In Memory of Bubbling Bob
Barack Obama has inspired a generation and a nation. It's a wonderful thing.
But please allow me to be the crotchety old lady next door screaming "Get off my lawn!" for just one moment longer.
From what we're hearing, Obama is listening to good people and making good moves. He can't close Guantanamo or get our soldiers out of Iraq fast enough for me. If he could convince George W. Bush to move out of the White House tomorrow and take that toad of a vice president with him, I'd be thrilled.
But when I saw people dancing in the street last week, celebrating the election, I just wanted to slap them.
"We did it!" shouted MoveOn.org. A host of lefty Web sites and organizations cheered, jeered and gloated. "Generation O," the vast numbers of young adult voters who registered, organized, mobilized and turned out to vote overwhelmingly for Obama, preened with pride for their Facebook "friend." MSNBC went overboard, tore up Keith Olbermann's contract and wrote him a new one for $7.5 million a year until 2012.
It's a new leaf, a new dawn, a new America. Or, at the very least, it's a return to the America we used to have before Bush and Cheney dragged their hobnailed boots across it.
Except that it's really not, is it? Even by wishing and hoping and celebrating, we can't sweep these last eight years under the rug.
Obama wrote in his book, "The Audacity of Hope," that he wanted to move beyond the "psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation." And maybe he will. Maybe we all will. But we still have to explain ourselves to Bubbling Bob, and he might not be so forgiving.
"Dozens of corpses lay rotting by roadsides or in cars blown up by U.S. forces as they captured Baghdad," Reuters reported in 2003, as American troops invaded Iraq. "Nearby, the corpse of of an airport worker rolled around in the current of a pool... 'That's 'Bubbling Bob,' said one soldier. 'Been there a while. I ain't gonna fish him out. Let the Iraqis do it."
Bubbling Bob became a symbol of the war to me. Maybe for you it was the little dark-eyed boy with both his arms blown off. Or the caskets of the American soldiers -- we weren't supposed to see the photos, but one person was brave enough to make them public. It goes without saying that the images from the smoldering remains of the twin towers, like the ones from Abu Ghraib, are so iconic they will never fade from the world's memory.
Bush entered the White House with the blood of 152 executed prisoners on his hands. He leaves with the blood of millions dripping from them.
Four years ago, we Americans had another choice. John Kerry was a stiff, no doubt about it. He couldn't inspire a coon dog. He reeked of entitlement. But by then we'd seen the photos from Abu Ghraib and Guantanmo. We had Jon Stewart making fun of Bush every evening on television. Young people -- the same Generation O -- said they got most of their news from him. They thoroughly understood the web of lies and hypocrisy that Bush, Cheney and the rest of them were weaving. They saw right through it.
But they couldn't be bothered to come out and vote in the general election, so Bush squeaked by with another four years. Maybe he stole Ohio and maybe he didn't, but with a close election, it's not too hard to jiggle the vote. We got Katrina after that.
No, Generation O was waiting to be inspired and uplifted. It needed an emotional connection. Came Obama, came the vote.
And what if Obama hadn't come? What if it was Hillary Clinton, or Joe Biden, or John Edwards who won the nomination? Three senators who voted for the war in Iraq, just like John McCain. Then how many more people would have to die? How many more lives around the world and at home would be shattered?
It would be lovely if we were all inspired every day. Inspired to get up and go to work at the bank, or the grocery store or the garage. Inspired to be kind to our neighbors and loving to our partners and spouses.
But life is not like that. Being an adult means accepting the responsibility to do what's right, even when there is no inspiration. Even when no one's watching. Even when you get into trouble doing it.
We now have a president-elect who is an adult. We should all rejoice. But Americans all bear some responsibility for the past eight years. And it is a bill we will be paying off for a long, long time