Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unapologetically Pro-Obama

Today Paige and I took our son Noah to see the next president of the United States, Barack Obama, at a rally in Portland, Oregon. Here are Noah and Paige in a line that snaked its way through a dozen city blocks:

Outside the Obama Rally - Share on Ovi

It was a hot day. The weather report said it would be 82 degrees, but it felt a lot hotter. Still, 75,000 people came out, according to the local news. 75,000 people! There are only about 3.5 mil in the whole state of Oregon, and about 568,000 in Portland. Paige and I attended a Peace March in Portland back in '03 that had about 30,000 show up, and that felt huge, but the people were distributed across the city in a long march. In this case, all the folks were right down at the riverfront. Here's a shot of the crowd ahead of us, between us and the stage. We were pretty close, because we showed up two hours before they started letting people in, and four hours before Obama spoke. We lost our great spot because Noah had to go to the bathroom and we didn't want to get separated. Still, from this spot we could still see him clearly and hear him very well through the nearby loudspeakers. Here's the crowd:

Crowd at Obama Rally - Share on Ovi

Before Obama came out, we got to hear the Decemberists, a band I really like. They only played five or six songs, but they sounded great and had us all singing by the end. I was particularly pleased because they played a bunch of my favorites, beginning with "Crane Wife 3" and ending with "Sons and Daughters". Paige was impressed that they sounded so much like their studio stuff (in a good way). Noah just enjoyed sitting on Daddy's shoulders and dancing. At the end of "Sons and Daughters" thousands of us sang, "Here all the bombs/ They fade away." That was a neat moment in itself.

Then Barack came out, and the crowd went crazy. It was hard to get a shot through the signs.

Fired Up At Obama Rally - Share on Ovi

I caught this one in a moment when people were simply rapt:

Rapt At Obama Rally - Share on Ovi

The speech was moving. Near the end, I found myself almost in tears. In an email to a friend, I dismissed this as heat-induced delirium, but that was just machismo. When Barack spoke about all the benefits his family had received from the government, from his grandfather's G.I.Bill which bought their home, to the loans his mother received to go to college, to the food stamps which fed them when his single mom had trouble making ends meet, he essentially created a list of the kinds of big-government programs conservatives hate. But, he explained, despite the fact that we are a fiercely independent people as Americans, when we are at our best we lift one another up. I can't find a transcript of the speech online yet, and I'm sure it won't read as well as it sounded. There were no earth-shattering new ideas, though he didn't shy away from some specific policy issues. More than anything, I was struck by just how unabashedly liberal he is. He believes government can actually be a vehicle by which we help one another, if we have the passion to get involved and the compassion to care enough to make the government work for us instead of against us. For so much of my life the conservatives have pounded their plutocratic ideas about "welfare queens" into our heads, and moderate Democrats have tried to run as shadow Republicans, it was so refreshing to see a candidate who actually talks about government assistance without ridiculing poor, disempowered people for our lack of personal responsibility. Also, it's exhilarating to see someone who can talk about service to this country and not limit that to only military service. Finally, it's wonderful to have an option on the ballot who openly talks about avoiding quick fixes, and who is willing to spend political capital looking for long-term solutions. I don't know if he can deliver long-term solutions, but I do think he already has a huge head start on all the other politicians who aim only for the easiest pander and the most cosmetic policy changes. I'm sold. Fired up and ready to go. And dreading another crushing disappointment if this country fails another national IQ test yet again. But couldn't we start making good choices as a nation? Could we stop hating our own poor and treating the rest of the world like smaller children on a playground? Couldn't we make our country, if not the kind of place our kids deserve, at least a little better than the hellish Ann Rand theo-fascist dystopia ultra-conservatives fantasize about? Can't we believe in the possible, instead of settling? Please say, "Yes We Can!" Please?

Obama In Portland - Share on Ovi


Anonymous said...

From Bill - I'm glad you guys got to see him in person. I felt the same way when he came to Boise, and I'll share some lack of machismo with you, I too was almost brought to tears. It's amazing to listen to a politician and feel a sense of hope for our future. His words do feel honest and it feels like he is willing to do some hard work to turn this country around (not just coming in on weekends occasionally). It's sad that our country's politics are in such a state than I can't even look at Obama without some skepticism, but I hope and pray that he is what he presents himself as, and if he is, and if we elect him, we should see some amazing things.

BTW - 75k is alot, but we should expect that from Oregon/Portland. I'm still more impressed with the 15k in Boise.

laurenj said...

awesome! I am so pleased that oregon is going to have a strong and leading role in this crazy process this year - who would have guessed!?!?! Bummer I can't vote there anymore. biggest rally yet??? Rock on!!!

busyfeet said...

Very well said, Ben. When we saw Obama in Eugene, he made me teary-eyed, too, and it resurfaced when reading your blog. Thanks! I just love that guy: inspiring, educated, wise, and compassionate (in the true sense of the word, not as its been co-opted in recent years). Go Obama!!

Cindy in St Louis said...

I wish I sould have been there. I am one of your "onemillionmyspace friendsforObama08". But I live in St. Louis. Do you think he will will Oregon tonight?? I hope he will. I heard that there is a speech planned in Iowa..kind of a back to the beginning. YES WE CAN...Fired up..Ready to GO