Monday, January 19, 2009

Perhaps the Greatest Song Ever Written About Our Home

Performed by two of the greatest musicians to come from it -- and a vast chorus of its citizens, come to celebrate the renewal of that home in an hour of great peril:

(via, and also, and also... (& here's context for one bit))

It feels like a national holiday Tuesday, a renewal, a solstice after eight years of darkness. Indeed, I suspect that it is not just parochialism speaking if I say that it is probably not just a national holiday: given the role America plays on the world stage, given the inspiration we can be at our best and the horror we can commit at our worst, I bet that there are people around the world who feels like it is almost a world holiday. (Bono captured this aspect -- Digby has the video -- when he declared that Martin Luther King's dream was also an Irish dream, a European dream, an African dream, an Israeli dream and a Palestinian dream.) At any rate, for us here, it is a festival.

A day of independence. The fourth of July in midwinter.

I have said many times that Obama will disappoint me (and us, for any us) bitterly, and often -- in some instances he already has. But he also embodies hope -- hope of the America that has never been, and yet will be: the America that stands for the self-evident truths that all people are created equal, that governments are meant to be of the people, by the people, for the people. The America not only of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but of Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, too.

Nobody living can ever stop me
As I go walking that freedom highway
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me

He is hope after eight years of leadership that could hardly have done worse for our country if they had set out deliberately to destroy it; and he is hope for a part of our people who have ever been cut out of the American dream, the people for whom -- as the new saying goes -- Rosa sat and Martin walked.

Obama is a politician: but he is also a symbol. Politicians are always corrupted, flawed, imperfect, disappointing. But symbols are always perfect.

He is a symbol of the best of our country -- our home. Of the land that really is made for you and me. A symbol of what we want our country to be, and what we want it to mean.

Obama has inherited Pandora's mantle: all the troubles in a bitterly troubled world, with only the small thread of hope to keep him going. I hope it's enough for him: more could not be riding on a single man.

The forces that tore our country down for eight years, domestic and foreign, political and economic and natural and human, will be at him from 12:01 tomorrow, and will do their best to strangle the hope he represents in its crib. We will have to fight the politician Obama in order to keep faith with the symbol. It is not a prospect that is aided by romanticism.

But for tomorrow, I'm going to let myself smile.

And hope.

Yes we can.

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