Hey y'all! Some of you may remember the Louisiana Zydeco video a few friends and I made in 2008 to help put President Obama in the White House. You can link to it here if interested:
This video, made just a few weeks before the election, was a perfect example of the highly intense creative energy Obama was inspiring at that time. I told some friends about it on Thursday afternoon, October 16, 2008, but thought it was too late to pursue it.... and they said that I was wrong and we should just go for it. By Friday evening, the next day, the ENTIRE thing had finished shooting! We put together the band, wrote the song, got the audio engineer, got the film crew, got the crowd........ did everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, within 30 hours of deciding to do it. The shoot was wrapped Friday evening and we edited it over the weekend. It was up on YouTube on October 21, the following Tuesday, and Rachel Maddow featured it for the first time that night!
Rachel went on to use the video, and the music from it, for a full minute on election night, showing people around the world celebrating the results of the election. I happened to be performing in the DC area that night and partied jubilantly in front of the White House with a crowd of several thousand. Not everyone knows that there was a spontaneous march to the Capitol at the end of that party. This was at about 3 AM..... all the reporters were gone to file their stories. I don't think the media ever reported a bit of it.... and some of the most powerful memories I have of that night are images of young people standing in front of the Capitol at 4 AM with Obama signs in their hands and fists held proudly in the air.
In truth, looking back at video from this era, both the one linked to above and others from the election night celebrations I just described, is bittersweet. The hope and elation of the moment were extraordinary. Perhaps it was impossible not to fall from that place as Obama actually took on the job of being president. But, perhaps it would have been possible for him to live up to his promise of hope and change more fully.
I suppose my support for him now is shaped by the compromises and moments of acceptance required of a long-term relationship, versus the spark and joy of constant discovery inherent in a new one. Still, it's a simple truth that many of the things that caused elation when he was elected are the things that he immediately downplayed once in office. He got elected by being a great compromiser -- by bringing together factions of people who rarely vote for the same candidate. But you can't lead from the top as if you're building up a coalition from the bottom. I want him to be more progressive. I hope that the experience of going through the 2012 election -- of seeing where the country really is and of being free from a need to consider reelection down the road -- will bring out the more progressive, and more combative, side of him in the future, if he wins. I want him to fight those whose only goal is to obstruct his policies and turn this country into a semi-feudal state.
In any case, it's interesting how this video has played out in my own life. I received quite a bit of negative reaction from many of the Cajun musicians in my part of Louisiana, and many of those rifts will never heal completely. The video never claims to represent Cajun people, of course, though there was an assumption that it did. Certainly, one would assume that Cajun people in general, who don't view African Americans as falling within the definition of their ethnicity, would instantly recognize that this is no attempt at speaking for them or any group of people, except those who wanted Obama to win the election. Still, the video inspired some very intense response, much of which was directed at me personally. An example follows:
One of the amazing things about this response video, to me, is that someone went through it and ethnically identified the people in the video, determining who and who wasn't "Cajun." Freeze-framing film and doing ethnic identifications of the people on screen sounds just a little bit scary, does it not? Of course, those who actually made this video stayed hidden behind the scenes. And the video we made had something like 100 times the views....... but it also had at least 100 times the production value, so maybe that has something to do with it!
Perhaps the best thing about the video is that Jeffrey Broussard, who plays accordion and sings, was brought to perform in Africa as a result. The video helped him achieve a life-long dream... and that in and of itself is reward enough for having made it!
For me, I look at it and think about the hope and mood of that era. I see my daughters 4 years younger on that screen. I think about the world they've grown up in since then. I remember watching Michelle Obama's speech with them just a few weeks ago. And my youngest, who is 8, saying, after watching Deval Patrick's speech, "Now I would vote for HIM for president." I told her one day she might get the chance.
The last video here is something I want to feel again soon. Will we feel election night the same way this time if President Obama wins? What will we do? I envision us having a president that we have been through the ringer with, one for whom the bright flash of new love has subsided but the depth of a long-term partnership remains intact and stronger than ever. I may not rage all night on the street. But maybe I will. Either way, I'm in....... all the way in.