(with respect to both Barack Obama and my cousin Joe, who utilized this name for his Rock Star band)
Years ago, when all this “bidness” began, I made the statement that Americans would rather elect a black man president than a woman (I extrapolated on this, saying they’d sooner vote for a one-eyed, one-legged, unmarried jibaro GED graduate – and variations thereof – than a qualified woman, however unattractive).
It was decreed (to the year), with less cynicism, thirty-eight years before me by Robert Kennedy (the “good” brother).
The very hour Obama won, I heard from those I hadn’t in months and years, via text and email, on and on about A New Day and how this all must be exciting to me personally. Wasn’t sure why – I share the late George Carlin’s feelings (or lack thereof) on politics and indifferently ignored both polls and coverage that day (last votes I made were Perot for president, Dinkins for second-term mayor; not only did both lose, but Clinton and Giuliani won, and innocent swine did nothing to be put in the same category as those two).
Watched some of inauguration on a 51” flat screen in Florida sun. Noted how he’d had the speech memorized. Also how closely he’d studied MLK, Jr. Both impressive factors.
(A good speaker can change the world – I’ve hours of King speeches I listen to and weep and actually believe. Remember David Letterman speaking of Jesse Jackson’s prowess as speaker during the 1988 election, saying we should vote him in on that merit alone, that he may give us all a speech every few weeks and we’d all be moved and that this would be enough.)
But. Felt much the same as I did when the aforementioned Clinton won the first time (which was the last time theretofore cynics declared, without sarcasm, “A Brand New Day”), whom I later ended up deploring, while still giving props for being able to pull wool over so many’s eyes for so long with his cool, chameleon-like charm (where Kennedy was seemingly unaware of his pathology, William Jefferson Blythe III [his given name] is most certainly not).
I understand the significance, perhaps more than most (see any piece I’ve written on 9/11, “The War In Iraq [insert copyright]", Katrina, New York City, or anything else) – majority of those my age (I’m thirty-four) and younger lack a sense of history (I am specifically interested in the 60’s – Vietnam, Cuba, those assassinations, etc – as I believe it led to the way I was raised, Who I Am, Who We Are; and one of the reasons I liked Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac Nation upon reading it in the wake of 9/11 was because she placed her personal experience in social/cultural context, factors often given short shrift with regard to who and what we become, collectively and individually).
But. Politicians, government, corporations (redundant?) come in only one colour, and it ain’t pretty – kind of like how you can gentrify pieces and parts of New York City, but it will always be a toilet (the final indignity being that it’s an expensive one).
And it is entirely possible the people to whom his presidency should mean most to care least. For me, it is partially an existential thing (these earthly matters, I dunno - we're not long for this world, after all – plus, you all should really have figured this out long ago; this life is too effin short for progress to be this slow), while for my ghetto brethren it might be that they - that we - have problems too ferociously urgent to see any long run bennies, and are more concerned with escape, immediate gratification (check money lyrics to The Family Stand's Ghetto Heaven).
My Physical Therapist, however, was not indifferent: “The only hope is that one of these white supremacist snipers will get a shot into him.”
He, too, extrapolated: “My dream is that the bullet goes through him, into and through the Secretary of State and, finally, into [Obama’s] wife.”
Which, of course, proves the significance of the whole “bidness”.