Wow. I never thought it would really happen in my lifetime. We have a nominee for the President of the United States of America who is: young, black, liberal, smart, community-based, and not a part of the entrenched, corrupt system that currently has a stranglehold on Washington, D.C. I have hope. It's name is Barack Obama.
I haven't dared to hope too loudly. I know what it is to feel disappointment. I have lived in Red Sox Nation for too many years to not know what heartbreak feels like. But now I have hope.
At the caucus in my town in February, I spoke passionately of my support for Obama. I got some real applause, too, and was selected to be a delegate to the state convention. Life intervened and I was unable to go, but an alternate went in my stead. My feelings have not changed, though.
I am 42 years old. The first president I have any memory of is Richard Nixon. That should tell you a lot about how I view politics right there. He was crooked and a bully and corrupt and got his lousy ass thrown out. OK, so he resigned before it could happen, but that's what the cards were showing.
Then we had Ford. I'm not sure why, but we did. The only thing he did that was memorable to me was pardon Nixon and piss off a whole bunch of people. There was no healing of the nation going on there, it was political cronyism and it stunk as bad as the whole Watergate thing.
Then we had Carter. He was smart, really smart. Brilliantly smart. Nuclear physicist smart. But dumb as hell when it came to politics. He was ethical and naive and it bit him in the ass. He came in looking overwhelmed and a little confused and left looking like he'd been dragged behind his farm tractor over 40 acres of rough ground.
Then we had Reagan. What a prick. He was a racist, bigoted, fuck. AIDS was killing my brothers and sisters and he didn't give a damn. Fags didn't vote for him, let 'em die. For eight years, he gutted the New Deal policies and institutions that made America the place that the world admired. He trod mercilessly on the old and the very young, the weak, the uneducated and the vulnerable. He was the most highly-polished bully US politics had seen in 100 years. What a fuck. Alzheimer's was too kind for him. I'm not done hating him. Dig him up, I'll kick him again. I hold him personally responsible for the deaths of THOUSANDS of my friends from HIV/AIDS. Bastard.
Then we had George the First. He tried the kinder, gentler thing, but still supported policies to help the rich and piss on the poor.
And then I pinned my hopes on a candidate named Clinton. For the first time, the glbt crowd was courted as a voting block. We were invited to the party, and not just to be the caterers and designers. We were welcomed, and it was heady stuff. We organized rallies, got out the vote and donated scads of cash. And we got screwed. Without so much as a peck on the cheek and some lube. We got bent over. We got Don't Ask, Don't Tell, we got the Defense Of Marriage Act, and we got shown the door. Thanks a bunch, asshole.
After eight years of heartbreak, we went right back to the Bush Dynasty with Mad King George. W has been a nightmare that I don't have to describe here. We know what it's been like. The wealthiest one percent of Americans holds more wealth than the other 99 percent COMBINED. Great swaths of the population (including me) have no health insurance. Americans are working two or three jobs just to make the bills each month. Thousands of homes are being foreclosed on every month, and don't even get me started on the war.
So here we are at a crossroads. We were faced with a choice between Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. Hillary spent a good deal of time running on her husband's experience. That puts a bad taste in my mouth already. And she voted for the war. She's out. Over and done. It will be a very long time before I put my trust in another candidate named Clinton. I've been burned by that stove already. Add to the fact that there is nothing in this country that would unify the Republican party quite like HRC for president, and it's a migraine to consider.
So I look at Obama. He's not perfect. He doesn't support SSM, but Michelle does, I think. But he was opposed to the war from the start. He was a community organizer. He understands the struggles of people who this year will have to choose between groceries and fuel oil. He understands that the key to progress is coalition-building, not beating your opponent into submission. That only creates a resentful foe ready to spring at the first sign of weakness. It is far better to have your adversaries involved in the process so that they have some ownership than to leave them out. Lack of ownership often gives permission to snipe or destroy a thing. If a person has worked on a project, he is less likely to firebomb it in the night.
As some of you know, I am originally from Massachusetts. It's not my fault. I got here as soon as I could. Be that as it may, the word of the Kennedys still holds some pull in my life. I grew up in a world where it was common for the front parlor (the formal room for receiving guests) to have hanging on the wall in a conspicuous place, a crucifix, sometimes with a font for holy water. On one side of the cross typically hung a portrait of the pope and on the other a portrait of "Our Dear Jack." After he was shot, many families draped the picture of JFK with black, others opted for a black and white photograph in a simple black frame. The popes and their portraits have come and gone, but Jack remains. So this is where I come from.
When Caroline Kennedy endorsed Obama back in Januray, I sat up and took notice. Ted is a political animal, he endorses and opposes things all the time, but Caroline never has. Caroline is the last surviving member of Camelot. She focuses her energies primarily on charitable works - children's literacy and such. She rarely ventures into the political realm. She was born into it, has lived surrounded by and steeped in it, but rarely does she jump in and splash around. So when she wrote a piece in the New York Times, I paid attention.
Like me, Caroline has, aside from her father, who died when she was quite young, and LBJ, known only the political history that I have known. People come up to her almost every day and tell her about how her father inspired them to do great things, to join the Peace Corps, to volunteer, to get involved. Until she met Barack Obama, she said, she had not met anyone who inspired her in the same way. Here is what she said: "I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans."
This is the first time in my lifetime when I feel real hope. I feel like things might be different, like this guy is going to challenge us to be more than we are, to do more than we think we can, to stand up and say "we are America. We are better than what we've been, we deserve better than what we've accepted of late."
We can do it. Yes, yes we can. Obama '08