Friday, August 29, 2008

The audacity is that it's been nearly a decade since we've had any hope

100,000 people come out to see him in Hamburg. That's not even the same continent.

Canada, which as some of you may know is on the same continent, is on the verge of a federal election; it's not what we're talking about here. Not when Barack Obama is on (and in) the air.

The other night at a wedding a right-wing friend filled me with doubt. He said that Americans would go to the ballot boxes and once there would say of Obama that yeah, they like him, but ultimately would tick off the box for McCain cause that's who they really feel they can trust/depend on.

I bought into this. I thought, yeah, how can this young black American win. It's just not possible. What have I been thinking?

But then, I hadn't seen the man speak for a while.

Yes there are still doubts. Obama is still black. He's still more than a decade from being called a senior citizen. And he's still everything George Bush is not, which, bafflingly, isn't a totally good thing in the many states of America that (supposedly) voted for Bush and would likely vote for him again.

But to see Obama speak at last night's Democractic convention was enough. Using headphones, I spent my lunch hour glued to computer screen, watching a 45 minute speech that had me nodding, had me saying aloud - too loud - to the others in my office that "Yes! This guy is amazing." This guy is the real deal.

Because he does care. Because he hopes. Because change is not just a slogan; it's what he so desperately wants to point his country towards. I believe him that he wants to make education better. That he wishes for national health care. I believe that he will do his best to allow small businesses to go tax-free. I believe that he is a hard worker, a doer and so so so much more than just a charismatic speaker. Because to be amusing is one thing. But that's not what this is. That's not what's got me blogging. Cause George Clooney, all handsome and self-deprecating charm - a celebrity (which is what the Republican spin machine is now using to label Obama) - that's all charisma. But Clooney I wouldn't vote for president. Obama, though, this guy's got it written all over his chest. He's speaking words he believes and the words he chooses are words of hope, of greater equality in America, of less conflict abroad, of a country so many of us outside America once looked up to.

Barack Obama is not perfect, and the Republicans will dig up the flaws, to be sure. And yes the speeches are lofty, dreamy, idealistic. But isn't this the kind of starting point we want for a leader? To have us, for the first time in almost ten years, having hope again?

Watching Obama's speech I saw American flags waving in the crowd. Looking at those stars and stripes I suddenly remembered that I once loved America. A young kid growing up in Canada I admit I once wished I was American. Dreamed of living in New York. Granted, like so many I've long since lost that dream and that love. How easily love can turn, and though I wouldn't go so far as to say I've hated George Bush's America, I can safely say I have no envy left for the America of the moment, and in fact would rather call it pity that I feel. As an American friend of the family who lived for some years in Canada in the 90s told my parents this summer, America is in a dark place. She said she wished she was back in Canada.

Watching Obama and the crowd I remembered the America that was great. America of Harvard and my favourite writers; America of New York and some of the greatest athletes ever; America of Martin Luther King and the birth and rise of feminism.

That flag, the red white and blue, it truly is a symbol of the nation, and for the first time in nearly a decade I saw how pretty it was, or at least, could be again.

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