"Just focus! The Alliance said they were gonna waltz through Serenity Valley and we choked 'em with those words. We've done the impossible and that makes us mighty! Just a little while longer, our angels are gonna be soaring overhead raining fire on those arrogant cod, so you hold! You hold! Go!"
Sgt. Malcolm Reynolds
Serenity Valley, Hera
500 Years From Now (More or less)
Call it the scifi nerd in me. Call it a telephone-addled flight of whimsy. The quivering anticipation that has built up around the next election cycle has reached into my tired brain for the inspiration of an apt metaphor, and Joss Whedon happened to be there. Shocker. Even more shocking (and some would say, ominous) is that the quote that lept to the fore was from Joss’ conssumate rebel, Malcolm Reynolds, who in the lamentably short-but-brilliant (THANKS A FUCKTON, FOX!) post-apocalyptic sci-fi western Firefly, and the triumphant second incarnation Serenity, is on the losing side of a nasty interstellar war.
Point of information. Didn’t say he was on the wrong side. Said he was on the losing side. And it makes a difference.
It wasn’t until today, when I watched the grim determination on the faces of two of my fellow Obama Dads that it hit me, how much like the fictional insurgent Independence movement Obama’s campaign has been (they’re called Browncoats, after the common, dirt-colored brown coats the rebels wore – a term also used to give the Firefly fandom it’s name), and how much like the gnawing paternalism of the fictional Alliance (The purple-uniformed bad guys the Browncoats fought) Hillary’s campaign has been.
And this last battle between the two titans is proving to be the biggest test of our movement’s sheer grit, resolve and determination since the last last battle. It’s a hard, heady feeling, to be part of a revolution – even a soft one. But that’s what’s happening, and the confident self-assuredness of my fellow Obamaphiles is heartening. We’ve all made calls. We’ve all donated money and found others to do likewise. We’ve all spoken to that handful of stubborn relatives who are unsure or ill-informed. We’ve done what we can. Now it’s foxhole time. Nothing left to do but hunker down and fight like hell.
It’s hard not to see this as a struggle, or even a revolution, at this point. And its not the candidate that is revolutionary – it’s the movement that has grown up around him. Obama and his team have given us solid encouragement to band together, educate ourselves, take ownership of the campaign, network outside of "official" campaign channels, and the result has unleashed a flood of grass-roots political support that has repeatedly stood toe-to-toe with the most battle-hardened, "experienced" candidate in the Party and not just resist . . . but actually persist in winning.
Hillary had the money. She had the infrastructure. She had the older and wiser heads of the DLC, a rolodex full of high profile names and a bucketful of favors she could cash in. It should have been a cakewalk. She should have put the annoyance of "also rans" behind her after Super Tuesday, graciously accepting their endorsements and planning her cabinet selections and inaugural gown. Instead she ran into a thick wall of pure Obama, and it knocked her down -- hard.
He wasn’t supposed to have been capable. He was the new Black voice in the Party, but he wasn’t supposed to have been more than a token, a political heir to Jesse Jackson with a soothing broadcast English accent. He was new and untried, dripping with potential but in need of seasoning – the rationales for his inevitable failure no doubt flew as thick and furious as Mark Penn. They had this planned out – he wasn’t supposed to be that good. Or have that much money.
But they never figured a genuine bona fide movement would spring up like it did. A movement that provided a self-sustaining passion that grew with each victory – and each defeat. Hillary was the establishment candidate, the one with the best possible chance. Everyone knew that. Ickes and Penn and Clintons and Carville and every other DLC-clinging pol knew that there was no way that this long shot could sustain a candidacy against the mighty Clinton Alliance. It was impossible.
But state by state, delegate by delegate, call by call and handshake by handshake we have done the impossible and that makes us mighty.
Mighty. That’s a word you don’t see tossed around much anymore – one reason Whedon’s stuff in Firefly and Serenity is such an artistic joy is all of the archaic 19th Century lingo he adds to the mix (along with swearing in Chinese – don’t ask). The speech patterns are poetical and the words, while strange in our ears sometimes, make subtle emotional points with an artistry that all future television writers should be forced to study by law. Reynolds proclaims the universal truth: do the impossible, that makes you mighty. Not invincible. Not inevitable. But damn worthy of note and gorram proud of your accomplishments. (Gorram? Don’t ask. I'm on a roll.)
The occasion of the speech is the seminal event for Reynolds, the last, climactic battle in the mythical war that has lasted mythical years. The battle has raged for weeks and has stalled because a few meager and tenacious Browncoats were holding off a substantially larger and better equipped force of purple-wearing bad-guys. Whedon’s reluctant hero in Firefly is a passionate true believer in both God and the cause of Independence from paternalistic central authority when this scene opens. And his speech is designed to rally his beleaguered troops for yet one more sortie against the Alliance.
Okay, it’s no "band of brothers" ode – Whedon was writing for broadcast television, after all – but Reynolds’ emotional opening scene sets the tone for the entire creative franchise. It sustained a rapidly growing fanbase into a unique specimen (the show was cancelled about the time we were discussing invading Iraq and it has more fans now by orders of magnitude). Delivered with cunning emotional precision by the extraordinarily talented Nathan (I’d so be gay for him) Fillion, you’ve got as memorable a sci-fi moment there as when Luke found out what an asshole his dad really was.
We have done the impossible. We have challenged the biggest, best funded, most politically adept campaign in modern history with websites and cell phones and rallies and parties and rock videos and a whole lot of personal connection. We have enlisted ourselves in a cause that is greater than ourselves, something we’ve wanted to do since 9/11 but were never given the opportunity or the encouragement to do. Our thoughts, resources, and skills have worked in conjunction with our comrades to affect change in the ‘verse.
We’re righteously pissed off over the stagnant corruption of the Bush Imperium, and we aren’t thrilled with the Establishment-prescribed alternative. No, we want real change, and after pulling in eleven consecutive victories and a record monstrous fundraising take in February, we can justly lay claim to the title "Mighty" regardless of the outcomes in Ohio and Texas.
We can see where this is going. If nominated, Hillary will unite the Right (who are even now preparing to vote for her to skew the result) and divide the Left. Hillary will depress the coattail effect dramatically, ensuring a sharply divided congress. Hillary will likely falter against McCain in the security and military realm, allowing any convenient crisis or incident to propel voters in his direction. Hillary has scandal-ridden Bill in tow, and Mark Penn grossly misreading the public’s mood. Her organization is in tatters, divided, she’s low on money and grasping at technicalities while she hurls the kitchen sink. Hillary will gamble the best shot the Democrats have had in two generations on a Rovian 51% strategy and – quite possibly – lose on just the sort of technicality she’s trying to produce against Obama.
And then there’s us. We new potential Democrats who sprang out of the woodwork in rebellion to the current Administration and rallied around Obama so passionately – passionately because of his passion. We aren’t going to be able to generate the same passion for Hillary. Some of us won’t even try. Some of us would rather vote McCain or third party or just stay home, content that one ending to the Bush fiasco is probably going to be good as another, as long as it finally ends. But that’s not the ending we want to see. We’re done with the status quo and are ready to kick some political ass and take some political names.
We won’t follow her the way we followed him, because he showed us that we are Mighty while she tried to make us doubt in a tearful chorus of cynicism, make us feel weak and fearful of the big bad GOP. Hillary "Don’t get your hopes up" Clinton has consistently tried to dampen our enthusiasm while parroting our passion, but it just sounds hollow and insincere coming out of her mouth. And when she tries it just makes us more determined. Make one more call. Talk to one more friend. Make one more crappy homemade campaign sign. We knew it would be hard, but we enjoy the struggle. Hillary might be a fighter, but so are we – we just needed someone to show us.
My friends and I aren’t worried. Obama’s got some right smart folks toting water for him, and a purse full of coin. The numbers are in his favor. The momentum is in his favor. The weather is in his favor. It is highly unlikely she’ll pull out any kind of meaningful victory, and will at best be able to spin any defeat into yet another rationale for why she lost and why it doesn’t really matter. Still, it could happen, and we know it – which is why we’re preparing to hold, hold and push back, just like the Browncoats did at Serenity Valley on a prematurly cancelled one-season TV space western. Like I said, we’re enjoying the struggle.
But regardless of what happens on Tuesday, you don’t forget that you’re Mighty, once you realize it. Not for long. We all know what needs to happen here, and the average Obamaphile is more than willing to use our Might to ensure it. Even in defeat, Malcolm Reynolds never gave up on the principals that had inspired him to fight an insidious paternalistic power, and in defeat he remembered the power he found in the fight and it made him stronger. We Obama folks have done the same. Some of us, at any rate.
Malcolm: (explaining why he was wearing a dress in the middle of a savage firefight instead of his totally hot first officer) Tactics, woman. Needed her in the back. 'Sides, those soft cotton dresses feel kinda nice. It's the whole... air-flow.
OK. I admit. Some of Mal Reynolds’ speeches are more inspirational than others.
But check out Firefly, if you’re ignorant. Best gorram sci-fi TV show in the whole frickin’ ‘verse.
And get out the vote tomorrow.
And you HOLD.