"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

thoughts on the day after...

Gullible admits she is politically cluelesss, so forgive as she offers this:

Thoughts on the day after...

I’ll say this right up front: I didn’t vote for him. At my age, and especially in these economically disastrous times, comfortable old shoes are less risky than new. As I watch my small stock portfolio shrink to a mere shadow of its former self, I am stuck in the old behavior pattern of “riding it out.” When I think of the insidious zealots who threaten our safety, I look to a warrior with experience. And so I took a pen and filled in the oval next to the familiar.

Paradoxically what I feel the day after the election, though, is quite familiar also I had the same feeling in November of 1960. That election was my first as an eighteen-year-old. It was also the first time Alaskans were eligible to vote in a national election, as it had gained statehood only the year before. I don’t remember where my polling place was, though I suspect it was at a nearby school where I had attended sixth grade. I have voted in so many elections since that first one, I have no distinct memory of the physical act of marking my choice on the ballot.

What I do have though, are emotions as indelible as Terrell Owens’ Sharpie autograph on a football. The cultural revolution that began when Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock around the Clock” blasted out of radios everywhere, and gained unstoppable momentum when our parents were treated to the shocking display of Elvis shaking his pelvis (made all the more delightful to us because of their shock), came to full bloom when this country elected its first Roman Catholic president. Despite the dire warnings of those who said electing John Fitzgerald Kennedy would subjugate our country to the Pope and the Vatican, the Irish Democrat from Boston was elected over Richard Nixon.

It was the beginning of national change. Gone were the old gray-haired politicians reiterating party platforms—except for Lyndon Johnson, the powerful Senate Majority Leader who was Kennedy’s vice president and who successfully landed several states. Instead, America elected the handsome young Senator who offered change from the stagnation of the Eisenhower years and vowed that the U.S. would catch and pass the Soviet Union, both militarily and economically. Cold War tensions were stretched to the breaking point, and American faced a desperate situation.

Nixon, on the other side, promised to continue the peace and prosperity that the country had experienced under Eisenhower’s terms. He represented the comfortable old shoes of that race. This was a decade before his personal flaws would bring about his worst defeat, as sure as any antagonist in any novel is destroyed by his own failings.

“Ask not,” said Kennedy, “what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” With those words and many more in his eloquent inaugural, Kennedy called the country to service. His words were heard by a generation that responded, much as their parents had responded two decades before when bombs rained down on Pearl Harbor. The Peace Corps was born., and many more young people found employment in national and state parks, placing country first. Young people connected with this charismatic man, adored his wife and young family, and felt a visceral participation in what had been an exclusive men’s club of government.

But verbal eloquence and skilled oratory do not a leader make. Kennedy had to prove himself, and history has shown how the man once considered “too young and inexperienced” was able to rise above politics and become that leader. By leading with strength through the Civil Rights movement, Kennedy inspired a nation to better itself and made possible what happened yesterday—the election of the first African-American to its highest office.

As for our newly-elected president, also a charismatic man with verbal eloquence and skilled oratory, he, too, is considered “too young and inexperienced.” His past and present associations with extreme radicals and anti-America blatherskites, those who represent the antithesis of how I perceive this country, is worrisome. His skimpy record leads one to think he is a party hack without the political courage to challenge his fellow Democrats and bring about the changes he has promised.

I watched as the television cameras panned the faces of the crowd in that Chicago park last night, and I saw many things. I saw tears in many eyes. I saw over-whelming emotion on faces of color. I saw eyes that glistened with a messianic fervor. I saw joy. I saw hope. I saw pride in the outcome of a battle well fought. And, I saw the connection of a young generation to a new and promising leader.

I struggled with my decision. I wanted to believe. I wanted another leader with the potential to do what Kennedy did for my generation. I wanted my country to be righted and set on a new track. I wanted its reputation restored around the world. By voting for John McCain, I chose the comfortable old shoes, and it brought home to me how difficult a decision my parents and their parents faced in 1960.

As I listened to McCain’s concession speech, I had tears running down my face. Not because my choice had not prevailed, but because of the man’s character. His speech, given at what was a most difficult time for him, was the epitome of grace and class. His promise to work with his successful opponent rang true. If character can be the measure of a man’s potential, what an outstanding president he would have been.

As for Barack Obama, I am more than willing to follow as he leads us towards the promised land. I want to wallow in the aura of hope. I want to rejoice in the promise of change for the better. I want him to rise above the constraints of his political party and lead with wisdom and universal cooperation. I want to believe he is not a charlatan, as he has been called, but a man of destiny. I want him to fulfill the dreams of his supporters by being the leader they think they see in him.

As I said earlier, verbal eloquence and skilled oratory do not a leader make, but they can inspire and motivate and revitalize. Perhaps that will prove to be the magic of Obama. If the people of America believe they are being led by a man of great promise and potential and ability to make this nation better, those very people will make it happen.

Yes, we can.

1 comment:

  1. I'm mustering up my optimism, too, although with great reservations. Obama is no Kennedy. But time will tell just who he is.

    How sad I am not to see Palin in the Vice President's seat. She was the primary reason I had hope for McCain (my presidential choice didn't make candidacy).

    Maybe in 2012 we'll have a woman from Alaska run for president!