Wednesday, September 3, 2008

It's Real—Beta Release Version

It's Real—Beta Release Version

I Said Someone Would Have To Pinch Me To Prove What Happened On Thursday Was Real. Someone Did.
Hand of Sara Robinson pinching mine (LowerManhattanite's) at 8:47 p.m., Thursday, August 28th, 2008. Photo by Jesse “Doc” Wendel.

Those four days in Denver last week (of which I was there for two of them) were a lot of things.

They were...a stupendous triumph of stagecraft, starting with the charming Obama daughters talking to Daddy long-distance onstage as Michelle Obama looked on, right down to the final day's large-scale event-wrangling—Thursday, when Barack Obama spoke at Invesco field.

They were...thanks to the vigorous speeches from Sen. Hillary Clinton, and the former President, Mr. Clinton, a rusted knife in the heart to the so-called “PUMA” (Party Unity My Ass) movement, sprung from the minds of single-issue crypto-racist Dems and rat-fucking wingnuts bent on rending the Democratic party like bleach-softened fabric.

They were...a star-bereft GOP's nightmare, contrasting the oratorical might of Obama2, a vivacious Hillary and typically graceful, but pointed Bill Clinton, a “where the hell was that dude in 2004?” John Kerry, and a peppery Joe Biden with the doddering McCain who would stumble over the syllables in the word “the” with nineteen teleprompters in front of him, and his “yup-yup”-ing running mate, the proudly dim Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as well as the human plywood that is Mitt Romney.

They were not the second coming of “Chicago '68” as Rush Limbaugh and the rest of his doom-wishing, pointy-hooded pals on the right were wearing out pairs of kneecaps praying for. There was no rioting or anything close to it, save for maybe the post Obama-speech parking-lot clusterfuck where media shuttles disaappeared like frosty cans of Coors™ beer down a sweltering mountain man's gullet, leaving people covering the convention stranded for a good while. There was no last-minute, super-delegate chicanery with a “Come to Kleagle” moment where those specially powered functionaries would chuck the “brotha” over the side to the sharks, and feed the tins of caviar rescued from the sinking ship to an “Unsinkable Hillary Clinton”.

And for those most color-struck among us...those for whom Public Enemy's “Fear Of A Black Planet” or Spike Lee's “Do The Right Thing” still elicit a trickle of adrenalined piss down their pasty, bandy legs, it was not the post-OJ verdict “celebration moment” they predicted with Black folks running wild in the streets, just knowing that salvation had come, and with that, the long-awaited forty acres, the mule, a brand-new Cat-i-illac (as interest) and have mercy—some gub'mint he'p with dem bills. “We's rich, bee-yotch!” (Two tugs on the old semi's air-horn please!)

I was there, Thank God, and thanks to you readers, who kicked in during fundraising time and enabled us to go to Denver and cover the convention. We saw and felt. We recorded and remembered.

We experienced. I experienced.

What will always stand out for me, this first political convention I have ever been present for personally, was the variety of people I saw coming together. Oh yes...there were disruptors. Fred Phelps's 'Truck Full O' Hate' garishly “cruised” Denver's downtown, dripping freshly stenciled bigotry, and yes, a few toothless “mountain cats” staggered out of their dens hoping to cause a ruckus in the Mile High City's streets, only to find their raspy yowls drowned out by everything about them.

“Reverend” Fred Phelps' 'Truck Full O' Hate' driving through Denver's downtown 1:55 p.m. Thursday, August 28th, 2008. Photo by LowerManhattanite

But I saw people galore, from every background there in Denver. One thing that I was conditioned to see, I had to pretty much re-think because of reality. I fully expected the gathering to be the usual overwhelming, pink-hued freeze-out that events like this usually are, where dusky faces are picked out by eagle-eyed spotters in network control rooms to focus on from time to time so as to make us feel better about the typical / tragic exclusion. That wasn't the case here. Save for what represented the main-stream media, I was able to spot “chips in the cookie” all over the place—in the delegate crowds, in the blogger ranks (Pam and Terrance from Pam's House Blend, André from Georgia Politics Unfiltered who I thankfully could not help stumbling across repeatedly during my 48 hours in the mountain west clouds.) and among those who simply came 'to see, and to be' as it were. I'll not forget the two women I came across on my turbulent (literally and emotionally) journey home. I found myself on the intra-terminal shuttle at Denver Intl. Airport and in my car there was myself and two Black women. One was a delegate from Maryland who worked tirelessly for the Obama campaign and thanks to her hard work, nabbed a seat at Invesco to see...well, history being made. The other was a woman from Georgia who simply came because according to her, “she just had to be there to see this.” She was no in-campaign functionary. Just a regular person who wanted to experience something. She came without a ticket to Invesco, and knew no one there. but by sheer pluck, and a storm of luck, she wound up winning in the ticket lottery to see the speech in person. The three of us bonded over the “history” of what we'd witnessed.

The Georgia woman wistfully mused “I wish my daddy was here so he could see this”.

Pam's House Blend's Terrance spoke of bringing his son to D.C. come inauguration time “so he could see history” also.

I too, have talked about the unlikeliness of this whole story spooling out as it has.

We're not drama queens for seeing the bigness of this casting its shadow over us all.

The realness of what seems poised to happen—an African American being voted into the presidency, while the country's Black population remains at or slightly below it's percentage of the general populace (10-12%) is a soul-deep sea-change for we “who are darker than blue” here in America. I'm not aged, but I'm old enough to where the images of dogs being sicced on folks who look like me for daring to claim their rights as human beings happened in my lifetime. The murder of Martin Luther King Jr, is vivid for me. I can still see the plumes of smoke curlicuing into Harlem's sky as heartbreak and anger set police cars ablaze. My mother and her brothers, scarred by the ugly de-humanizing murder of Emmitt Till, fled the Jim Crow south as fast as Greyhound could take them in the sixties. All of that and more in the years hence—forty-one unpunished shots, the recent years' “noose-a-paloozas”, and Texas' James....Byrd...had pretty much inured us to the certain reality that this country for all its progress was simply not ready for what seems poised to happen in the first week of November. This thinking was not negativity, but simple pragmatism.

Stuff is what stuff is.

You accept reality and make what way you can in spite of it.

There are those who have sought to deny that reality over the years, as a laughable dodge for the soft continuance of the hard policies of state-sanctioned hate, so as to allow cover for their maintaining a self-benefiting status quo.

The reality remained for us. Hard and fast. And so very true. Never mind the clouding bits of stupidity rendered to give lie to the truth. Embarrassing charades like the installation of pitiful cardboard cut-outs of neo-negritude, such as the cipherous Clarence Thomas and Condoleezza Rice. Those condescending plays at egalitarianism only went over with the sooty-handed bigots who will hate “niggers” long after skittering, Strontium 90-ed cockroaches run our post-apocalyptic world, and maybe a few of our more psychologically damaged brothers and sisters—“Stockholmed” to beat the whole damned band. Most folks saw through those moves for the cynical, intelligence-insulting acts they were...these “installations”. They meant nothing.

But Obama's closeness to this “happening” is a game-changer for us all. Black folks primarily. I joked in my post last week about having to be pinched because this could not be real. And yet, one tweak from Sara later, and my eyes and ears having seen and heard what happened there in is real.

What does this mean for America?

Is she no longer racist? Will Officer Stacey Koon roll up to Rodney King's doorstep with a fruit basket, a mouthful of “sorrys” and a sackful of dough to settle up for unjustifiably beating him like a murderous, vanquished beast? I think not. We know not.

But this is something huge. Unlike the aforementioned “installations” of half-wit flunkies like Thomas and Rice, the selection of Obama is a consensus choice, and not a dictatorial one by fiat. People...a lot of people want this. And based on the empirical evidence, the majority of the “choosers” are more bubble gum-pink than “Tootsie Roll”-brown. We, as a country move like a massive ship when it comes to righting the wrongs that play to our prejudices. But move we do, as evidenced by the eventual end of Slavery, the extension of the vote to Blacks (and it's torturous journey to true weight) and women and so on. Those events, along with things like Jackie Robinson's shattering of the color barrier in baseball and so on, are seminal events. Hard points in a trail leading to equality. The possibility of Barack Obama's going where admittedly few have dared seeing someone like him go at this point in time is a turning of the corner in American history—if not a 90° degree turn, at least something of an drill-team's oblique move of several noticeable degrees.

Obama At The Podium—One Step Removed at 8:40 p.m., Thursday, August 28th, 2008. Photo by LowerManhattanite

When I saw and heard him wax Kennedy-on-reaching-the-moon-esque on that blue carpeted runway about ending our dependence on foreign oil in a decade, I was struck by his certitude. It was a line in the sand. A bold stroke like that moon-landing pledge, or Reagan's mantra of vanquishing the Soviets. This thing will not happen while he's in office, either . But he was talking in such a confident “this is the plan” / actualizing way that it was almost chilling when you consider its deeper, social implications. A Black man telling America “this is how it's going to be” and him not being felled by violence shortly thereafter is whether you like it or not, a radical departure for the land of the free and the home of the brave, dear readers.

And while I watched that stadium fill up from early that day, till late that night as the strobes and cameras flashed away like neurons firing in some massive hive-mind of peace, love and understanding, that fear I wrote about in January wasn't there in late August. Even with more people around him—twenty times that crowd at least, fear didn't overwhelm me as it did at winter's end in Iowa. Yes, he is NOT bullet-proof, and plots against him will be found out and the players involved—dipshitterifically dumb as they may be will be punished. But again...I did not feel that fear and worry and “brotha in the first reel of a slasher flick” sense of resigned “this-won't-end-well”-ism when I looked at him onstage. It wasn't any sort of overweening, newfound “Super-Pride in America™” either, that melted my realistic, doomsayer's heart.

It was the realization that people had “gotten on board” with him, and let a lot of the old, stupid shit that has so addled this country in its checkered (Black and White graphic pun unintended) 400-plus year history, go, just a bit. A majority of people were seriously listening to him as a person who could lead and help, and for once not looking at him as we have so many times before at those like him, as “that fancy-talkin' nigger” who makes me uncomfortable with my a.) intelligence or lack thereof, b.) my sense of place in the order of things class and race-wise in America, or c.) confronting this country's legacy of injustice. I know what I saw and heard in Denver. And it was not the usual. Whether it was the appreciation-caused temblors that unnerved many of us in the press boxes high above Invesco's playing field, or my catching a prominent, white-haired cable net Beltway regular (who has not been friendly to the Obama candidacy) with his chin in hand “Jack Benny”-style and nodding silent, unconscious approval at Obama's words as he stood two boxes down from us.

The people I saw swelling the ranks walking on the bridge to Invesco to see the speech, and whose numbers on the light rail cars would eventually make clear the reason they call light rail “light rail”—the overload so stressed the system on the C & E Line that it broke down for a while—spanned the rainow gamut, and their zeal to “be there” smacked of them wanting to prove something publicly. They wanted Denver, and all who were watching Denver that night to know that they believed. If not in necessarily in the man, then in the simple idea that something different has to be done in this country and that it at the very least requires someone who was himself different..

And something different is apparently necessary now. This country finds itself like that pitiful drunk who comes to in an piss-reeking alley—bruised, sore, bleeding from places one should not be and covered with ugly, new tattoos we don't understand the provenance of. We have hit rock bottom. The ruined economy. Our evaporated international prestige. A fractured military. The sundered safety net manifested by the post-disaster disaster of Katrina. And so on. This isn't so much an election, as it is an intervention.

AMERICA: (Pushes out chair gingerly, stands and says with a quaver in its voice) “Hello, I'm America. And I've been fucked to all hell by George W. Bush and his Nixon / Ford / Reagan-era retreads rocks-for-brains policies.”


When you bottom out, anything is possible when it comes to recovery. It can come from anywhere. Any place or person. And history in general—with conservatives' own chronicling being even more blunt (and inherently racism-fueled)—will not be kind to President George W. Bush. Our eight-year bender of rotgut stupid with his leaden hand at the bar will be remembered by those with a keen-ish eye as the catalyst for America's hyper-accelerated move forward in terms of who it shall consider worthy to seat in its most powerful chair. I don't think this country would be remotely ready for a person who looks like, and sounds like Barack Hussein Obama to lead it (and this is no knock against him, just a simple reality), were it not for the “Rick James on Eddie Murphy's Couch” (NSFW!) treatment of this country and all it stands for by this cavalier fool Bush and his pals. He will become the right's poster child for ineptitude because of what he will have cost them, and for the anathema his idiocy has allowed people to “gasp!” consider. Jimmy Carter held that mantle of the ultimate hate-object for them for decades, but has now emerged a senior statesman and humanitarian of the first order. Bush however...will giddily continue to fuck he has for as long as he's been hoped to be responsible. And he will stupidly continue to hammer his own thumb publicly unlike Carter who skillfully drove nails to build homes and eventually rehabilitate a legacy.

Which brings us back to Thursday. And what it meant.

And what it meant I don't think can be boiled down in one essay. It was about an obvious thirst for change and a return to a more caring time. It was about hope. And growth as a nation. It was about America herself, and what she will be and will not be as this new century gathers steam and rolls hard away from the previous one. It was about people traveling thousands of miles without a plan—just to be there. A happening. A call to all that something must happen now or we meet Rome's fate that much earlier. The stumble that goes to a topple, and the topple that becomes a tumble, and that tumble that goes out of control into a sudden flip over a bannister, into a flailing “Ending-of-Die-Hard” free-fall.

It was...a glimmer. A twinkling one, at the end of eight years—fourteen really when you consider the rise of Newt and the religious right in 1994 and how it sidetracked what could have been—or soul-killing, mind-numbing, country-damaging, freedom-fucking dark.

I was there, and I know what I saw. I could empathize with what people felt.

I found myself in Philadelphia's International Airport early on Friday morning, having caught a hellacious and memorable red-eye flight home a little after midnight after the convention's end. I was bleary-eyed, a little sore, and suffering from a delayed bout of Denver-caused altitude sickness that scarily hit me while on the plane. But I saw something as I de-planed to my connecting flight's gate that struck me. Something that book-ended everything perfectly for the trip. You see, aarriving in Denver, I saw the following jokey, pseudo-political ad in the airport about laptop privacy:

And coming home during the stopover in Philly, I saw this through the terminal windows.

Morning in Philadelphia, 6:38 a.m. Friday, August 29h, 2008. Photo by LowerManhattanite

A beautiful sunrise, washing gold over everything. I stood there dazed for a second, and fumbled for my camera and snapped it. Three times. This was the best of them.

I cocked my head sideways, taking it all in from different angles.

“Wow.”, a fellow stopover-flyer said as she looked on. “You snapped a good one.”

“Yeah. It is pretty.” I said.

“City of Brotherly Love.” she mused to no one in particular as she dragged her luggage on by.

And I thought for a moment about where I Philadelphia. The cradle of this country's birth as a nation...rooted (in word, if not in actual fact) in justice...and tolerance...and the quest to be better people, and a better place than from that which the Founding Fathers came.

It was morning. In Philadelphia. And from that point, it soon would be...all over America.