I’m cycling through websites and cable news channels like a man with extreme OCD issues. The election is consuming me, eating up most of my brain activity. Sitting through both parts of Steven Soderbergh’s Che this weekend, I couldn’t help seeing the films through the prism of this election – the first film, which is about the momentum-filled rise of Guevara during the Cuban Revolution, is an allegory for the Obama campaign. The second film, with Guevara facing endless hardship as he tries to bring the revolution to Bolivia and is saddled with a disintigrating campaign and unhelpful populaces, plays as an allegory for McCain/Palin. At the afterparty I told Soderbergh my thesis. ‘You said it, not me,’ he smiled.
It’s hard for me to concentrate on anything else. And it’s not that I’m ‘psyched’ about the election. I’m terrified. I look at the polls and see that Obama looks to have this one in the bag, see that hope is just on the horizon. But I never discount the bad guys’ abilities to fuck everything up. I feel like I’m at the end of a Friday the 13th movie, looking at the body of Jason Voorhees – you just know that motherfucker is about to spring up at any moment.
At this point I’m feeling real stress. Actual, gut-wrenching stress. What’s worse is that I’m also mostly optimistic – I honestly don’t know how I’ll react if McCain suddenly wins. That’s too much to consider, especially because I think that a lot of people won’t take it lying down. The nation is right on the edge of a major break, and a bizarre out of nowhere McCain victory could be what sends it all over.
But I have to keep thinking positive. I’m not a completely naive fool – I don’t expect flowers to start blooming as soon as the final electoral vote is in for Obama. But I’m seeing our last best hope. The next four years will be tough, no matter who is in office, and I think that the truth here is that Obama will be the guy who does the least damage and not necessarily fixes the most things. But there is one thing he’ll fix, and that’s us, as a nation. At least a little. The effect of having an inspirational leader cannot be underestimated, especially as we’re moving into times where it seems more and more obvious that the American Century is over and that we’re about to enter a period where we’re not the biggest kids on the block anymore. These are the post-America days, and I want to have a president who makes me feel pro-American during them.
And its the last hope for the nation to show its true colors. I know that America has a lot of fucked up people with a lot of fucked up ideas, and that it has a lot of people who care about themselves and their taxes more than other people going bankrupt while trying to not die of cancer, but I also think that America is a nation that, at its heart, is progressive and optimistic. It’s easy to scare people, which has been the case for the last eight years, but it’s better to inspire them. And that’s what Barack Obama has been doing and will, I hope, continue to do while in office.
There’s a scene in Gus Van Sant’s Milk that sums it all up. Harvey Milk keeps making goes at elected positions in San Francisco, and while he’s built a potent political machine and keeps earning record numbers of votes, he can’t win. After a debate with an opponent where he presses on gay safety issues, the opponent takes him aside. ‘I know what you’re against, Harvey,’ he says. ‘But what are you for? You have to give the people some hope.’
It’s nice to feel hope. After eight dark, scary years, it’s nice to again think about a future that could bring something brighter, a future that we can look forward to instead of cower from. Again, times are going to be tough all around, as our nation’s predilections for the destructive, ignorant policies of Republicans have gotten us into a deep hole economically, politically and ecologically. But if America comes through for itself tomorrow, we can begin working our way out of that hole come January.
Let’s have hope.