Due to a limited number of hours in the day and my super-important obligations to bad lesbian television, I haven't been educated enough about the election to feel confident declaring an affiliation -- I often defer to Krista 'cause I trust her education on the issue (thorough) and her personal politics (they're just like mine). She told me: "Obama is a revolution." And so, I've given myself a crash-course this past week ...
Ultimately, I'd be thrilled to see either Clinton or Obama in the White House. But I gotta say, I really dig Obama. I really hope he wins, and I've got at least nine reasons why, and about five unrelated tangents.
The manager burst forth from the kitchen and announced in his ambiguously European accent (he was American, so it's anyone's guess): "I do not want to hear about the election, enough depression, it is not the end of the world. One word on this election and you are going home. Let's begin." It was time to talk about tuna tartare. It was time to serve overpriced food to rich people and pretend like it wasn't the end of the world.
A few days later I'd quit, dramatically, with a speech. This is a bad habit of mine: if I know I'm never coming back someplace, I may as well make a point. Every restaurant I've worked in has its own special recipe of soulless cold lawless douchebaggery , so as soon as the rules aren't mine anymore, I wanna tell the man in charge why he's a bastard and hope it'll make a difference for those left behind. What did I care anyway, the world was clearly ending. My number one feeling was apocalypse.
On that day (that day that I quit) in East Harlem, Krista -- still recovering from the election (she'd been at the Air America party that night and was crying on public transportation for days afterwards) -- told me I needed to read this speech that this Illinois senator had given at the Democratic National Convention.
"Ri," [pronounced "ree"] she said, extracting pages from the printer of our discontent, "This man is hope."
Honestly, I was blown away. I couldn't believe it wasn't an Aaron Sorkin production. (9) I read it and it reminded me of "The West Wing," a television program featuring a charismatic, religious, educated left-wing president who's deeply affiliated to his own integrity. "The West Wing" is not real, but because it's a show and therefore written by writers who believe in words, their president knows how to develop a thesis. He mobilizes language as power/hope rather as a manipulative tool (e.g., "Enduring Freedom," "War on Terror"). (8) But Barack, unlike Jed Bartlett, is real.
"In the language of metaphor, Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility. Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long -- a sense of aspiration."Until I read that speech, I did not believe that there was a single politician who still believed in -- of all things -- "America." I thought we'd all given up on that -- admitted this country was totally fucked, hopeless, that the best I could hope for was a politician who held my opinions despite his or her inevitable corruption. But also: I saw that Obama was an African-American man and therefore I didn't think I'd one day be able to vote him into office. I didn't think that'd happen in America in my lifetime.
-The L.A Times Endorsement of Barack Obama
But he totally IS running for president, (7) because now is the time when we need change moreso than we ever have before, because we're ready for revolution and that revolution needs a soul, because that's what we've been doing without for the past eight years.
"I think we're in a historical depression right now, because everything has failed so entirely. This could be a great moment because we have to re-think everything: Okay, we're absolutely at a dead end -- an absolutely devastating impasse.' Which means that one has to think one's way out of it."
-Avital Ronell, 1991
I understand the arguments for Hillary -- prior White House residency, a better chance of beating McCain, required experience, ability to get things done. But c'mon. Hello! it's me, I'm a sucker for a good speech! Obvs I'm gonna go for the poet/politician over the politician/politician. Yeah there's some things about Hillary that don't sit right with me (like her failure to appreciate staying home and baking cookies), but I know there's spin on all sides and I'd still love to see her as president. But I'd la-la-la-LOVE for Obama to be president, and that's who I wanna talk about.
Obvs I still believe in Revolution simply because I think WE CAN. I really think WE CAN. I think that financially comfortable (I make the distinction because for the working poor and those living hand-to-mouth -- ideals are a luxury, obvs) humans are selling themselves short left and right, including me, including -- to my consistent devastation -- people I love. There's a viral divide within most humans right now between what they're doing and what they're capable of doing. Our culture's working hard to ensure it remains impossible to actually pursue idealism & strive for true fulfillment and still remain employed and fed.
I think that the disparity between the working poor and the wealthy in this country is disgusting. It's embarrassing. Our education system is embarrassing. The influence of evangelical Christians on public policy is a disgrace. This country is no longer a meritocracy, it's an aristocracy, and Obama would be very very clear step away from this legacy.
I think we need something seriously NEW to get away from where we are. Something totally totally NEW.
I think it's lame to give in. I think everyone's taking hypocrisy lying down 'cause we don't think it's possible to live otherwise, and it's sad that one's ability to live ethically is so closely correlated to economic advantage -- and that even when it isn't, people remain prone.
(6) "If you find yourself swept up in Obamamania ... you're perfectly aware that politics is often a dirty business. But you believe it could be a bit cleaner, a bit nobler, a bit more sustaining. You think that paradigm shifts can happen, that the system can be rebooted. Most of all, an attraction to Obama indicates you are, on some level, a romantic. You never had your JFK, your MLK, and you desperately crave one: What you want is to fall in love."And the more I read, the more I realize that it's not that black and white -- Dreamer vs. Doer. You can find statistics and arguments on both sides -- their policy initiatives are virtually identical. Obama is certainly qualified and has the experience needed to get the job done, regardless of how it compares to Hillary's. But Obama's candidacy, as Andrew Sullivan so eloquently promotes in this article in The Atlantic, is (5)"potentially transformational."
-"The Amazing Race," John Heileman, New York Magazine, Feb. 4, 2008
I preface most of my beliefs with a plainfaced declaration of the impending apocalypse, the world going to hell in a handbasket, widespread human soul corruption and the degradation of humanity through a worship of consumerism. To quote Sullivan again: "If you believe the America's current crisis is not a deep one, if you think that pragmatism alone will be enough to navigate a world on the verge of even more religious warfare, if you believe that today's idealogical polarization is not dangerous, and that what appears dark today is an illusion fostered by the lingering trauma of the Bush presidency, then the argument for Obama is not that strong ... but if you sense, as I do, that greater danger lies ahead, and that our divisions and recent history have combined to make the American polity and constitutional order increasingly vulnerable, then the calculus of risk changes. Sometimes, (4) when the world is changing rapidly, the greater risk is caution."
I believe, as he does, that we are in danger. I believe in a few things: honesty, generosity, kindness, second chances, selflessness, humility, freedom of expression, no judgments, possibility, and love. I believe in fun, and art, and truth. I believe that people who (needlessly) measure success in terms of financial power are cheating their souls and the world. I believe Obama is not one of those people, which is a true political anomaly. I'm bored with practicalities and tight-faced emotionless censored bullshit. I'm sick of bullshit.
This guy makes my heart sing and he makes me cry. And because I'm a sucker and cause y'all have helped me believe in the transformative power of words, I still think that's a more important quality in a leader than who you know. I believe in the purest most idealistic thing possible, and I think that thing is this man. And I think ultimately it is the content of our hearts and souls that define our ability to make the right choices for the betterment of the human condition, not a set of policies and procedures and rules. He's real, authentic, honest, and we'd be foolish to let him pass us by.
"... the true genius of America [is] a faith -- a faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles; that we can tuck in our children at night and know that they are fed and clothed and safe from harm; that we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock at the door; that we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe; that we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted -- at least most of the time."**
-Barack Obama, 2004 Democratic National Convention Keynote Address
"How did the fairy-tale prince from Camelot vanquish a field of heavyweights led by the longtime liberal warrior Hubert Humphrey? It wasn’t ideas. It certainly wasn’t experience. It wasn’t even the charisma that Kennedy would show off in that fall’s televised duels with Richard Nixon. Looking back almost 30 years later, Mr. Goodwin summed it up this way: 'He had to touch the secret fears and ambivalent longings of the American heart, divine and speak to the desires of a swiftly changing nation — his message grounded on his own intuition of some vague and spreading desire for national renewal.' In other words, Kennedy needed two things. He needed poetry, and he needed a country with some desire, however vague, for change ... For all the Barack Obama-J. F. K. comparisons, whether legitimate or over-the-top, what has often been forgotten is that Mr. Obama’s weaknesses resemble Kennedy’s at least as much as his strengths. But to compensate for those shortcomings, he gets an extra benefit that J. F. K. lacked in 1960. There’s nothing vague about the public’s desire for national renewal in 2008 ..."
(Frank Rich, The New York Times, Ask Not What J.F.K Can do for Obama )
When I try to explain what I want to talk about in my book, the basic idea is this: I've been through enough to relate to a lot of stuff, but nothing so weird as to be too "out there" to be related to. I've straddled, embraced, struggled and commanded a number of difficult dichotomies and tried to ensure I don't let them become hypocrisies. I've failed more often than not, and I'm still generally guided by self-doubt, insecurity and the suspicion that I'm secretly a bad person. I'm not confident that I know what's going on, but I trust that I want to be a better person. And I think I need -- WE need -- heroes.
And so, this asset is one I believe in: the power of varied experiences -- even just being close to, or working amongst, a relatively diverse sampling of our citizenry --(2) to create a powerful person with something to offer to the world in return. I'm glad he's made mistakes and done drugs and been through it. Diversity of experience is, in my opinion, the single most powerful attribute for a leader of such a diverse nation. And also: I think he could be a hero.
I've found myself thinking a lot about Pump up the Volume lately. That might sound crazy, and it probably is, but the film centers around an outcast kid played by Christan Slater who starts his own underground radio station, where as Happy Harry Hard-On he gives the kids in high school something to believe in. A voice that makes sense to them. The parents and the powers-that-be freak out because he tells kids to think for themselves and preaches "TALK HARD." It's an awesome movie. He's a hero. People who fight against the grain are always heroes to me. You guys should see it.
On November 3rd, 2004, near closing time, I was in the back kitchen eating discarded bread from ignored bread-baskets with some line cooks and sous chefs and so on -- the other servers were all bitches, the kitchen staff was better company (this is true in most NYC restaurants, I've found). They were talking about the election (apparently they'd missed the rule of the night), though most of them weren't citizens and therefore hadn't voted. But some were, and still hadn't. "I didn't like any of 'em," a cook declared between bites. "Kerry, Bush, they're all the same. I'll vote when they get a black guy. Clinton's the closest thing we ever had to a black president, man. If we get another guy like Clinton, yeah, I'll vote, I voted for Clinton, both times." And so I hope people like that guy are voting, and so I think that they are.
Here's Lozo: (1)"My reasoning for voting for Barack Obama is because he's black. That's it. Nothing else. Wait. He's black, right? ... assuming he's black, and he wins the election, it means the race card, for the most part, will be dead in this country. I do realize it doesn't mean racism magically disappears and we all hold hands and sing songs and skip amongst fields in an Oreo cookie embrace of love, but it prevents us from hearing the stupid race card bullshit as much."
Krista told me that though Clinton will play the game well, Obama could re-make how the game is played, and I like that idea.
And by "ho-hum, la di da," I mean ... fuck.
Yes We Can.