Reading The Election

Thumbing Pages With A Restless Geezer

At least one advantage of getting old comes to mind. Yes, while true I do waste more time than I like to admit pondering where those glasses I just had on might have landed, visions of a yesterday as crisp as this morning's sunrise attest that there's nothing at all wrong with these old eyes of mine, thank you!

Why does Barak Obama have my vote? In the book I'm reading, simply put, Barak Obama fits the picture.

Now, I sure don't want to fall into that old rose-colored, rear-view trap of back then we had it so good! A black friend caught me up on a version of that a few days ago when I was railing against the current regime in Washington as worst ever. "No", she calmly corrected, "it was bad long before." That's all it took: there flashed nameless decades of abuse and neglect I couldn't have known.

So what is so special about this vital, young candidate? Why does he resonate so with these aged peepers? I'll try to put a sober finger on just what comes up from my yesterdays when I hear Barak Obama speak . . .

There was a day when leadership meant something other than efficient calculations, catchy sound bytes, pointed poses. There was a day when you could, without runaway doubt, believe what they were telling you. It must have had something to do with the unquestioned integrity of a Truman, an Ike, a Kennedy, and largely too of the people with whom they surrounded themselves. Oh sure, we had our scandals in high places. But clearly, that's all they were.

There was a day when those stars-&-stripes meant something other than hijacked symbol of some ersatz patriotism. When I knew precisely what America stood for. And so, I figured, did everyone else here and abroad. We worked hard for what we got. But mostly we cared. We were there to step in when no one else would. People mattered, people everywhere. I know, many were nevertheless left out of that equation; I just happened not to be one of those. And true too, as a country we weren't about to be pushed around. But, unchallenged, we wouldn't, I was sure, dream, of pushing our own weight around. I could -and did- salute such a flag.

There was a day when shopping was just shopping, not a whole shamelessly self-centered ideology, impersonally, mechanically kept in motion. There were bigger things, much closer things, truer things to think about. Well, ok, the cold war took alot of that. But so did much more private values, those of the spirit, art, selfless deeds, generous friendship. My little world -all of it- was somehow vital to the whole. I believed it. Call it trickle up.

Oops, the grey hairs begin to poke up after all. Well then let's just leave it at integrity, patriotism, tolerance, and real values. How we've missed them all! We've been asleep. Worse, we've been led to fear one another. When we do have something to say, more than ever it seems to come out as teachy bumper stickers and incendiary emails. Which is to say we've not been communicating much at all. It will take history itself to remind us that yes, this was indeed that time in our two hundred thirty two years when we let the most disreputable -if not decidedly criminal- among us lead the way.

Did I mention decent? Now that the debates so-called are over, what comes through loudest for me is our future President's deep-seated, immovable decency. To be sure, not stooping to the slander and invective that come at him full thrust argues for a much needed steady hand on the tiller. And so much more: clearly this bridge building he's been promoting is no idle, temporary scaffold.

Speaking of the debates, one glaring omission begs at least a mention. What ever happened to the totally unjust, tragically ruinous, now more than ever unaffordable war we just happen to be waging? I fear that yes, it has fallen victim to campaign calculations: prudent for winning an election but hardly the forthright thing we've come to expect from a straight talking candidate. I'm left to hope that given all he does stand for, getting out of Iraq will be high on our promising candidate's agenda, once elected.

I welcome President Obama as the leader that opens us to one another, as well to the next chapter of this great and yes, noble work-in-progress called USA. In his policy pronouncements that (mostly) talk to the real & pressing issues of the day, in his unfettered clarity & focus, in his remarkably even demeanor and manifest kindness, and perhaps especially in what Barak chooses not to say -his always finding the higher road, our next president is reminding us that our story is very much more than a pretty tome for the shelf, that this American saga is still very much the book for today.

And that we need, all of us, to get back to the job of writing it.

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