I thought I could only be happy voting for Hillary, but was prepared to vote Obama out of party loyalty and fear of McCain. Tonight, Barack Obama changed my mind.
Okay, I'm in. I get it. I will vote for Barack Obama. Not with hesitation, not with regret, but with the firm desire that he becomes the next President.
I don't quite honestly know if it was the speech he made or the biographic video that came before it, but at some point between the time Dick Durban left the stage and the time Michelle and the kids walked out to greet the guy, I took a great big swallow of the famous Obama kool-aid. Mmmm... tastes like hope.
Look, for me, the question has always been simple: Is this guy for real? Here's a guy who says it's not about the money, it's not about the power, it's not about him. It's about me, and everyone else. He wants to help people, and he wants people to help each other. He challenges us forthrightly and unapologetically to be better. He wants to change the world. When I hear someone say they want to change the world, and they're over 30, I roll my eyes.
I am a pretend optimist because I am a parent. I have to be hopeful, on some level, so that I can trust the world not to ruin my children. If I didn't trust the world not to ruin my children, I would probably make like a hamster and eat them. Or burn down the universe. You get it, right? But beside the sternly-enforced optimism, there is a concurrent and equally necessary streak of pure, nasty, grit-flecked cynicism.
Nobody wants to change the world. Nobody says, "We need to be better people." Nobody says, "Forget the money. Take care of each other." At least nobody smart says that. Nobody realistic. You hear someone talking like that and you can't believe it. I found myself listening tonight and asking, Are you really that guy? Is that some political BS designed to snow the dummies, the kids, the goofy sign-wavers? I'm smarter than that, harder than that, older than that. I was twenty once. I protested the war and the war happened anyway.
At some point tonight, I became convinced. I think he is that guy. I think he means it. And for me, that is enough. He's smart, and he means well. I am not being sarcastic when I say that is enough. Just that makes him palatable. Just that alone. When I think of Al Gore and Hillary Clinton as the other two people I'd like to vote for, I think of all their qualifications and experience. It took believing in Barack Obama to understand that all I really want from the candidate is brains and truly good intentions. That's kind of shocking but it explains a lot.
I don't really care what my criteria are, as long as I understand them. I think I finally do now.
In a way, I feel relieved. In the words of the indomitable Fox Mulder, "I want to believe." On the other hand, I had two horrible worries almost immediately. One is that someone will bring him down, literally, in the flesh. It was poignant to have this speech coincide with the anniversary of "I Have a Dream" but also chilling. The other worry that I had was that some moral failing would bring him down. They've done so much to build up his family to us, his young and happy family. I'm sure he knows what he's doing and would never, ever jeopardize what's happening to him by cheating on his wife, but... he is human.
Obama, you've got my vote. But please be careful. Be careful with yourself, in this hostile, racist world. And be careful with your family. I choose to trust what you say, and look forward to seeing what you do.
I'm sure there are those who will tell me that Hillary is a bogbeast with no good intentions, and Obama doesn't need her sloppy seconds -- whatever. I wrote this in case another Hillary supporter who wants to get on board but isn't there yet might take hope that it's possible.