Saturday, April 5, 2008

Why he didn't go to Memphis

There was a terrifying video making its way around the Internets this week. It showed candidate Obama making his way through a Philadelphia street market, hopping into one store after another, doing the usual meet and greets with passersby, customers, and shopkeepers. But there was one man, persistent and just a little off, who kept pestering the Senator for a photograph.

Obama and his people seemed to think the guy was an 'Ebay guy,' there just to get a quick picture and put it on eBay to make money. Not that there's really anything wrong with that - kind of the American dream, to make a quick buck like that -- but the man's persistence was, well, it was more than persistent. Obama said, "You're wearing me down, brother," and when he finally did agree to pose for the guy, he said, "I won't be smiling, because you've been rude...."

The scariest part of the video, to me, was the man afterwards -- standing alone amid a crowd of press, telling anyone who would listen, "I just wanted a photograph, that's all I wanted..." And there was something about his whine, his insistence, his victimy determination that he'd done nothing wrong, that made it virtually impossible not to think of some other "wronged" Americans-- guys with names like Oswald and Chapman and Bremer.

The entire video was really terrifying, because at the back of Obama's campaign, always, lies the unspoken terror -- the threat -- the horrible thought that maybe we haven't come as far as we'd like to think we have. This is not a reason to vote for the guy, of course -- there are plenty of those -- and in fact it sometimes makes it a little more scary to think that he might win.

Could he really survive two full terms?

And would some of his admirers even want him to?

They are ghastly questions, and sometimes I kinda hope he doesn't get there -- and then I stop myself and remember that what makes his campaign great (when it is great -- don't get me started on the bowling) is that it's a campaign that summons forth our hopes, not our fears. He asks us, explicitly, to dream of what's best in all of us, not what's worst.

But I can't shake the nagging feeling...

And I know, as ugly and as awful as the past few months have been, that there's a very good chance we haven't even scratched the surface of the tip of the iceberg yet...

1 comment:

nyhusker said...

When I was a lowly undergrad, I was part of a group that vigorously campaigned to get my college to divest its finanical interests in South Africa. We were successful.

During that campaign, we were able to get three South African dignitaries to visit campus and speak with us. I asked them what would happen when Mandela was killed, or died, in jail, since it seemed utterly inevitable that that's what was going to happen. One of the dignitaries said, "We're not planning as if he will die in jail," even though all thought that was going to happen.

Of course, he didn't die in jail. He was released and became president. The lesson I learned then was never to get lost in hypotheticals, especially dangerous or negative hypotheticals. We spend far too much time in the world of "what if" instead of where we should be spending it, which is the world of "what now?"