Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mr. Obama Goes to Washington

I couldn't stay away from talking about this election for too long. I don't think anyone could. November 4, 2008 became the night that history books and blogs galore will be talking about for at least the next four years, if not the next 104. And what I really discovered is what a sucker I am for a good speech and a happy ending/ new beginning.

As I was watching the continuous news cycle cover this story that's been a year and a half in the making, I was struck again about the curious notion of art imitating life or vice versa. I just couldn't seem to shake the notion that this was a movie that I had seen over and over again. It was clips from To Kill A Mockingbird ("In the name of God, do your duty") it was Jimmy Stewart as the naive congressman staging a filibuster to stand against corruption and stand up for the people. It was all of those "underdogs survive to fight another day" stories that American cinema is so adept at making and selling and now all that awaited was the ending.

I have to say I didn't really have a doubt about what was going to happen. After 8 years under one of the most devisive administrations this nation has ever seen, was there any doubt about the outcome? I mean this is the year of ABBA because, not only did Mamma Mia kick butt during the summer, but it also seemed to be the motto of a majority of people at the voting polls. Only this time it meant something different : "Anybody But Bush Again!"

Poor McCain didn't really stand a chance. Ok, so he's not exactly Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life" but he was something almost as villanous in this election year, he was a REPUBLICAN. I truly don't think that McCain is as terrible as some of those campaign ads would have you believe, but in 2008 there was really no hope for whoever was running for President under the elephant symbol. Part of me thinks that a secret deal was made in some smoky Washington backroom where all of those "typical" Republican candidates simply gave up, knowing there was no way to win, following in Bush's footsteps, and John McCain just wasn't invited. So the task fell to him. I mean really what else could explain Rudy Giuliani's "now you see me now you don't" election bid. From the man who, some would have you believe, pulled NYC through the most dangerous time in it's history by literally pulling the city on his back, it was the most pathetic attempt at gaining the highest office in the nation I've ever seen. By eleven o'clock last night, however, that chapter had mercifully come to a close.

As California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington made their reports, the outcome was clear. There would be no doubts this year, no recounts to be stopped by the Supreme Court, no hanging chad's, nothing but the victor that it seemed was destined to take that stage. McCain made a gracious concession speech, but he knew the night didn't belong to him. I think deep down he knew the election didn't belong to him, that's why he played up his "maverick" card. He knew he wasn't the ace in the hole, not this time. You could see the toll that the campaign had taken on him. The weariness creeped in as he quieted the boos of his supporters at the mere mention of the name Obama. "I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him (Obama) but offering our next President our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity..."

His speech clocked in at around ten minutes. Short sweet and to the point. He knew that the next time he would see a camera he would go back to being plain ole "senator" and no longer "republican presidential candidate" and he seemed ready to slip back into that old role. Sarah Palin on the other hand, close to tears through the entire speech, seemed to not believe that these were actually the circumstances she found herself in. For as loud as she had been throughout the campaign, she was speechless (whether or not that was a forced decision, who knows) and what started as a roar ended with a whimper. Only time will tell whether she's just a Geraldine Ferraro flash-in-the-pan, only to be brought on to shows to discuss "political issues for women in office" themed questions.

What really mattered though was what was happening thousands of miles away, in the middle of the country in Grant Park in Chicago, Illinois. What was happening there was momentous and historic and everyone knew it and at 12:00 (EST), literally a new day dawned. (I wonder if the timing was any coincidence). If Frank Capra had directed this scene it could not have been more perfect, and in all fact, that's pretty much how it felt. It was as if all the weight that had been pushing down on this nation for the last 4 years (at the very least) was finally lifted. The problems didn't go away, but for about 15 minutes, it felt as if the world stopped to listen, a phenomena that rarely happens, but when it does, it's nice to be a part of. There were no talking heads to talk over the President-elect, just a podium and the quiet that felt like the kind that fills the room during a suprise party, the anticipation that precedes all big moments in life.

And then the crowd erupted as Obama took the stage. Chantings of "yes we can" and "yes we did" and "Obama" took the place of fancy entrance music. And in clear, full sentences (which is already change we can believe in) Obama proceeded to give a speech that made people sit up and listen to once again. There are very few in a generation with enough ability to be truly called an "orator" and, Barack Obama is one of them. The speech might not have been "I Have a Dream" but that was ok, because for the first time, it WAS the dream. There were thanks, and recognition of a "brave and selfless leader" that was his opponent, and then Obama once again
became the speaker that I love to listen to.

Whether or not you voted for him, I have to believe that everyone who hears this man speak WANTS to believe what he says. I'm natually a cynic, prone to believe that politicians are at the heart of it all, out for themselves, and perhaps apathetic about the government sometimes, but for a few moments last night, I did believe, and it felt like the hope that was promised, was delivered. Obama reminded us once again, of the greatness that this nation can, and has achieved in the past. Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., the moon race, WWII, all of our past was retraced, through the story of Ann Nixon Cooper, the 106-year-old Atlanta woman whose seen jim crow come and go, women's suffrage win the right to vote, and in essence our best and worst moments. And that's when I realized that maybe everything really is a yin and yang, maybe every worst moment has the best moment that follows it. Maybe every horror story is followed by one with a happy ending. "This is our moment, this is our time" I was once again reminded of a film, one of my favorites (don't ask me why) Miracle, yup the movie about the 1980 U.S. Hockey team
"Great moments are born from great opportunity and that's what we have here tonight...one game...tonight we are the greatest...this is your time. Their time is done, it's over, this is your time, now go out there and take it".
Maybe Obama took a cue card from Herb Brooks, but I realized that at the end of that speech, I felt that hopeful, satisfied feeling that always comes with a fairy-tale ending. I hope that at least some of the promises made can be kept. I hope that Obama's the man that we want him to be, but hey, even through the cynicism at least I have hope of something, which is more than I can say for the last 4 years. And if it all turns out to be politics as usual, at least there was a moment in time, one night when we all believed in something greater than ourselves. That's something Frank Capra , Jimmy Stewart, Mr. Smith, Atticus Finch, Martin Luther King, Lincoln and all of those others who've pushed us to hope could be proud of.

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