08 November 2012 ~ 13 Comments

Keeping Hope Alive


So…spent this morning and the early part of the afternoon at the Kimono Wine Bar in Nogizaka, Tokyo, where my friend Lauren Shannon hosted an Election Returns Watch party. It was well attended, with great folk, food and vibes. Simply smashing!

It had been a long time since I spent hours in the same room with politically like-minded individuals speaking intelligently about an election and electoral process that bears some discussion. Needless to say, it was refreshing…just what the doctor (shrink) would order for a soul slowly being racked by a society that would malign and disregard it as a matter of course or common sense.

Refreshing, I say, but not much more.

You see, there was also the election itself, and this was decidedly not a source of refreshment. In fact, it was a bit on the disturbing side.

While I was on the sweet side of optimistic the whole morning, tearing through
platters of bagels and fresh fruit, throwing down cappuccinos like water, I became aware of this growing distress at what was playing out on the screen; a CNN studio replete with fancy graphics and wonky coverage, told a story of America that was uninspiring…a electoral map screamed that something was still very wrong with the country I left behind.

A map that was looking mighty red.

Not that I expected the map to turn blue and the nation to unite and break into a collective chorus of “Yes We Can!”

I didn’t, I swear.

But, like those dark days during the election and re-election of Dubbya, there was simply and inexplicably (at least to me) way too much red.

It reminded me of a brilliant 80s movie I revisited quite recently called “Being There.”

Peter Sellers was magnificent playing a moron who, due to a series of coincidences and the awesome ability of humans to project their ideas and aspirations on to any media while at the same time distrust / mistrust their own senses, and finds himself at the threshold of being an unlikely candidate to lead the country.

And as I watched the screen late this morning and saw that, at that moment, in the real world, both Romney and Obama each had inspired 49,000,000 Americans to pull the lever (or whatever) in their favor, I realized, in a most eerie moment of cognizance, that something of Being There nature was playing out before me.

I was stricken…

I felt at once as naïve as a child and sage as a soothsayer.

I looked around the room at this collective of politically savvy ex-pats and wondered was I alone.

I said to those seated or standing closest to me, “49,000,000 Americans voted for Romney?” It wasn’t really a question though…at least not one I was asking to those in attendance, but more to the source of everything that falls under the definition of real. I felt like I’d said something so obvious yet profound and mysterious, like Christopher Columbus in some alternate universe announcing to his crew, “The world is not flat?”

One gentleman seated near me said, “yep.”

I looked at him. He looked grim and stricken as well and I felt like we’d shared something. I sat down across from him and said, “that talking head said ‘this is indicative of how divided Americans are.”

He nodded, kind of solemnly, kind of helplessly.

He, a middle-aged white man from the northeast, living here in Japan these past 20 years or so, sitting here getting a fix in the form of a reminder of what he’d left behind two decades ago, living in a land where there is a hell of a chance neither he nor his children will ever be able to truly belong…this man reached out to me, gently took hold of my hand, lifted it and extended a finger. I did the same. I wasn’t even sure why. I just did. I looked at our fingers, two parallel lines suspended above the table littered with cups and glasses, bagel crumbs and fruit peels, and I realized what he was pointing at, or rather pointing out.

It was the difference in our skin color.

*****

As a writer, I’m a big believer in the power of words, both written and spoken. I don’t know if President Obama wrote all his speeches, but I remember his delivery and I remember the words. They moved me. They moved America. He made a believer outta me. That is not to say that I forgot that he was a politician. I didn’t. I can be as cynical, especially when politicians are involved, as anyone in their right mind.

But, his message cut right through my hardened cynical shell like no other politician, black, white or what have you, had ever been able to even come close to. Obama had read my mind like it was an open book and tapped into a well in my soul that I always knew was capacious but never in my wildest dreams believed could be penetrated by a politician, let alone one that, without an excess of piety, pontificate like a beloved preacher and embodied the very promise and hope he was prescribing as a panacea for America’s pain and misery.

When Obama said, “we will remember that there is something happening in America…that we are not as divided as our politics suggest…that we are one people, that we are one nation…” I believed him. My heart reached across the aisle because I thought there is no way…NO WAY…those on the other side of that aisle could deny that they felt the same, or at least wanted to feel the same, wanted to give this promise a chance to manifest itself.

I was proud to be a product of a nation that produced leadership that could inspire the way he did, that could find the words and say what needed to be said when it needed to be said, on a platform where everyone could hear it. I thought that, at long last, providence was upon us all.

Well, today’s election result was proof that there is, indeed still something happening in America. And upwards of 49,000,000 Americans will have no parts of it; would sooner toss the keys of power to a confirmed unrepentant compulsive liar with admitted scorn for 47% of Americans and binder full of women, with nothing useful to add to the ongoing dialogue between Americans and our government that doesn’t ring of running Her like a poorly run corporation deep in the red and in need of a CEO with a track record in the black…

And, as my fellow party attendee sat across from me suggesting that it was because Obama was in the Black, I just looked at him and his bony white finger for a moment, blamelessly.

And I wondered if he could see the cynicism in me trying to shut and seal the lid on my gushing well of hope, even as we watched Obama and his, thankfully, slightly more than 47%, seal four more years of dueling with millions upon millions of apparently hopeless souls.

Loco

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13 Responses to “Keeping Hope Alive”

  1. Orchid64 8 November 2012 at 2:40 am Permalink

    Let me begin by stating my bias. I’m a liberal. In fact, I’m a fan of some forms of socialism and would prefer that a piece of my pie were divided up among the lazy, the stupid, the indifferent, and the damaged rather than live in a society which embraces the comforting lie of a “just world”. All of that being said, I think it’s unfair to say there is something wrong with America because there is “too much red”. The main thing to keep in mind is that, as liberals look at the map and say that, conservatives look at it and say that there is “too much blue.” If we start thinking like this, we are no different than conservatives.

    And though I absolutely agree that some opposition to Obama is based on racism, people said the same types of things (too much liberalism/conservatism in X area) every time their guy lost in a close race. I felt it when Bush beat Gore by electoral votes but not by popular vote. That was two white guys then. The fact that it’s a white and a black guy this time doesn’t really change the fact that people are not voting based on issues of governance, but based on personal characteristics and social issues. Skin color has something to do with it, but not everything.

    It’s important to keep in mind that Obama let a lot of liberals down by not pressing the advantage early on in his administration. One can debate whether or not he made the right choice (and, frankly, I think he did), but a lot of liberals think he should have pushed harder earlier on when the Democrats had control of congress rather than trying to play nice with the Republicans). There are swing voters that he lost because we’re not seeing Obamacare until 2014 rather than seeing it by 2012. There are swing voters that he lost because of promises that went unfulfilled, and they aren’t going to take Republican obstructionism as an excuse (even if it is a good one).

    The bottom line is that, racism is a part of this, but a black man has been president for 4 years and he will be president for another 4. That’s more than you can say for women. America is showing that it is moving past racism albeit the redness of the South is showing that some are moving quite grudgingly and at a glacial pace (though, frankly, a lot of that is religion and lack of education as well as racism), but the same can’t be said for sexism. Let’s not cry too much over our victory and a divided America. There was division long before skin color entered the debate, and there will be division long after it is no longer an issue. At present, we can say skin color matters less than genitalia in terms of entering positions of power. I don’t know if that makes you feel any better as a black man, but it certainly doesn’t inspire me as a white woman.

    • Locohama 8 November 2012 at 10:26 am Permalink

      Of course you’re right, orchid.
      I’m not a liberal, though some of politics often lean that way. It hink its just due to the environment i was raised in. I’m not a conservative either, but again, you better believe, many black people much more conservative than the electoral map lets on.
      I’d like to think I’d vote for the person with the best ideas, regardless of party.
      Though the closest ive come to proving this was voting for Bloomberg before I left NY (who just happened to endorse Obama…can I pick me or what? Lol)
      And, mind you, I didn’t say the electoral map looked like a blood bath because of race…the other party attendee did. (-;
      Thanks as always for the shout orchid

  2. Bill 8 November 2012 at 2:44 am Permalink

    Rather than scratching your head over why almost 1/2 the population can’t just line up behind your personal interests and philosophy, you could stop to ponder whether you are failing to consider whether other people have conflicting interests, which are harmed by you getting what you want, and whether your Obama/good and Romney/bad characterization is overly simplistic, lacking in subtlety. It is the ability to recognize that others have conflicting interests that separates one from sociopaths. There is certainly no shortage of people expressing reasons for their opposition to Obama. Whether you agree with them or not, the opposition itself is hardly perplexing.

    • Locohama 8 November 2012 at 10:17 am Permalink

      Thanks for the shout, sir.
      I feel you yo! You’re entitled to vote for whoever you want for whatever reason you want…we all are. Thats the american way and i wouldnt have it any other way. I don’t expect people to line up behind my philosophy…just hoping. However I did expect people to reject what romney stood for onpriniciple, you know? Hey, if I thought he was what America needed right now, I would have voted for him. But he is CLEARLY what america doesn’t need now or ever, I hope we can agree on that.

      I don’t know if Obama can continue to deliver, but he has so far, at least for discerning people who are knowledgable of his track record and weren’t expecting him to turn vinegar into wine. I wasn’t. It took 8 years of Bush and 400 years of hate, exploitation, bigotry, etc, to shape America, and it will take much longer than four or even eight years to even make a dent in it. however Obama’s list of accomplishments included an equal pay law, expanding hate crimes laws, health care reform, revamping student loans, increasing national service programs, the “cash for clunkers” program, preventing a financial collapse, signing the single largest tax cut, reforming Wall Street, appointing the first Hispanic justice to the Supreme Court, signing a new nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, providing first responders who were sickened after the 9/11 with benefits, and repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” And that was all in the first two years! Then, after house republicans pledged to oppose everything he tried to do, he kept on. Obama ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden, signed an agreement to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, helped overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, imposed new sanctions on Iran, extended employment benefits to same sex partners, halted the deportation of immigrants illegal brought to the United States as children — and managed to quit smoking.

      The problem with Romney is he doesn’t even know what the problems are. He just knows how to make you afraid and how to assign blame, playing the old school game by the old school rules, and that doesn’t inspire anything but more fear and scapegoating, or defensiveness and/or apathy from those on the business end of this perpetual finger-pointing.

      Anyway, I don’t believe anyone is harmed by me “getting what I want” but I’m not infallible, that’s for sure. You might be right. Obamacare harms insurance company. Tax reforms harm corporations. Bringing troops home from a war that never should have taken place harms the Iraqis and afghans left behind to TRY and rebuild their countries and governments. Good and bad are judgments better left to the creator. I’m looking at track records, and Obama’s is flawed but not for lack of trying to accomplish most of the things he set out to do and promised he’d do in 2008. Romney?? Who knows if he is good or not…doesn’t matter. His ideas suck…they are basically the same ideas Bush had, and Bush’s ideas sucked and are at least partially responsible for the mess obama spent four years trying to wade through to get things done.

      • Bill 8 November 2012 at 11:20 am Permalink

        I would have expected you to like Bush since, aside from supporting a modest tax cut that he didn’t bother to pay for, he was a down the line liberal – for big government, expanded entitlements, open borders and an interventionist foreign policy. Obama is slightly more conservative on foreign policy and Bush was slight more conservative on economic issues but basically not a huge difference aside from the window dressing (Bush would mention Jesus, while Obama uses the old Baby Boomer far left rhetoric and the snide, uncivil tone the lefties like). Treating candidates as diametrically opposed individuals of pure good and pure evil is basically a lot of projection on an empty canvas (and, in the case of Obama, a fair bit of racial cheerleading).

        I voted for the first time since 1996 for Romney/Ryan since it was the first (and probably last) time in my life I’ve had the chance to vote for a major party ticket that at least pretended to be slightly right of center. Regardless of whether he would have accomplished anything, he at least claimed to want to cut spending, while Obama just says “it’s a good time to borrow. interest rates are low.” Plus, it was nice to be able to vote for Romney, who actually seemed intelligent, informed and had extensive personal accomplishments – something we haven’t seen in a candidate since Clinton. Not really seeing how a preference for smaller government and less debt is incomprehensible. Romney probably wouldn’t have accomplished it but Obama has indicated he won’t try.

        “The problem with Romney is he doesn’t even know what the problem is. He just knows how to make you afraid and how to assign blame, playing the old school game by the old school rules, and that doesn’t inspire anything but more fear and scapegoating, or defensiveness and/or apathy from those on the business end of this perpetual finger-pointing.”

        Can’t believe you wrote that with a straight face. The whole Obama campaign was saturated with the blame game – whites, Mormons, business owners, anyone with a 6 figure income were portrayed as sinister behind the scenes figures that need to be controlled so the helpless Dem interest groups can receive needed handouts since they can’t compete in the rigged system. Given how you define America, I assume you have a lot of sympathy for this victim mentality but the idea that everyone would agree with you and happily accept the restrictions on their economic, personal and religious freedoms to accommodate such a view seems a tad closed minded and unrealistic. Obviously, plenty of examples of groups that have succeeded without this coercion (jews, asians, women) and groups that haven’t despite the supposed rigging of the game (rural whites). You have to be willing to at least defend your view if you are going to demonize large groups and call on govt to coerce them.

        So while I think there are certain issues that reasonable people can’t disagree about (e.g., immigration is bad, ID should be required to vote), i find it a tad silly to claim you can’t comprehend why people would support one of 2 major party candidates, which is largely just a figurehead for a range of loosely related philosophies, issues and interest groups. C’mon. You talk about Obama like he is a Ron Paul or Nader or some other figure with a clearly defined philosophy he has argued for over decades. Obama’s an establishment candidate and mouths the same lefty Baby Boomerish talking points we’ve heard for decades aside from more race baiting to reflect changing demos.

        • Locohama 8 November 2012 at 12:33 pm Permalink

          You make a lot of presumptions about me based on my support of Obama and I guess that’s fair game cuz I make do the same for people who supported Bush and Romney full on. I don’t agree with everything Obama has done and far from a far lefty but you’re free to try to malign me as such. You’re surprised by what I believe in? You should be. I gave you a list of Obama accomplishments and you gave me conservative rhetoric that, when put into practice, have genrally resulted in a relative few beneficiaries. I don’t like the democratic party nor the republican party, for the record. I think their needs to be a viable alternative and did support several of Naders, Paul’s and even Roz Perot’s ideas. And if Colin Powell had run against Gore, or Carey or even Obama I would have voted for him and never looked back. Why? Not because he’s black, that’s for damn sure. And certainky not because of his party. But because of his ideas. Anyway, I wasn’t labeling republicans as bad people. I was simply saying that people who support Romney, like yourself, over Obama simply based on the his promise to undo what Obama has tried to do and revisit the same economic policies that put the country in the mess it’s in, disturb me. If the price of smaller government is the destruction of the middle class, which it is cuz corporations have shown that without restriction they would run amok and destroy the country for a profit, then I think we have to finally agree that however ideal a smaller government might seem it simply isn’t possible yet. And the majority of the country agreed in 2008 and again yesterday with a vote for Obama who promises to at least attempt to keep those fuckers in check.
          The first time around he tried to compromise and reach across the aisle. It didn’t work out well. The Republican House didnt want to play ball, and chances are they still havent gotten the message that thankkfully more than 47% of the country are fed up with the way they do business. So, obama will probably have to do a massive end run around them with one executive order after another – just like they have done and will do if given the chance again.

          Obama has his work cut out for him though. He needs to make the banks and Wall Street payfor what theyve done to our economy, he needs to bring the troops home now. He needs to stop the drone strikes on civilians. He needs to End the senseless war on drugs. Do more for climate change. Make higher education affordable for everyone. Order a moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions. Enact economic policy that will create good-paying jobs and spend the money that’s needed to do that.
          You know, stuff Romney (and Bush) would never think to do, busy cutting taxes for the wealthy, incentivizing outsourcing and increasing military spending.
          we could go back and forth on this all day…hell, all year, but I’m not. In the end, Yesterday, two things happened: Obama won decisively (though the popular vote margin could / should have been wider) and hate (Tea party, etc…) took a hit, but it certainly isn’t down for the count!
          Your point is well taken. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Jeff 8 November 2012 at 3:39 am Permalink

    Hi Loco, still a reader of your blog from before your “i am a racist” series. Still love ya.

    Check this out: http://jezebel.com/5958490/twitter-racists-react-to-that-nigger-getting-reelected/gallery/1?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

    Wow. and WTF.

    Anyways, keep on writing well!
    -Jeff

    • Locohama 8 November 2012 at 10:28 am Permalink

      Thanks Jeff!
      Yeah that’s some sick shit. But not surprising

  4. Nkognyto 8 November 2012 at 11:24 am Permalink

    —No Need to Post—
    Just had to add this.

    Unity is a challenge not just for Obama but for the Republicans, who won less than 30 percent of the growing Hispanic vote and not even one in 10 black voters. Obama built a strong Electoral College majority, if only a narrow advantage in the popular vote, despite losing every age group of non-Hispanic white voters.

    http://news.yahoo.com/50-50-nation-151916925–election.html

  5. Will 8 November 2012 at 5:43 pm Permalink

    Warning: Please do not read this comment with beverages anywhere near you keyboard.

    *****

    Warm memories of hearth and home…

    “Living in a land where there is a hell of a chance neither he nor his children will ever be able to truly belong…”

    One wonders if that has not somehow changes in light of the recent votes that have been tallied.

    As one of your faithful readers, I’m a still a little perplexed by the actions you describe coming from the man from the northeast.

    “This man reached out to me, gently took hold of my hand, lifted it and extended a finger. I did the same. I wasn’t even sure why. I just did. I looked at our fingers, two parallel lines suspended above the table littered with cups and glasses, bagel crumbs and and fruit peels, and I realized what he was pointing at, or rather pointing out.”

    A person doesn’t get any further north and east than Maine.

    Perhaps I’m just being childishly naïve.

    With hope,
    Will

    PS
    Just thought you might enjoy a little humor for the cynicism.
    It seemed to fit.
    Okay, I’ll stop now.

    • Locohama 8 November 2012 at 5:58 pm Permalink

      LMMFAO!!! You mean all this time he was making a pass at me?? Damn…
      Thanks for the shout Will! That was indeed a relief to the growing cynicism.
      Actually I was already on the mend as you’ll see in part two (-; coming soon

  6. old hippie 10 November 2012 at 12:02 pm Permalink

    The day after the election I tuned into Rush Limbaugh just so I could listen to a grown man cry [some of his ditto-head callers were]. Rush was telling his sock-puppets that only THEY were patriotic Americans. Hmmm, and I’m not? He had at one time promised to move to Costra Rica if Obama was re-elected, so what’s he waiting for, the door to hit him on the ass as he finally waddles away?

  7. kamo 14 November 2012 at 10:58 am Permalink

    Too much red? Try this – http://fuckyeahcartography.tumblr.com/post/35553983905/dormauz-the-us-electoral-map-resized-to

    It’s a question of perspective, as ever…


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