Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote Aqui

After high school, I was lucky enough to spend a couple of weeks in northern Spain, staying with a Spanish friend whose family had some primo real estate in San Sebastian. That's Basque country, for the uninitiated, and one of the memories that have stuck with me is the graffiti sprayed on many of the trash cans by what must have been Basque supporters or ETA terrorists and/or sympathizers: "vote aqui." That means "vote here," of course, the message being that you might as well just throw your vote away.

It's been decades where a U.S. election had been imbued with real import, which may explain why in the recent past so many seemed to approach voting as throwing their vote away. "It doesn't mean anything." "Our vote doesn't count." All those familiar lame excuses. And yet the last two elections were decided by tiny majorities, not to mention no small amount of legal wrangling, unfortunately allowed and even encouraged to wreak havoc thanks to a less than enthused electorate. "Both candidates are the same," people sighed with a shrug, a mixture of boredom and resignation.

Not this time. Now people have seen what a terrible president can do to a country, its power and its reputation. Upon the election of George W. Bush, the Onion ran an eerily prescient story. The headline? "Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over'" Eight years later, and isn't it the truth? It'll take years to undo the damage this chump has done, which of course brings us to Barack Obama.

Now, I doubt Barack Obama will be a miracle worker. He's certainly saddled with plenty of problems from the outset, compounded by whatever problems wait in store. Yet for months I've noted how Obama's very election marks a win on so many levels. First, there's his name, finally shaking America from the icy death grip of aging WASPs. That will resonate both nationally and globally, where needless to say WASPs are not a dominant demographic. Second, there's his background: half-Kansan/half-Kenyan, born in Hawaii, raised by a single mother, lived overseas, educated in the best schools America has to offer. One remarkable achievement after the other. Lastly, he's not a jackass. It'll be so refreshing to see a president comport himself without a puffed up chest and swagger.

Most importantly, though, Barack Obama is smart, and a vote for him is a vote for intelligence (as opposed to, er, fabricated intelligence). This is a president that writes his own books, and writes them well. This is a president that understands the power of the word, and the importance of getting those words right. This is a president that can speak off the cuff and not only make sense, but move people. A leader.

I was lucky to have been raised by two parents that refused to impose their political beliefs on me (at least, not directly), people who value education and intelligence above all else. I don't know who they're voting for (though I suspect they may be canceling one another out at the polls), but I do know that for all they may not like about Barack Obama, whether legitimate disagreement or something more desperate and dubious, they'll respect his accomplishments all the same. And they'll certainly respect him for being a president, the first in at least four cycles, who hasn't fought his way into office but earned his way there. And no amount of words can predict what impact that will have on a complacent, confused country, looking for a way out and a way forward and possibly getting one in the same historically unlikely figure.

Alma and I will be at the Grant Park celebration tonight. Look for us on TV. We'll be the ones smiling.


Blogger Dave said...

Well said.

8:29 PM  

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