Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yes We Can (Bore You With Our Political Musings As Well As Our Home Movies)

I hesitated a bit to publish this here, since this is mainly a place for me to ramble on about my kids and my eventless existence, rather than a forum for my political views (that's what Facebook is for ;-)) But then I figured my 2 readers might actually enjoy a little content for a change.

I was awake at 4-ish a.m. GMT when Senator McCain delivered his concession speech. (I'm linking to the NY Times because I like their format, with the text alongside; also because I am a socialist.) I thought it was inspirational, heartfelt, and deeply moving. I felt like I was once again seeing the McCain I have admired for the past decade, the McCain who was so little in evidence during the past several months. He was quick to suppress the "boo"s that greeted nearly every mention of Senator Obama's name (very poor form, supporters, though I recognize that it's easier to be gracious in victory than defeat). He reminded us of what was most important. He focused on what needs to be done now to improve our situation. I wish this McCain had campaigned this year. I hope he's back to stay.

I was still awake around 5 when Senator Obama took the stage in Chicago and delivered one of the most powerful speeches in American history. This speech will be quoted along with Lincoln's, Kennedy's, Martin Luther King's for decades, probably centuries to come. The fact that it was intentionally written to be that sort of speech in no way detracts from its power- it made the grade. I have not heard a speech of this caliber in my lifetime. If Senator Obama didn't get your vote, I wouldn't be surprised to find that you felt differently (I hope you will go back and give it another chance when the sting of McCain's loss has faded, because it is full of beautiful language and, more importantly, beautiful ideas and ideals that are deeply American), but maybe as you listened you at least got a sense of why so many of us are filled with hope at the idea of an Obama presidency. I didn't say "filled with certainty"- we are filled with hope. We don't think he's a perfect man or will be a perfect president. But we admire him for who he is, for what he's accomplished with this campaign, and he is not merely a symbol, as valuable and stirring as that is. He is an intelligent person who has shown he is willing to listen to other intelligent people, to think creatively, to take a longer view. He is a politician, sure, and he has pandered; he has said and done things I don't agree with, and I expect he will in the future. I don't know exactly what his presidency will bring, and I don't think it's a foregone conclusion that he will be a transformative president. But what I saw Tuesday night gives me hope. I don't believe he won because of the economy, or because of fear of a Palin presidency, or fear of anything. I think he won because he consistently reminded us of what was best inside of us all, and he reminded us to hope. Certainly he set that tone in this speech, and I hope and pray he continues, we all continue, in that vein for the next four years and beyond.

It is shaping up to be an interesting time. Russia woke up Wednesday morning ready to kill everyone's buzz with the news that America is to blame for everything that's wrong in the world. I'm sorry- Russia? The country that for sixty years turned the economy, infrastructure, culture, history and future of everything they touched into rubble, to the extent that nearly two decades on we are still reaping the whirlwind everywhere they set their feet- and after all that their leader said that the COLLAPSE of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century- this is the country that is telling us that WE have ruined the world? Russia, you've lost a lot of things, but I never thought I'd live to see the day when you lost your sense of irony. Yet here we are.

And that's just one issue. It's understandable that we are all a little nervous about what is to come. But over the past couple of days I've seen a lot of blog posts, e-mails, and comments expressing, not just uncertainty, but fear and despair about the future now that Barack Obama is our President-elect. Hey, I felt that way myself in 2000 and 2004, and look how well that turned out... But I hope, and I think I have every reason to believe, that we have a better, more intelligent, more thoughtful man leading us now than we have in a long time (take that "long time" back as long as you need to in order to feel comfortable with it ;-)) I don't think his optimism is unfounded. I love what he said about "summon(ing) a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other." If there's anything that will get us through whatever lies ahead, it will be that spirit. His speech served as a reminder that "God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Those things will get us through anything that comes our way. I hope and believe Obama's got more going for him than words. Only time will tell. But I love that he's started out by reminding us that we all have to step up our game and be prepared for sacrifices along the way. And I love that he's done it so eloquently. Being eloquent isn't everything, but it's not nothing either.

Let me end with something I think we can all agree on, along with the hope that the sum total of Obama's presidency will be as inspiring as this, one of the most stirring lines from his speech:

"(T)he true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals- democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope."