Thursday, November 06, 2008

Obama


I've exhausted myself with this election. I've been a close watcher of Presidential politics since early in college, when I was fortunate enough to be taught be a professor who I would best describe as a political animal, Dr. Mel Kahn at Wichita State University. My father, who served from 2002-2006 as the Lieutenant Governor of Kansas, runs into Mr. ("don't call me doctor") Kahn on occasion in Wichita, and he still asks about me, which means a lot to me. He once asked why I didn't consider a career as a college professor, which was heady stuff for a confused nineteen year-old, but the mere suggestion that I had that potential had an impact.

In any event, it now seems as if the only professors I paid much attention to in college were the ones who were consumed by politics, and political season always brings me back to those days.

I never thought I would see a black man elected president. But in 2004, during the Democratic National Convention, I witnessed Barack Obama give one of the most electrifying speeches I'd ever heard. His message was one of inclusion and unity, and event hough he seemed to be the only one at the convention hitting those notes, I heard his message, and knew there had to be others who heard it as well. And I knew at that moment that Obama was a man I'd one day vote for for the White House.

I just didn't think it would happen so quickly. And I had no idea that he would run the kind of campaign I'd been begging for since I was eighteen. Instead of allowing his opponent to define him, Obama took all the heat thrown his way and remained calm, cool and collected, frustrating his opponents while he plunged ahead with confidence and class. He refused to stray off message and get bogged down in divisive issues that would only cloud the important issues that needed to be addressed. And everywhere he went, he spoke in eloquent, clear language. While Fox News and bitter Conservatives tried to build an issue out of the Reverend Wright's rants, Obama released the most intelligent, well-reasoned statement on race in America ever delivered by a man running for public office. He didn't hide from his associations. He simply explained them. When Fox News devoted hour after hour to Obama's "radical" connections (connections shared by many Republicans, for what it was worth), there was no need to give in to their slavish attack dog mentality. Not when most of America felt they had gotten to know the man, and understood that the last place they needed to turn for answers was a "news" network whose primary intention was clearly to fan the fading racist embers in a no longer jittery electorate.

And when he was finally elected, I heard him mention gay people and disabled people and people who didn't vote for him. There was no ranting rhetoric or lofty platitudes that didn't seem grounded in the reality of the day. There was a clear statement of purpose wrapped in an understanding of the challenges that face us as a nation. And the international community has regained their faith in a country that has, for eight years, done nothing but scare the shit out of them thanks to the irresponsible buffoonery of our current president.

The whole thing has been nothing short of astonishing. And very moving.

This will make me sound like a guilty white liberal, but it's the truth...last night around nine, as it became more obvious that Obama was going to handily carry the day, I ran up to the local grocery store to pick something up. There weren't a lot of people shopping, but I saw a black family pushing their cart through the aisles, and I realized that that little black boy following his mother around was going to grow up in an entirely different world from the one in which his parents grew up. Telling him that he can accomplish anything in life is no longer jingoistic bullshit. There's now a man headed to the White House that provides real proof that the American Dream isn't nearly as dead as I thought it was, and this little boy will grow up knowing that even the nation's highest office is truly open to the right person for the job, regardless of their ethnic heritage.

A beautiful day in America. The angry, scared bigots and frightened name callers will still linger in the woodwork, but as a nation we've overcome their influence, and given in to hope.



Laurenn McCubbin passed along this link of photographs from Callie Shell, who's been following Obama with her camera for a couple of years now. Please take a look:

http://digitaljournalist.org/issue0810/callie-bp.html

12 comments:

Rantz said...

Well said man. His speech last night, and people seeing past the typical fear-based propaganda, to actually BELIEVE that this country can be great for EVERYONE actually melted the cold cockle of my grinchy heart.

mar said...

Word.

Seth said...

It was a great day in American history, and we were there for it.

Joseph Tages said...

Excellent essay, Clay. Great work.

I often wondered if there were still times in our lives that could define a generation. The world has become so horribly jaded that the thought of politics generating Roosevelt or Kennedy levels of enthusiasm seemed impossible to achieve anymore.

Obama proved me wrong. I have supported him since he announced his bid in Springfield and it is satisfying to know that so many others shared the same ideals as I do.

One good man can still make a difference. No small feat given the last eight years, but Barack Obama has shown everyone on both sides of the aisle that it is
possible.

That might be the greatest lesson his campaign has given us.

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