Sunday, November 09, 2008
First wave of relief aside, I’ve been a wreck ever since we learned for sure that Barack Obama will be our 44th President. Mr. Hoo keeps saying “but your guy won!” Still: I feel weepy and fragile and unsettled.
A fraction of the feeling is disbelief that this really happened and deep skepticism that Obama will be inaugurated in January. It’s similar to the incredulity I carried when the Supreme Court ruled for a Bush presidency in 2000 -- “Really? Can this really be happening in my America?” -- and then again when Ohio handed him his term in 2004.
Another piece might be the difficulty of reconciling the distrust and disdain that I’ve grown to feel for the office of the President ever since George W. Bush stepped up as POTUS. The role alone kicks me into high cynic mode. Our president has allowed his cronies to trample on our freedoms and favor big business over citizens. As W splashes his doctrine across the world stage like a beer soaked teenager pissing by the side of the road I’ve grown accustomed to averting my eyes, uncertain whether I feel disgust or shame that this is my President, that this is my America.
I felt my cynicism for the office of the President creeping in when I listened to Obama’s first press conference on Friday from start to finish. Gratefully, I found myself still loving the guy, laughing when he talked about the puppy paradox (family wants a shelter dog -- a “mutt like me” -- but must be hypoallergenic because of his little girl’s allergies); glad for his concern for the reporter who cracked her shoulder while running to his acceptance speech; cringing when he made a bad joke about Nancy Reagan invoking Ronnie via seance (and so glad when that didn’t appear in any of the newspaper reports).
The office of the president, from my perspective, has been reduced to a cheating, lying, self-serving ex-, and now I have to decide, after cutting him off, to take him back into my heart.
That might be why I can sense that I’m already putting dampers on the hopes I hold for an Obama presidency. I’m preparing myself for disappointment. I’m steeling myself before he’s even begun.
And yet hope, like the sweet smell of smoke from that first warming wood fire of winter, keeps sneaking into my heart.
It did this morning as I read the story of how Antonio Torres was treated by our medical system after a crippling car accident. Mr. Torres, who is a legal immigrant, was deported to Mexico while still in a coma and on a ventilator, because he has no medical insurance.
In my heart I hoped: We can do better.
It did yesterday as I listened to This American Life’s Studs Terkel retrospective which replayed a program Studs did on the Great Depression, the knowledge that we’re heading into hard times hovering heavy in the air.
In my heart I hoped: We can get through this, and be stronger for it.
So in the spirit of beating back the ghosts of the past, this is what I’m hoping for President-Elect Obama, once you are our president, Sir:
I hope for Health Care. Let’s do what every high-producing industrialized nation has done and provide affordable health care for all our citizens. Because I’ve sat alongside a hospital bed where my fear that the one I love wouldn’t survive was compounded by the anxiety that if he did he wouldn’t survive the medical bills that were certain to follow. Let’s spare families that concern and let them focus on the healing.
I hope for Jobs. While we furrow our brows over the fact that our general unemployment rate has risen to 6.5%, let’s not forget that the permanent unemployment rate among blacks and latinos is 39.6%. Let’s change that. Let’s put America to work.
I hope for the Environment. Can we haz Kyoto Treaty? Because it’s time we did our share to ensure that our planet remains habitable.
I hope for Communication and Connectedness. Thank you for the blog, Sir -- please maintain it with relevant information we can use. Thank you for tweeting during the election (even though, yeah, I thought you could do it better) -- please ping us in the future with news we need to know, please use that magnificent if somewhat terrifying direct mail database you developed during the campaign to encourage political participation and engagement -- because if this is going to work we all need to get off our butts and work at it.
I hope for Education. Real problem-solving, head-scratching, copious reading, deep discussion education -- not standardized testing hoops to jump through. I hope the public schools that are closing in Appalachia and Michigan and elsewhere in America will open again; I hope that advanced education will be available and affordable to all.
I hope for a flourishing of the Arts & Sciences. Word that your candidacy was supported by 61 Nobelists and that you’ve promised to financially support and encourage the Arts as a core component of your presidency makes me unspeakably happy, Sir, and makes me optimistic that a new age of intellectualism and expression will emerge during your term.
I hope, Sir, that by your example and the programs you support and promote you will make it hip to be smart, to think through problems and find creative solutions, and if you do this you will have given our country the greatest gift -- true self-reliance and the discipline and skills required to find a way out of the messes we have made and create a better place to be; a better place to grow into our gifts and raise our children; a place called America that is a better neighbor to the world.
I hope for the restoration of our constitution and the emergence of America as a world leader in asserting human rights. I hope for the reduction of racism. I hope for Peace, dear Sir. I hope for change.