Sunday, January 18, 2009

Yes We Must

Dear Friends,

I am eagerly looking forward to Barack Obama's inauguration this coming Tuesday, the day after tomorrow! Dear friends are down in Washington with their family to witness this historic event and I look forward to hearing their report from the front lines, or more likely, the way back.

It was deeply fulfilling to cast our absentee ballot votes this November, though the process was unnecessarily Kafkaesque. As with many challenges in life, we were tenacious and persisted, and finally, we were counted.

In an extraordinary blast-from-the-past profile of Barack and Michelle Obama in The New Yorker (January 19,2009) with a charming photograph of the two of them and an interview by Mariana Cook from May 26, 1996, "A Couple in Chicago," Michelle is quoted thus:

"There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it's unclear. There is a little tension with that. I'm very wary of politics. I think he's too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism. When you are involved in politics, your life is an open book...I'm pretty private, and like to surround myself with people that I trust and love.... There is a possibility that our lives will go that way (into politics), even though I want to have kids and travel, spend time with family....In many ways, we are here for the ride, just sort of seeing what sorts of opportunities open themselves up."


And here Barack Obama speaks more personally, even poetically, about his bond with Michelle and the mystery of what makes their marriage work:

"...what sustains our relationship is I'm extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways....It's that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about that other person."


Yes we can. Yes we must.


Leo said...

I await with great anticipation the inauguration of Obama.

His generational difference vis-a-vis the outgoing administration, and that of the men and women he has chosen for his inner circle and cabinet, speaks volumes of this shift to a new group of leaders that is far more representative of what the United States really is.

Up until this morning, my hope of great change was unbridled. And then I read Mark Slouka in the latest Harper's and I received a cold dose of reality.

A fact: of the 130 million Americans that voted, only just over half put their marker in the Obama column. That's a lot of people out there that were not too troubled by the prospect of Sarah Palin and that other Dude walking around the Rose Garden. And then there are the 38% that didn't bother to cast a vote at all. Despite a performance by one of the most dynamic, inspirational and charismatic politicians in a generation, they all stayed home.

Some poll numbers: 25% of Americans believe they have been reincarnated; 44% believe in ghosts; 71% believe in angels; 40% believe God created all things in their present form within the last 10,000 years. When someone mutters, in all sincerity, that "The way I see it is, if English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for us," you realize there is no planet Earth, but planet Tulsa, or Kansas City, or Nevada City.

With nearly one half of the electorate voting for the other guys, and the rest staying home and ignorant of the world around them, you realize the huge inertial mountain that Obama has to surmount.

And I also realize for myself the extent to which I live in a rarified world. I read the New York Times, the Globe, Harper's, the New Yorker, The Walrus. We read books in our home (some authors on the go at the moment - Plato, John Rawles, Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck). We gobble up political TV, whether the old fashioned way or streamed online. If I were a politician, I would have no clue how to reach that man with the misconception of the mother-tongue of Jesus Christ.

But all is not lost. I was at a lunch with my mother-in-law yesterday. She is 79 and was raised in a farming village on the Gaspe Peninsula. Her male companion is 84 and was raised in the same place. They barely made it through primary school and are unilingual francophones. And yet, they are appalled at the racism directed towards Obama during the recent broadcast of the Bye Bye program on the french network of the CBC. Further, they demonstrated a cool respect for Obama, a man in their eyes who is popular not just in the United States, but around the world. They are able to recognize in him the essential qualities of hope and change that he communicates so well.

If Obama is able to pierce the veil of skepticism of simple people such as these, then there is hope that he is able to do the same south of the border.

I wish the man luck. My prayers are with him. My hopes are with him. And I believe he can do good.

Anonymous said...

Even schools in Canada are donating class time to watch the historic inauguration - just one testament of the unwavering support of the international community when it comes to Barack Obama and his policy.
Early in the election, The Economist ran a feature with a "World Election;" a poll of democratic countries the world over, where respondents were asked who they would vote for if they could. Obama won in almost every country.