Thursday, June 5, 2008

Barack Obama, Get Happy (Susan Werner)


[Tuesday] night Senator Obama locked up the nomination.


After years of DC insiders running the show, a progressive candidate who started in politics through community organizing, who unequivocally opposed the war in Iraq, who isn't afraid to stand up to the politics of fear, an African-American, became the Democratic nominee for president.


The great Barack Obama insurrection
Hillary was ready. Hillary was unstoppable. Hillary was, by all accounts, a lock. What the hell happened?

By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, May 30, 2008

Are you paying any sort of attention to this moment in time? Are you reading bits and hints about the transformation, the shift, the unusual and slightly surreal energy coursing through the nation? Are you tattooing this seminal period on the sacrum of your sociopolitical consciousness? Are you under 50? Then there's been nothing else like this in your lifetime. And there probably never will be again.

You gotta take it all in, you know? Because it was no time at all ago, less than a year, and Hillary Clinton's presidential nomination was pretty much a given, and even I was relatively thrilled and gung-ho for her candidacy, especially given how she was so ahead in the polls and so ahead in fund raising and so ahead in public opinion her imminent nomination felt much like a slam dunk, a forgone conclusion, a sure thing.

And therefore it was all something rather otherworldly for progressives, a bit unprecedented, a Democratic race to watch only for the sheer historic value and for the surprising quality of the other candidates involved, and not because there was any doubt as to the eventual outcome.

Just a bit beyond incredible, then, what has happened since, in such a short time, in this, one of the more fascinating turning points in American history.

It almost cannot be understated: Barack Obama's steady, astounding, almost inexplicable rise to the top to not only become the presumptive Democratic nominee but also to overtake one of the strongest, smartest, most well-funded, tenacious rival candidates in American history — and also to out-poll his deeply connected Republican opponent — is both remarkable and historic on a number of fronts.

But the thing is, no matter how you crunch the data and try to logically analyze all the components that made Obamapalooza happen, there appears to be something just beyond the logic, just outside the normal machinery, that makes you shake your head in amazement, and perhaps remember this forever.

On one level, I suppose it's not all that unusual. There have been plenty of scrappy, outta-nowhere, come-from-behind victories in political races before. There are plenty of tales of one candidate holding an overwhelming lead early on, only to have his lunch eaten by some brilliant, whippersnapper upstart. JFK charmed the hell out of the planet and revealed the deep sourness of once-omnipotent Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton, the handsome, populist Arkansas governor with minimal big-stage experience but loads of effortless charisma, came from seemingly nowhere to build a phenomenal following and stomp all over the doddering, baffled, how-much-is-a-gallon-of-milk Bush 41.

But with Obama, as with just about everything about his campaign, something feels different, more historic, deeper and more profound and even a bit more, how do you say, intimate. It is not politics as usual. It is not just another smart, deeply intelligent upstart senator making a surprising play for The Show.

You have to take note. Because Obama has accomplished his astonishing rise without the normal weaponry of American politics. As of yet, there have been almost no dirty tricks. He has not really attacked Hillary, has not "gone negative" or run a nasty smear campaign or
swiftboated her; he has not employed, in short, any of the disgusting tactics Karl Rove's Republican party notoriously used against Al Gore and John Kerry so as to lie themselves into a brutal and failed chokehold of power.

Verily, plethoric are the pundits who've been trying to parse just why, exactly, Obama has been so much more effective, so much more far-reaching and cross-cultural than the once-unstoppable Clinton, not to mention McCain or anyone else. What is it about him, exactly? What is it that draws such a broad circle of endorsements, from Ted Kennedy to Andrew Sullivan, John Edwards to former Labor Secretary
Robert Reich?

It's the networking, they say. Obama is the first "
Facebook candidate." He's the first to successfully leverage all the modern tech, the viral marketing, YouTube, Web 2.0, lovely videos by celebrity rappers who are nearly moved to tears by the man's speeches. Yes, that must be it.

Or maybe it's his remarkable, idealistic team of aides, his hotshot fresh-faced speechwriters, his wondrous oratory skill. Is it the cool campaign posters? Is it the game-altering speeches on race in America? Or is it what the terrified right-wing hatemongers are calling "liberal guilt," the feeling that we on the whiny tree-hugging ultra-PC left feel so gosh-darn guilty about how blacks, Hawaiians and Harvard-trained lawyers have been treated, lo, these many millennia — even more so than the oppressive treatment of women — that Obama gets our vote out of sheer nervous remorse?

Problem is, those explanations feel insufficient and inadequate and, in the case of that last one, exceedingly stupid. Is there not something else going on? Is there more to it than just a battle between old school/new school styles of campaigning?

Maybe the answer lies elsewhere. Maybe you need to look to the dark side for a hint, for a bit of proof that there's more to this moment in history than mere shifting times. It comes in the form of that very ugly and violent rumor that gets whispered among skeptics and conspiracy theorists and joked about by cretins on Fox News, and even sighed by many otherwise happy, progressive idealists, those who've had their dreams shattered and hopes pummeled enough times that a form of sinister cynicism creeps in.

It is this: Some feel Obama will not survive. There are those who think something violent and lethal is bound to happen to him and not merely because he's black, but because he's too revolutionary, too much a force for harmony and peace, and the forces of darkness and oppression in America, be they troglodytic Southern racists or anarchist radicals or insular BushCo die-hards, simply cannot have that.

There is no need to invite that repulsive idea in for long. It is too dark, disquieting, pointless, not to mention how it feels like it could create some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy by mentioning it too damn much in the media. But it is worth noting for one curious aspect: It is a fear borne of a truly rare historic circumstance, the amazing idea that someone like Obama is, to put it bluntly, too good for this particular role, a bit too conscious and enlightened for what is a brutal and soul-numbing and potentially deadly political machine.

Then again, maybe, in a morose way, this is how we know transformative change is arriving, perhaps quicker than expected, but arriving nonetheless. We're already deeply scared of losing it. Really, how long's it been since we've felt anything like that?

SONG: Barack Obama, Get Happy by Susan Werner

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama

POEM: A Morning Offering by John O'Donohue

I bless the night that nourished my heart

To set the ghosts of longing free

Into the flow and figure of dream

That went to harvest from the dark

Bread for the hunger no one sees.

All that is eternal in me

Welcome the wonder of this day,

The field of brightness it creates

Offering time for each thing

To arise and illuminate.

I place on the altar of dawn:

The quiet loyalty of breath,

The tent of thought where I shelter,

Wave of desire I am shore to

And all beauty drawn to the eye.

May my mind come alive today

To the invisible geography

That invite me to new frontiers,

To break the dead shell of yesterdays,

To risk being disturbed and changed.

May I have the courage today

To live the life that I would love,

To postpone my dream no longer

But do at last what I came here for

And waste my heart on fear no more.

QUOTE: "If we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth." ~ Senator Barack Obama

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