Saturday, August 30, 2008
All or Nothing?
ALL OR NOTHING may or may not be the best rock song of all time. The matter is open to argument. It's one of mine though and some who know me might say that given my stubborn, "all or nothing" approach to life, that it's only fitting it should be my favorite. An ex-girlfiend, having noted certain tendencies in me, gave me a little music box that played "My Way" when you turn the wee crank... point noted, darling. I must confess that this business of being "right" hasn't gotten me very far in either relationships or in life in general. I've even counseled friends on the possibility that if they met someone halfway... yet my own will to win at all costs remains uncompromised. So here I sit...
We watched Barack Obama's nomination/speech in a bar a few nights ago. I remain cynical about him and the Democrats in general, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't impressed. He might just be the best orator of our time and it was impressive to see the Lower East Side music silenced as people stood enrapt watching him. It was awe inspiring to see the footage of Times Square packed like New Years Eve with traffic at a standstill and throngs viewing the speech from the big screen. The other side can call it the Cult of Personality or call it what they will, but if you're not impressed by the man himself, be impressed by the reaction of Americans from all walks of life and their excitement... our excitement. My sister, in what I considered a seriously misguided statement, said it was reminiscent of Hitler. I had to point out that Hitler was getting people stoked about killing. Obama is exhorting people to STOP killing, and it's truly moving to see Americans excited by that. I believe that after years of Bush, and years of war, many Americans are feeling unclean. We are responsible for Bush. Those of us who didn't vote for him let him get elected twice. We didn't fight hard enough, and once the killing started, we sat on our hands like it wasn't in our power to stop it. And so even I was moved, and I'd begun to think that wasn't possible.
The part of the speech that resonated most with me was talk of unification and common ground... the importance of finding common ground between two sides that have insisted for years on "all or nothing," thereby stalemating politics for the better part of our lives. With the exception of the change of venue for the war, the bigger arguments aren't much different now than they were in 1968. We've made some headway on civil rights, womens' rights and a few other things, but the rest is looking very similar. Obama spoke of shifting paradigms and finding compromise through common sense--changing the language of the arguments to gain common perspective. My political views have always been: fight harder, tear it down and demand unconditional surrender. That is as impractical in politics as it is in one's personal life. It's never worked in either and it's always left me standing off in the corner alone. So I stood there on Thursday night, cloaked in my cynicism still, but saying... I hear you. I get that. Okay, let's do it! Call me a bandwagon jumper. Call me whatever, but I'm ready to try to work it out.
One thing for certain though is that getting Bush out isn't enough. Someone standing next to me commented that he felt people were campaigning against Bush, rather than against McCain or for Obama. He might be right about that. That scares me. We can't, on January 21st 2009, declare ourselves the victors and go home. The burden to make things change doesn't truly rest on the shoulders of Barack Obama. That would just make him the sacrificial lamb. The best we can hope for is that if we are willing to put in the work, that we've finally got someone at the top who won't squash us. It's going to take hard work, time and a lot of sacrifice, and we are going to have to really examine the way we live and what's important to us to hold onto and what we can let go... just because it's the right way to live. Similarly to what the Republicans carry on about, it's a moral issue. It's our burden though.
Probably best though that I cut this short, and I'll defer to another great rock song by Cracker, the chorus of which would make a good campaign mantra for the next 8 years of Bush-free living:
Let's GET OFF THIS and get on with it.
If you want to change the world, shut your mouth and start to spin it.
Let's get off this, get on with it.
If you want to change the world, shut your mouth and start this minute.