Friday, August 29, 2008

Savoring the Moment

This is a picture of my parents, an inter- racial couple who were married for over 45 years. These lifelong Democrats did not live to see an African-American accept their party’s nomination for President, or to vote for him this coming November. They were great fans of the Clintons and I often wondered during the primary epoch who they would have been rooting for leading up to the convention, and if they would have been in agreement on their choices. But I have no doubt that after hearing Obama’s acceptance speech, they would have answered the call for Democratic unity and gotten behind Barack. They would have enjoyed this convention, and been deeply moved by the historic milestone of the first black candidate of a major party officially launching his full campaign on the 45th anniversary of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech. And they’d have gotten a special kick out of the fact that Obama is actually biracial, just like their own sole offspring. We shared many conventions together. I’ve missed my folks a lot this week.

I’m securely on board the change train. Obama spoke very well, talked very straight, and said the things that needed saying. I liked the way he took John McCain head on without being insulting or mean; that he warned against the Republicans’ tendency to “make a big campaign about small things”; that he referred unflinchingly to long-contentious hot-button issues: abortion, gun control and gay rights, among them, and called for sensible compromise in an imaginative approach that is undeniably new in American politics. He cited more than two dozen specifics of his strategy for change and, overall, succeeded in looking forceful and presidential.

I’ve absorbed just a little of the Republican commentary on the Democratic convention and have been absolutely stunned by their nastiness, outright lies, deliberate misinterpretations, and playing all the other cards of obfuscation and fear in the political deck. I imagine that John McCain watched Barack Obama’s acceptance and went into a swoon of fury and surprise; what else could explain his selection of a conservative hockey-mom for vice president? I think Obama will make chopped meat out of him in the debates, and that, much like Humphrey Bogart as the uber-paranoid Capt. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, McCain will unintentionally show his anger and lack of qualification and be felled by them.

Meanwhile, Obama has to get elected, which I’m now more hopeful will happen, thanks to the army of 85,000 campaign workers who were energized by the convention and its history-making candidate. Peggy Noonan, the brilliant political writer with seriously wrong-headed views, said in today’s Wall Street Journal that “Mr. Obama left a lot of space for Mr. McCain to play the happy warrior next week. He left the Republicans a big opportunity to wield against him, in contrast [to Obama’s seriousness], humor, and wit, and even something approximating joy.” Joy? If the Republicans are joyful, all that feeling reflects is the contentment and sheltered reality of the nation’s upper crust. That any working and middle class persons connect with those people never ceases to amaze me.

I’m giving myself the privilege of ignoring McCain and his minions for the weekend, so I can just enjoy the extraordinary fact that an African-American with a world-class mind and an innovative biracial understanding of polarizing issues is running for President of the United States. My parents would have wanted it that way.

No comments: