Wednesday, February 27, 2008

THIS AIN'T NO CAMELOT, This is the 'natti!

Maybe the pictures tell the story. Yes, I let my 14 year old skip school. Yes, we stood in line for 2 hours in the damp cold of Cincinnati. Yes, we took pictures and acted like we were at a concert. The cynics among us say this is hero-worship, projection, a phenomenon (phenomenon comes from a root that means not real). But I used all of my senses (did you know there are 11, not just five?) to come to my own conclusion about Barack Obama.

Maybe the long line is a good place to start. Ahead of us were an elderly Black couple. They stood in line to see this man who might be President. Like I, they must have never thought it could happen in their lifetimes.

Behind us was a very stylish, tall Black man, alone. Maybe he was gay? If so, I wonder how he felt when Obama included the word "gay" in his list of people who must be considered for us all to be free. Funny, even though he was speaking in Cincinnati, before a mostly African American crowd, and, hey... don't Blacks have an issue about gay folk?? .. there was only applause. Gee, maybe all of the things we have been thinking about ourselves and one another could be re-examined.

That brings me to my senses: it was not what I saw. Yes, Obama is handsome and charming, but if that were all it took, George Clooney would be running for President. There are equally handsome, charming people selling drugs all over this country.

It wasn't what I heard; it was the same stump-speech I could almost recite by heart now. I did want to hear how he said it... with what degree of sincerity and authenticity. I heard.

It was what I sensed all around me. That's what I was listening to and watching, smelling and feeling and absorbing.

All around me were people who were excited again about the future, hopeful again about peace and justice and equity, alive again.

Then it ended, and Marjorie and I stayed for awhile to watch what happened after. Obama stayed for 45 minutes or more, shaking hands with every individual, very slowly making his way to the exit.

Then he held the baby.

Of course, all politicians hold babies. But this one moment wasn't for the cameras -- they were gone (except for people's cell phones & digitals). It wasn't for the crowds. They were gone, too. I'm thinking he already has the votes of those of us who hung around. She was about a year old, a girl, African American. I was filled with wonder about what tragedies and triumphs her life would bring. Then, right before he left the hall, he paused and looked up. He made eye contact with those of us standing above him. Somehow I believed that he wasn't just posing but that he is also capable of absorbing the expressions on the faces of all the people he meets. He knows what we are dreaming. I was crying even before he did this, not because of what he said or did or how he looked. It was because I felt so many of us gathered together, and for that one, brief slice of time.. that one shining moment... stopped being afraid to hope.