Remember Easy Cheese, the processed cheese-ooze that came in a can? In high school, my friends and I used to cut class, get high, squirt gobs of the stuff onto Triscuits, listen to Pink Floyd and discuss What It All Means. The conclusion? There's nothing simpler than nitrogen-propelled cheese product. With no utensils required, it was unnatural but fun. It was terrible and delicious all at once. Sort of like this election.
While I've fought the fundamental urge to throw something at my television every time someone says the word “fundamental”—or any derivative thereof—I've been unable to prevent myself from getting caught up in the historic histrionics of it all. I am officially a basket case, a passionate, sleepless, on-the-edge-of-tears mess.
I attribute my state to Shepard Fairey's popular Obama sticker. You know the one: It's red, white and blue with a beautiful woodcut-like image of Barack Obama. The word “hope” is spelled out in block letters beneath it. I see it mainly on cars—more of them than I'd ever expect in this town—and it evokes something in me that I can barely admit I feel because I'm nearly too cynical to feel it.
Hope? I thought when I first saw the sticker. What's that supposed to mean? Hope. Puh-leese! That's so—cheesy!
According to Merriam-Webster, “hope” is defined as “desire with expectation of obtainment” and “to expect with confidence.” To have hope, one must have some measure of optimism, and I am not an optimist when it comes to modern politics. As an all-too-powerful nitwit once said, “Fool me once, shame on—shame on you. Fool me—youcan'tgetfooledagain!” With two stolen elections behind me, I'm not exactly floating into the voting booth upon the magic elevating stardust of positive sentiment.
To me, hope is one of those concepts that belong in the same category as faith: Neither can be measured or proven, both are emotional rather than rational. I therefore discount faith as something tied to religious hocus-pocus, and when it comes to hope, I am deeply skeptical with a roll of the eyes thrown in for good measure.
While I've made it work hard for my affection, I am being relentlessly wooed by hope. And Obama's brand, in particular, has been a stealthy and determined suitor. Despite my barriers, hope has begun to infiltrate my fortress of cynicism. Hope has braved its way across my moat of fatalism, scaled my once-sturdy walls of pessimism and sapped the foundation of my resolve not to care. Hope has reached across the seat to unlock the door for me, held my hand in the moonlight, whispered in my ear. I've done double takes, several of them. I do believe I'm falling.
It began with Michelle Obama at the DNC when she spoke of “the world as it is” versus “the world as it should be” and our obligation to the latter. “That is the thread that connects our hearts,” she said. “That is the thread that runs through my journey and Barack's journey and so many other improbable journeys—where the current of history meets this new tide of hope.”
During his acceptance speech, Obama spoke of those who have nothing new to offer, those who “make a big election about small things,” such as misleading smears and focus on a funny name (unlike the normal Track or Trig). “And you know what?” he said. “It's worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government.
When Washington doesn't work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it's best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.”
The guy offering what we already know has put all his chips on Jesse Helms-era campaign methodology. The once honorable and respected war veteran has chosen to forfeit his integrity, morality and honor in a desperate grasp at power. Spiraling ever lower into a vortex of hopelessness, John McCain and his sub-qualified running mate have stoked the embers of hatred and bigotry simmering just beneath the surface of their rallies. The dangerous comments elicited reveal something rotten not just in the supporters but in the candidates, as well.
Yet, the more McCain goes ugly, the more I am seduced by hope, the less I am enamored with negativity. And this is the thing about Obama that has gotten to me: His words make me think that the world as it should be is actually possible. Which, in turn, inspires me to be a better, nicer, more compassionate person.
At this point, I might as well just say that Barack Obama completes me. Seriously. I am, right now, squirting a can of Easy Cheese directly onto my tongue with total disregard to the nutritional content. I'm not even high. But—doesn't he sort of make you feel capable of transcendence?
“… [A]ll across America something is stirring,” he said in the same speech. “What the naysayers don't understand is that this election has never been about me; it's about you.”
Alright. I may be screwing around with hope but I'm not monogamous: Of course it's about him. But it's also about me. It's about all of us, including those citizens with McCain yard signs.
This November, we have one last opportunity to show the world that Americans overwhelmingly reject the kinds of virulent and incendiary ideas of the bigoted few, that we regret the awful things done on our behalf over these past eight years and that we can, with the help of an exceptional leader, be better than what we've allowed ourselves to become. I have no choice but to hope we'll show the world a landslide.