—it's why the country works at all.

Isn't there a Constitution test in 8th grade anymore? It stuns me they continue to get away with this most basic misreading of the document.

And, and, and, if there was no other evidence of his steady hand, the two-year campaign showed us an unflappable candidate. Consistent. Presidential. Thoughtful and with resolve untinged by unhingedness. Palin wrinkled her nose when she called him a "community organizer," but the Obama organization is now the stuff of political science gospel, and she's back shooting wolves in helicopters.

More than my dear Dr. Dean's 50-state strategy, Obama's was nearly an every county strategy. He talked to the whole country, not just the, forgive me this awful expression, "low hanging fruit." The campaign didn't stay out of Mississippi because Obama is half African.

Instead, they settled in and learned to love grits until their numbers buzzed with grassroots passion that cannot be bought at any price. As a nation, maybe we're just weary enough of our own collective cynicism to hear an ethos borne of idealism, and well tempered by reality. I, for one, discovered no embarrassment at having been inspired, enthralled and swept away by the only figure capable of pulling off half this shit. And I'm a crusty old broad.

Contrast this positive force with the relentlessly misleading and mean advertising from the right, and it was finally just pathetic. The McCain message kept changing, the rhetoric became more shrill, ever more infused with outright lies and code words inciting bigotry and rage that was red meat to their obnoxious base, introducing a level of ugliness usually reserved for those we love.

Twenty years writing advertising of every ilk left me with a reluctant skill at going for the jugular in a snappy headline, and three graphs. I was proud to see Obama avoid that manipulative soul-sucking model. His was the class act, while McCain's swan song rankled like the tinny piano of a class clown trying way too hard to be liked. If he never read Faust, surely McCain has seen Damn Yankees! Selling your soul never works out except in Coen Brothers movies, and that's if "working out" means going to work for the governor.

In the meantime, Obama has made the world delight in the prospect that America might actually transcend the dark years of George the Usurper to use our power once again for good, not evil. Sometimes life hangs a louie on you, 2008 has been a lousy, lousy, horrible, hideous year, but it's a louie year. 2009 will be hideous, too, but we've got hope to tuck in our decollatage now.

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