Monday, January 19, 2009

All Aboard

Yesterday, my husband said to me, 'I don't get why Obama is doing this Lincoln thing. I think it's too much. He should do his own thing.' And I thought on that a bit. I answered him immediately - saying something along the lines of 'Obama walks on water. Shut up.' But I still thought on it. Could it be that this man of inspired speech, rare eloquence and near-perfect cadence is a copycat? My champion of realism infused idealism is a.. a... a coattail rider? Riding the coattails of a white man a hundred years dead and as uncopyable as Elvis? Could he be trying to live out some weird childhood fantasy about living life as Lincoln dressed as a black man? Ack! Is it racist to ask that? Boy I really worked up a good lather on this one.

The more I pondered the more worked up I got. Why wouldn't someone see it as all that and more? Why wouldn't it look painfully pretentious and put on? It's so obvious! I was practically foaming. And as I revved my way through my kitchen clean-up, serving as prosecutor, jury and judge on the indictment, I went to put up a couple of pieces of my kids' artwork on our refrigerator 'wall of fame'. They'd brought these two particular pieces home with great excitement, thrilled at the prospect that they'd be putting something up on the wall that would stay up all year. (We refresh at the end of each year, so its completely blank save for these two items now.)

I have 8-year old twins, if you haven't figured that out yet, so I get a lot of duplicates. These pieces are nearly the same, but so interesting in their variances. Both were prepared on blue construction paper. Hers was very clean, except for a little tear that she was heartbroken over. His was a little more rumpled, but it didn't bother him a bit. Both projects had red and white strips of paper glued onto the blue background in flag-like stripes. Her stripes have some curves in them. His are German engineer-straight. There's a black-and-white cutout of Obama superimposed on the stripes - his facing one way and glued all the way to one side of the paper and hers is facing the other way glued to the opposite side of the paper. The twins were delighted to tape up their pictures, standing back to admire when they'd finished. Together, the projects make a striking statement.

Obama represents, for alot of people, everything that is good and righteous about our country. He is the fulfillment of promise. He is what Martin Luthor King spoke about. He is what Rosa Parks sat down for and countless others stood up for. He is my friend Cameron from elementary school, who was always too tall for his pants and always too smart for his own good, and too dark to be in concert choir, the nun sweetly explained, because he'd fade right into the velvet curtain background. Obama is curvy (read that as liberal) enough to try to include everyone but straight (read that as conservative) enough to be careful about what people expect in return for being included. He is a black man like countless other black men - smart, thoughtful, married and faithful, a father, a son, a believer but a doubter. He is not just a black man, but a man and not just a man but a person and not just a person but an American.

In his Americanness he holds the hopes of a nation and the dreams of so many forefathers and, I believe, he holds Lincoln's promise in his hands. It is in homage to Lincoln that he rides, not to copy but to honor. It is in praise of Lincoln that he speaks, not to repeat but to revive. It is because of Lincoln that he is President, not to resurrect but to live for the first time. In a country where all dreams really can come true, Obama rides the path of Lincoln because Lincoln made it possible.

So my original answer to my husband was flippant and intellectually ridiculous. The real answer is in the art we create when we see Obama and all that he means to each of us as individuals.

Choo choo to that.

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