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Obama: It’s Just a Ride


[Election night 2008]

I teared up several times today. The first was at the polling place in Arlington VA. Even with the gray skies and perpetual drizzle the clean semi-urban streets of Virginia Square were crackling with positive, almost euphoric energy. What got me first were the faces of a couple of young black girls with their souls seemingly about to jump out of their flesh: they were an inspiration. This was followed by a couple of frail elderly white women decked out in Obama gear, with shaky hands and watered eyes.

Another moment was when I was actually voting for Obama. It wasn’t my belief in “change” so much as it was my memory of voting for Kerry four years ago and then quietly weeping around four in the morning that night, with anticipation of everything that eventually did happen.

And I’ll confess: tonight at work Obama got me a couple of times. And not just Obama. The shots of various citizens with tears of joy and relief caused several involuntary quivers of the lip.

However, here is another confession of a subject that only my wife and a couple of ex-girlfriends know: I cry at romantic comedies. It’s true. I’m incredibly sentimental, sensitive and a believer in the redemptive powers of love, beauty, imagination, play, art and believing in the seemingly impossible. To borrow from Bill Hicks, (this blog title was borrowed from him) we can believe the show because “thats just how powerful our minds are.”

In the case of the romantic comedy, however, one must accept that it’s just a show. One can certainly enjoy the show and laugh, cry dream. We all need moments of relief from Daily Life and the ability to open up mental space to imagine, but as grown-ups we must never allow our minds to blur the lines too drastically. As adults we must live in the real world mentally, emotionally and materially.

We all watched a well scripted media spectacle tonight that was constructed by the same institutions, class and culture that we appose with every molecule of our flesh and every yearning of our spirits. From Obama’s 2004 DNC speech to tonight, he was recruited, vetted, groomed, guided and invested in by a system that is so much more agile and resilient than we ever acknowledge.

Sure, we saw the Christian Right thrown under the bus tonight, but so what: when it’s useful to use them again the power structure will re-invest. The metronome clicks to the right, left, right, left…

Sisters and brothers, as much as I enjoyed the show tonight and as much as it felt nice to “win” our work for ecological, racial, gender, social and economic justice has just become so much harder. Obama just convinced a few million people to believe. He convinced them to believe again that the ride was real.

“The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly coloured and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “Hey – don’t worry, don’t be afraid ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up. We have a lot invested in this ride. Shut him up. Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and my family. This just has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter, because – it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”

-Bill Hicks

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