One of Us*

A few days ago, I had this lingering despair, and the funny thing is, I didn't even realize it was there. It was like a house guest who was there so long, I thought it was part of the family. But like fish after three days, it was stinking, and the smell, too, had lingered so long, I didn't even realize it was there. Now that despair is gone, though, the air smells so fresh. It's like I can breathe again.

I didn't vote for him because he's black, and I'd wager that you didn't, either. We voted for him because we thought he'd actually do a better job, right? He'd be a better president. He will be a better president than the alternative.

But it's so much more than that, isn't it? If you're black, you can say, "It's so nice that one of us with soon be president. Finally! Four hundred years is so long to wait! And it finally happened, it's happening now." And you're right! It's wonderful!

But the other thing is, he's one of us, too. The white folks, I mean. I don't mean that because he's half white. I mean that he's one of us who is sick of this crap from the White House. I mean that he's one of us who talks plainly, who thinks things through, who doesn't want to be ashamed of what he does each day or to hide it in a sea of ridiculous, hypocritical banter about religion and patriotism. I mean he's a Midwesterner, he's a child of divorced parents, he's a parent himself who reads Harry Potter books to his kids, and he's an optimist, and he says things that I, personally, me, understand perfectly clear. He owns less than five houses. That sort of thing.

He's one of us.

I found myself worrying because his grandmother, who raised him, died a day and a half before election day. Died! Before she saw him elected! I thought of Grandma Amy and how she never met her great-grandchild. And then I realized: Holy crap! I'm thinking about a politician like a real, honest to God person.

He's one of us.

I used to think like it was only "the issues" that mattered. Part of that was just that "the religious right" relied so much on "character" ( like in the Bush Jr. campaign! Seriously?) that I didn't want to have anything to do with all of that. The issues. Stick to the issues.

Now, I don't know. Now I think I've changed my mind. Maybe we should look at the whole person. Maybe it matters what you do in your personal relations in life. A lot. Maybe humanity is just precisely what we need. We don't know exactly what issues will actually come up in the presidency, do we? What we need to know is that we've hired a good person. One of us. One of the caring human beings of this world.

Obama has done something for me that I didn't think would happen, ever. I'm convinced we've elected one of us to the presidency. A caring person. I've lost despair, for a moment. Perhaps it will return someday, and like a destitute old friend, show up begging at the front door for a place to stay. But for now, it's gone. The guest bed has dirty sheets, recently vacated. The windows are open, and we're airing things out. The smell of despair will be gone, soon. And that's a very, very good thing.

* Yes, there's always the chance that things will later fall apart. But "all we have is now," to quote the Flaming Lips. I like now.


  1. I feel the same way. I really feel good about the election of Obama, as if someone I know is actually going to go in there and roll up his sleeves and work on shit. I had nearly given up hope on our country- I was beginning to seriously contemplate becoming an expatriate and moving to another country (preferably one that speaks English, or at least Engrish). But now I am back to believing that this is a fantastic country to live in. We did something right.
    We did something right.

  2. Word.

    I get the impression that he actually cares about us. I don't think we elected a politician, so much as a mid-western family man.

  3. It's a slippery slope, though. You start voting for people based on their personalities, and suddenly you get candidates like Oprah or Judge Judy.

    I like Obama as a person, sure, but that's not why I voted for him. I voted for him because he has Real Good Ideas about how to govern, and I wanted to give those ideas a chance.

  4. By "the whole person," I mean the ideas, the personal beliefs, the political stance, everything. Yeah, I agree, he definitely has Real Good Ideas and I want to give those a chance, too! I wouldn't vote for Oprah because I don't think she would have any clout or know-how in Washington, and I wouldn't vote for Judge Judy because, well... let's just say I don't approve of her character.

    I think you can apply that slippery slope argument to just about anything. I mean, every heroin addict has smoked cigarettes. You smoke cigarettes, the next thing you know, you're a heroin addict! The slippery slope is sort of a fear mentality.

    I know, I know, Dad. I was so cute when I was little!