I’m just now beginning to figure it out.
It was almost two years ago that I got the Obama thing, really got why he was such a big deal. I was listening to himcall out a bunch of local government officials down in Harvey, Ill., in a speech on Martin Luther King Day, a speech he didn’t have to give in a town nobody, to this day, really cares all that much about. Except the people who live there, who were being robbed blind, and Barack Obama came on down and told the people doing it, to their faces, to stop.
I may not have fallen head over heels then, but I understood why people would. I’m a writer, I pay attention to words, I pay attention to oratory, but most of all I pay attention to what politicians do when they don’t have to do anything. It’s why I did fall, head over heels over head again, for Chris Dodd when he stood up for the Constitution during the FISA debate. It’s why I fell for John Kerry, who at the age of 27 came home from a war and stood up to Congress and saidenough, stop this now. So when Obama went to Harvey, I paid attention.
But I didn’t really get the Obama love, the Obamamania, the Obamathing, really really get it, until now. Until I saw, for blocks and blocks, nothing but Obama signs. Until I heard, over and over from every corner of the Internet and from friends on the phone and from people I haven’t talked to in years and from people I never would have dreamed agreed with me about politics, just how hungry they are, how ready they are, for someone in charge they can be proud of, for someone in charge they can identify with, for someone in charge who’s actually, you know, in charge, and not screwing around.
I get why people want Obama to be not just an extraordinarily skilled politician (that’s not an insult, guys, it’s a compliment) or a brilliant speaker or a reasonably progressive legislator but A New Kind of Politician who will Transform Our Country. Mind, I’m not ruling out that he is, though I think it takes a lot more than one guy to do anything anymore. I’m saying, I get why we want him to be that.
We want him to be worth it.
We want someone worth this:
Worth the killing. Worth the losing. Worth the fighting. Worth not just the lies, but the awful, awful truth. Worth the days and days of endless death and pointless destruction. Worth the cost.
We want there to have been some answer for what we’ve all been through as a country. We want there to be some reward commensurate with the past eight years’ punishment. We want to reach a destination worthy of the awful fucking crawling dragging clawing journey we’ve been on, we want that more than we can say. Listen to this crowd in Denver:
Listen to the wanting of it. Listen to the rumble, like the humming of a rail when the train’s still out of sight, we’re coming, we’re coming.
We want someone extraordinary, at this moment. It’s why the primaries were so bruising, why our candidates were so special and unconventional and wonderful and true. After Bush the Second, after Bush the First, after Ronald “Welfare Queen” Reagan, we could, I suppose, have continued with an ordinary president, a competent public servant who will make the wheels of goverment turn again. We could have nominated an older, experienced white dude like Dodd or Joe Biden who would have presented a centrist agenda and gotten most of it passed to the thrill of exactly nobody. Instead, we went down the long road with history following close behind us, looking for something amazing.
These have not been ordinary times, the past eight years. What this country has been through has not been ordinary. And we want the next eight years to be extraordinary in equal measure. We’re ready, with our voices and our votes and our clipboards and our hours upon hours of phone calls and letter-writing and passing out stickers, even, at the local farmer’s market, to make them extraordinary.
We’re ready for hope as big as our despair has been. We’re ready for someone worth it.