Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Yes We Can (Kailua-Style)

Today the US primary season takes place in Hawaii. In this regard, it's important to remember that Obama was born here on the same island that I am writing this blog entry from (Oahu) and that this is the most ethnically diverse state in America. The state is so ethnically diverse that it's hard not to imagine Obama's energy and momentum gaining yet more steam once the votes here are tallied. As a recent article in the Associated Press quoted his sister as saying, "Hawaii is the place that gave him the ability to ... understand people from a wide array of backgrounds [...] People see themselves in him ... because he himself contains multitudes."

That is a direct reference to Whitman who in Songs of Myself sings:
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.
There is this pervasive sense of Obama transcending and in transcending inviting the American people to ascend with him, to reimagine their sense of purpose so that they can participate in something larger than themselves.

For example, a commercial running in Hawaii ends with the tag-line "We Can Change the World." Not just America, but the world.

It's as if we were all forming the ultimate garage band whose breakthrough concept album can be summed up as American Transcendentalism meets Songs of Ourselves meets We Have A Dream and the lead vocalist is Rock Obama. Do we want to share the stage with him?

(Obama ends his speeches by telling his audience "I love you" instead of the cronyistic "May God Bless America")

The AP news story makes note of the fact that
In his 1995 memoir, "Dreams from My Father," Obama wrote about growing up with the island's unique food and culture: poi and roast pig, choice cuts of aku for sashimi and spearfishing off Kailua Bay.
Even before I started living in Kailua, I was attracted to the potential of Obama's candidacy to introduce yet another, new and improved version of America to the world, and was hopeful that what the pundits refer to as his "poetry" and "oratory skills" would connect with people not just rhetorically but also creatively (i.e. would stimulate creative collaboration among diverse groups of citizens to do great things for Planet Earth). He does not preach blind optimism as much as he reintroduces the world to an America that exercises poetic candor and goes against the wayward drift of a more divisive fear-mongering while simultaneously tapping into what we can only hope is a more sensible measure of who we are as a people.

When one listens to him speak and begins drilling down to the nuts and bolts of his policy content and the deliberative nature of his thoughts as expressed in the formal rhythms of his powerful oratory, what they find is a rare politician indeed, one who is definitely a creative spirit who knows his time is now but who also moves beyond himself and tells us that "we are what we have been waiting for."

Obama remixes that crazy wisdom from something he picked up from Maria Shriver who credited it to the Hopi Indians. And yet isn't it ironic that the old-fashioned Clinton campaign, though right on so many of the issues, suffers from a charisma-deficit and seems so totally out of touch with the contemporary zeitgeist while in surprisingly desperate acts of throwing Hail Mary cheap shots at Obama tries to insult his eloquent originality as a candidate by attempting to paint him as a plagiarist? Obama did not plagiarize lines from Deval Patrick but selectively sampled and remixed them into his own rhetorical drift. He even acknowledged back in December that "...you know in the end, don’t vote your fears. I’m stealing this line from my buddy (Massachusetts Gov.) Deval Patrick who stole a whole bunch of lines from me when he ran for the governorship, but it’s the right one, don’t vote your fears, vote your aspirations. Vote what you believe." Political brothers gonna work it out, remix-style.

Although we always risk projecting our own dreams and desires onto our most profoundly illuminating political leaders only to see them eventually succumb to moneyed pressures outside of their control and consequently disappoint us time and time again, one cannot help but wonder if this time it may not be different.

The American story need not always devolve into a nationalistic story, a paternalistic story, an oligarchic story, and certainly not a torture story. But the narrative has gotten away from us and those excremental hacks and bed-wetting security freaks who would write our future for us have played on our fears for far too long now.

I am reminded of Whitman and write this improv poem in the margins of his own democractic approach to the poetic potential of the American dream:
Think of those restful souls
hiding in their Hawaiian huts
hallucinating day-glo sunrise
eating fresh caught ahi poke
while listening to the birds
excel in their chattering masses

This is where the sleeping volcano
quietly rumbles while patiently
inmixing the hot love lava
flowing within all dynamic forces

A trade wind of revolution
a beauty beyond authenticity

An evolutionary biologist's dream
leapfrogging centuries of impossibility

That should we make a run for it
and jump to all spots on the map
where scores of heartfelt minds coalesce
behind the well-managed day-tripper
whose stunning illuminations
will realign the spontaneous order

Reminds us how a leaf of grass may whisper

"I am an acme of things accomplished,
and I am enclosed of things to be"

We will hear echo across the oceans
waves of refrain lapping on restful shores

We Can

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