Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Tag: race

334 electoral votes (at last count) later, this is no longer what you might call a victory. It’s now pretty much a blow out. What Obama did last night is called “winning decisively” or, alternately, “handing John McCain his ass.” McCain was gracious about it, accepting the failure as his own during his concession speech, and Obama, for his part, remained dignified and concentrated not on himself but on us. Which is why, I think, he was so galvanic.

I think few of his supporters believe he won last night.

I think we believe we won. He just happens to be our candidate, because he has risen up to become our voice. In him we see ourselves at our very best, and the hope to lead our country to its very best.

In him, I believe, we see the living embodiment of a dream:

That all men are created equal, and that we may live in a society in which we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. I’ve noticed that pretty much every media source in the country notes the historicity of his race, that he is the very first African American elected president, but I wonder if that does a disservice to what he has truly accomplished. Because he proved so decisively that what truly counts is the person, the candidate, and not the race or the creed or the gender. What matters is action and speech, thought and gesture, and I don’t believe Obama won despite that he is Black; I believe he won solely because, for once, people set color and race aside to focus on what truly matters.

And I think that’s beautiful.

***

403 years ago today (by my count, but remember of course how terrible I am at math), on 5 November, 1605, Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up Parliament was foiled.

In following years, Fawkes came to regarded more as a hero than as a terrorist. “Guy Fawkes was the only man ever to enter parliament with honest intentions” became a common saying, and in 2002, the BBC ranked him 30th among the 100 Greatest Britons of all time.

Later, Alan Moore used the Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta, which is an awesome movie:

Watching it always makes me tear up. Particularly this scene:

It fills me with a sense of joy and elation, a feeling of possiblity and hope.

The same feeling that filled me last night, first when I saw Barack Obama pull ahead in the polls, and then again when I saw ABC News projecting him as the winner. I didn’t want to believe it; I’ve witnessed two presidential debates that were hijacked within a few hours, or which called for greater deliberation that meant they couldn’t be decided for days or weeks.

But then I saw the rumor that McCain had called Obama to concede, which I found on the Associated Press site.

And then I watched the concession speech.

And that was when it finally started to sink in:

This might really be happening. This could be real.

Given the state of things, I remain cautiously optimistic. I will remain worried about waking up to find something awful has happened. Probably for a while.

But cautious optimism is optimism nonetheless, and of all the rare commodities lately in light of the financial crisis, hope might have been rarest of all.

Evey is right, in that clip up above. The pundits will say this was all about the economy, and partly about race, but I think it was about more than that. It was not just about hope but also ideas, and Evey is right that you cannot kiss an idea, nor touch it, nor hurt it. Ideas do not bleed, nor feel pain.

The same can be said for change. You cannot touch nor hold change.

You can only be it.

And now, we have our chance.

Yes we can.

Yes we did.

Yes we will.

***

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
The power and audicity of change.
I can think of no reason
In this autumn season
To doubt or question its range.

Barack, Barack, ’twas his intent
To defeat McCain for president.
Three hundred college votes select
Obama president elect.
By people’s choice he will now lead
A great country toward its greater dreams.
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let freedom ring.
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let choirs sing.

Yesterday, Barack Obama made a speech that’s getting quite a lot of attention. If I’d been home in South Jersey, I probably would have recruited some friends to try to catch it; he spoke in Philadelphia, apparently just across the street from the Constitution Center. Thanks to Alma for emailing me the link to its transcript, and now I’ve found it on Youtube. It’s long, but I think it’s well worth watching:

It’s a brilliant speech by a powerful orator. I don’t think I’ve seen such an excellent speaker so long as I’ve seen any political candidates ever. It rivals “Ask not what your country can do for you.” It rivals “I have a dream.”

It is about unity over division.

And it reminded me of my personal favorite candidate, John Edwards.

Obama spoke on race; Edwards built his platform around class, which is just as divisive as race (and is often so intricately tied, one to the other). Division? Yes, there is white and black, Latino and Asian. But there is also 300,000 versus 150 million (top income earners versus everyone else). There is also the Hummer-driving, Starbucks-drinking, valet-parking population of Hollywood and its handful of burbs versus the Coleman stove-burning, seedy motel-showering population of so-called Tent City not even an hour away in Ontario (and probably walking distance from Ontario’s Outlet Malls).

Here’s a speech Edwards gave at the Service Employees International Union (you’ll note, at time of linking, its front page features a banner with Barack Obama):

And a spot he did about his beliefs and hopes to bring America together:

Reading about Tent City gives me a bad feeling; that it’s happening to those people. That it could happen at all. That they are giving out armbands now.

Back in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, a similar situation occurred across the nation.

This is not now a crisis; it’s been headed this way for a while, and it’s only getting worse.

And I think the two subjects of this post, Obama and Edwards, can get us through this, but I think they need to commit. I think it’s about time Edwards quit waiting around to see who might earn the nomination and endorsed Obama before it’s too damned late to do so, and I think, at the same time, it’s time for Obama to shake Edwards’ hand and offer him the VP spot on the ticket. It’s time for the primaries to be Obama & Edwards v. Clinton.

Obama & Edwards: Yes we can