the Change I Wish to See

...and whatever else it takes to find my pants

3.19.2008

Second Comes Love

Late tonight, huddled at my computer screen, I met Barack Obama. I liked him. We still have a lot to talk about before we're pushing a baby in a baby carriage, but at least we're finally sitting in a tree.

He seems different exposed. Maybe we all do. Maybe our truest moments come only when we're naked, moments at which we reveal the difference between being honest and being candid. Why do we roll up our pant leg to show you that scar we got when we were 6? Probably because it makes the story we tell about it more real.

Now, before you chastise me for having multiple personalities, and choosing today's persona because it has a shiny new convertible bandwagon...

I'm still not in love with Barack. So much of me wants to be. I want him to wear the air of my aspirations and a suit whose lapel is cut to the style of my conviction. Not because I am what he should be, but because I want what he is to include me. I want my words to resound in his voice. I want my ideals to shape his endeavors. Most of all, I want my passion to drive his spirit.

Today he made it possible to love him. But we still have work to do in this relationship. I can forget Rev. Wright's name by tomorrow. The name of his church already escapes me. I was never supposed to commit to Rev. Wright. No 2008 election outcome put the stability of the world, the fate of our economy, or the dreams of my parents in his hands. But I'm supposed to trust Barack with at least that, if not more.

And so we should be greatly excited at the opportunity Barack reminds us is waiting to be actualized. But we can still ask why it took so long. He has been the candidate of hope, change, dreams, faith, and everything between. We've crowned him the facilitator, if not the bringer, of the cure for what ails us. But listen to what he said today: we cannot move forward infected by anger. Yet until today, he never bothered to fearlessly identify what is arguably our most viral disease. Until there was a crisis, he offered no management.

It is critical that you understand I do not consider him an opportunist. What we witnessed was not mere political calculation. He was knocked down. He stood up. He brushed his shoulders off. He took huge strides. He was impressive. He was complete. And I thank him.

He was aware this morning. But my calendar shows more than just today. Today, Barack admitted what we all at least suspected he knew. Race is more than an issue in America. It is its own institution. I know Barack didn't learn this by watching the pundits last week. I know he's lived it. I know he and Michelle have told their children allegories, if not stories, about it. He had to know this was a speech he'd have to give, even if he imagined it never included his pastor's name. JFK had to. Romney tried to. Barack has more vision than he previously displayed. He should not have been surprised here.

I know he walks a fine line. Forget thin ice. It must be more like he's skating on a meniscus, in a glass half-full. He has to convince a nation that Cornell is as right as he is wrong: that his race matters as much as it doesn't. Don't tell me it has been unfair to expect that he found a way to deliver that message flawlessly, though. He did it today. And you should've expected it before now at least as much I did. We owe that sense of inquiry to ourselves.

And we owe both our ancestors and our children more than static reincarnations of the past. That's the subtext of Barack's speech today. That obviously means answering a call to arms to erase inequality. I understand your point: that perhaps the issue wasn't ripe, that we weren't yet ready to receive until controversy arose. It's frightening how true that may be (we too often ignore leaks until they're floods). You might even say that I had no reason to have doubts in the first place. You may be right, but only because calling my hesitation "doubt" misses the mark. You've seen it: two black men pass each other on the street, make eye contact, and nod. True, maybe neither one of them has lived anything like the life of the other. But they nod silently anyway. They believe there's a great chance they share something. They have to believe it. It soothes. All I've ever said is that the man who will be president has to do more than nod. He has to open his mouth. He has to speak.

And so my anger in my posts about Barack should be measured not as blame, but as the weight of great expectations. I want him to be great because we simply cannot survive any less. I want him to be great because he can be. And I am not afraid to ask it of him.

I am a bundle of all of the contradictions he acknowledged today. It's comforting to know he is, too.

2 comments:

Sailesh said...

Like a son looking at his father with the eyes of an innocence lost, I too look at Barack yearning to believe that I will not be betrayed again. Too many times I have been left standing on the soccer field, silently in my solitude, waiting for this country to remember. Like all those inflicted by this betrayal it is hard to trust again, it is hard to believe, it is hard gather the courage to hope. So I choose not to. I am coward. I will not wear a button, I will not hold a sign, I will not push a pin. It is safer here. Because just like our fathers and their fathers before them, who walked into their roles inexperienced and confused the world is greater than them. This country needs more than a father to heal its wounds. It needs more than a mother to comfort them. I can't tell you what it needs, but for now I'm still standing.

aijuswanawrite said...

This country owes the people I love a lot. I'm willing to give Barack a chance. But you're right: I've lost too much trust to write a blank check yet.