Tuesday, January 20, 2009

critically hopeful in the age of Obama...si se puede!

marjorie says...

In his inauguration speech, Obama right off the mark made clear his awareness that—unlike some of the others who’ve taken the oath of office before him—he assumes the role during troubled times:
…every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. … So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
Wait. That’s my generation. Lost in the momentousness of this election, I had somehow not registered that Obama, while slightly older than myself, is part of my generation.
I’ll leave it to the human geographers to explain what that means on a macro level. But for myself, I think it means I’m vested.
Ever somewhat itinerate—someone who lingers on the outside, gravitates to the back of the room--the flash of that notion in my mind was a touch jarring. Just sort of...wow. I suspect this election caused a lot of people to have a similar experience—of suddenly feeling vested, responsible, connected.
So many are emotional about Obama. But I find that I’m emotional about my friends—the ones like Dave, who is Obama’s age and voted for the first time, who followed the contest like he previously only followed sports—and who had to pop in on my instant messenger today to simply say “he’s president.”
An affirmation was most certainly in order. Is in order.
Si se puede!
I have radical community organizing friends who are celebrating an American president today. Can I dwell for a moment on just how remarkable that is—given that we’re speaking of the seat of world power?
Such moments fill me with happiness, at the same time I’m already moving toward the hard task of being counter –it’s just a fact—to this remarkable man.
What I know is that this thing has multiple facets. One facet is great pride in what we have achieved. I can be there with you all in this sentiment, without reserve.
But another is that this is also a façade, in many ways, that masks what we have to always be cognizant of: that, yes, we are indeed talking about the center of power. And as long as such a thing exists there also exists an “outside of power.”
And that requires a critical perspective, always.
However, before I go there, I’ll point you to what I loved the most about Obama’s speech today—the part that actually does give me “hope” about him. That's his own shout-out to the unknown laborers who built this country. Somehow, I really think he means it.

…it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. 
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth. 
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. 
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked 'til their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.