Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Start Me Up!

Lee Dorsey--"Yes We Can Can" (mp3)

Ok, I've fallen behind the curve once again, for the umpteenth time in my life. I haven't really been paying attention to all of this inauguration stuff, haven't gotten caught up in the excitement, didn't feel the pull to go to D.C.

As far as I can tell, the reason why is that I somehow got it into my head that the election victory was the be-all and end-all experience. In fact, I haven't paid attention to much of anything politically since Nov. 4th. An occasional nod to cabinet appointments, a mild interest in Chicago politics, an inexplicable sense of compassion for George W. Bush.

The election campaign was a war for me, a 6-8 year war, depending on how I look at it. It involved some real bitterness with members of my family, especially my father. It involved having to do a lot of reading and reasoning and debating just to stay current on every situation so that when the attacks came, I was prepared. Just as much, it involved keeping my mouth shut, not taking the bait, overlooking the insults. I admit, I wasn't always good at that. But my father and I were able to create kind of a "split-level" relationship: via email, we said most of whatever we wanted to, but in person, especially sitting at Panera each Sunday morning, we were friendly and often agreeable. But I would be lying if I said that the campaign didn't take a toll.

And then I ran out of gas.

To make matters worse, the Democratic party, the Obama campaign, David Plouffe, whomever, kept sending me emails and kept asking me for money and my only internal reaction as I deleted each one was "Please leave me alone; I gave when you needed it and now I think this really cheapens you to keep asking for more money. It makes you all seem like the politicians that I don't want to believe that you are."

But now we have our new president and, from the first words out of his mouth once sworn in, he has already started speaking my language:

"Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

And.

"And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it."

And.

"We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all."

I sat in a classroom today where a student starting talking kind of off the cuff about the purposelessness of his life and how he wanted to "do things" but that he didn't quite know what those things were. Probably George W. Bush's biggest mistake, of the many he made, was in not asking Americans to sacrifice after 9/11. He sent us back to the malls. He removed us from the quotient, which was probably easier, but he removed us from the struggle, too, and got apathy in return.

I suspect that others of you, like me, may have some pretty good sense of what you want to accomplish in your own lives, but in 2009, I think we have very little sense of what we should do as citizens.

I like Obama's phrase from his speech today, "the price and promise of citizenship." I hope it's not just a phrase.

Dude, quit asking me for money and cash my citizenship check instead. Start me up.

Lee Dorsey's "Yes We Can Can" comes from The Oxford Magazine's Southern Sampler #1.

1 comment:

troutking said...

I wish I'd read this entry earlier. Then I'd have gotten off my couch and helped plant trees by the Brainerd tunnel. Gotta do better. Love this Lee Dorsey song! Time to visit iTunes...or my Russian friends.