"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Odyssey of Hope

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Odyssey of Hope

The other day at The Secret Garden Bookstore, my daughter tugged on my sleeve. "Mama, look, that book says the Odyssey of Hope and it's about Obama!"

Actually, the title was The Audacity of Hope, but it got me thinking about my own "odyssey of hope" in politics. I guess it began when I left the OALC in 1979, which might be considered political in the sense that I rejected the power of the church over my life. In pursuit of integrity, I felt obligated to act on my convictions. On its 10th anniversary, I marched against Roe V. Wade at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle. (Though persuaded that abortion was wrong, I was appalled at the marchers carrying coffins.)

Then college happened. My next foray into politics was volunteering for the Dukakis campaign in 1988. I will never forget the excitement mixed with dread that I felt while I prepared press packets in the green room before his appearance at the Pike Place Market. It was raining outside and the crowd was swelling to the tens of thousands. There were rumors of a kerfuffle about whether "labor" had supplied the fruit for the bounty display on the speaking platform. Dukakis needed a riser to be seen above the dais. As volunteers buzzed about with walkie-talkies (this was pre cell phones), I busied myself in a quiet room assembling press packets. Dukakis was behind in the polls, but I was hopeful he could still turn things around.

Busy with my task and deep in thought, I didn't notice when Governor Booth Gardner and Mayor Charlie Royer entered. We still had at least 30 minutes before the show. They chatted; I assembled, ignoring them. Eventually they came over and introduced themselves -- as each other, switching names! Apparently they thought I was an out-of-towner and were enjoying an inside joke. When I corrected them, we all laughed. I had never met a politician before, and was a surprised to discover they were so . . . ordinary.

It was an exciting rally. I stood behind the platform with other volunteers, and as Dukakis talked about exporting goods not jobs, I had a friend snap a photo. It is blurry, grainy (predigital) and just the first in a series: Me, with Loser.

Even when I sided with a winner, I felt like I lost. Years later, it was Bill Clinton at Pike Place Market, running for a second term, and I was there on the rope line, shaking his hand (my husband was faintly appalled that I said "Bill" instead of "Mr. President"). But I had mixed feelings for my candidate, which started in skepticism and ended in disgust.

I thought the election was stolen from Gore, and still do. As for Kerry, he was only better than the alternative, and I could never get excited about his candidacy.

This year feels different. Obama is different. I respect him even when I disagree, and while I am always aware that he is a politican, his character inspires confidence.

Yesterday, I joined several dozen others in a windowless, over-heated room at Seattle's Obama headquarters. My job was to call "infrequent voters" in Everett (a suburb north of Seattle) to encourage them to vote. Most of the time I reached answering machines, but when people answered the phone, they were almost unanimous in telling me that they had already voted.

For Obama. (The conversations were brief. They didn't want to chat. They didn't want to volunteer. It was just "already voted, Obama, thanks, bye!")

Across the country, this is happening wherever there is early voting. Today's Washington Post reports that more than twelve million voters have already cast ballots, breaking Democratic by a wide margin.

What's up?

The video says it better than I can.

I just want to say that this phenomenon is much bigger than Obama. And it is why even though I am confident of his victory, I will be back at headquarters tomorrow, reminding people to vote. Because it isn't democracy if you don't participate.

(English major nerdery: the Odyssey is remarkable in that its events depend as much on the choices of women and serfs as those of fighting men.)


  1. Though I'm not going to vote for Obama because I don't agree with the Democrat platform, I think I've begun to see what his 'redistribution of wealth' statements are all about.. I have a hunch that Obama sees this as the next needful step, the step that was not taken after the civil rights legislation of the 60's. The audio interviews (available on YouTube) from 2001 or so seem to imply that redistribution of wealth is to bring African Americans to the next level in the fight for economic and social justice.

    What are your thoughts on that, Free....

  2. My area is always heavily Democratic so I've usually kept my politics quiet, but this year is different.. I have not found one Obama supporter in the people I talk to, although there are some Obama signs out, along with state and local signs of each party.

    And you know what? that video kinda creeps me out, I'm sorry to say that.. it just seems as though there is no substance, only emotion. Is it just me? I don't say this to be contrary, but just to put it out there for discussion..

  3. Norah, I wasn't aware of the 2001 audiotape until your post. Apparently the media are ignoring it for good reason. First let me say that all tax systems are redistributive, and that McCain is using this word to paint Obama (a tax-cutting Dem of all rarities) a socialist is an act of desperation and frankly, that dog won't hunt. As Andrew Sullivan says, if punitive taxation is Marxist, then Ronald Reagan was a Marxist and Adam Smith was a little suspect. I've also heard it said that the biggest redistribution of wealth in America in half a century happened in the last 8 years under Bush . . . concentrating in the top 5%.

    Barack Obama is a constitutional scholar and I can't pretend to operate on that level. In the tape you mention, he is apparently making a fairly nuanced argument about the limits of the Supreme Court in affecting economic equality.

    That I can understand. To personalize this (cuz it's all about me, right?!), the courts gave us women the right to vote and sue for equal pay, but it did not (and should not) provide scholarships, jobs, daycare, or social security benefits for stay-at-home moms (would love to see that remedied).

    Here are Obama's words:

    "You know if you look at the victories and the failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now be allowed to vote, I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and as long as I could pay for it, I would be okay, but the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of Redistribution of Wealth, and served more basic issues of political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints set forth by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties that says what the states can’t do to you, says what the Federal government can’t do to you, but doesn’t say what the government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement, because it became so court focused, was that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power by which we’re able to bring about redistributive change, and I think we’re still suffering from that."

    What he seems to be saying is that redistributive change is legislative. Taxes certainly impact civil rights as far as economic equity (for women and minorities).

    "Trickle down economics" was legislated redistribution that failed. But power is not relinquished easily and the moneyed interests will battle to their last breath to maintain the status quo, and now use fear of socialism (OMG, we might become SWEDEN!) when fear of terrorism (Ayres) failed to turn the tide.

    Just my 2 cents (current value: .000002).

  4. Thanks, cvow, I enjoy reading opposing opinions (I check in daily on right wing blogs). Helps me avoid deafness from the echo chamber.

    But I must say that Cory's letter is risible, even as propaganda. His personal struggle is compelling but his conclusions betray a certain gullibility.

    As a resident of Texas familiar with George W. Bush, Mr. Corey should know something about blue-blooded ne'er-do-wells who ascend to public office.

    But even as he claims to value self-reliance and determination and hard work, Mr. Cory prefers the candidate who:

    * was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and a guaranteed military career
    * graduated nearly last in his class (894 out of 899)
    * avoided consequences throughout his self-confessed feckless youth of whoring, drinking and gambling
    * crashed more than one government plan while hot dogging
    * gained an enormous fortune not through personal effort but by marrying his mistress
    * squandered his principles in the Keating Five affair

    Meanwhile, the candidate who worked his way up from poverty, who won entry to the country's best schools, who graduated at the top of his class, who forwent a lucrative career for public service, who has inspired millions of youth to work together toward a better future, and whose tax plan simply returns taxes to Clinton-era levels (remember the balanced budget, the surplus?) is . . . gasp . . . a socialist.

    That's kinda rich.

    I will agree with Mr. Corey on this, that Americans should "elevate themselves through personal betterment, personal achievement, and self reliance." Like Cvow and Mr. Corey, I came up with nothing (not even those sibling loans) and made my own way. Maybe when I'm sitting on $250k a year, I'll change my tune. I doubt it.

    Meanwhile, I think President Obama will be a great example to the young ones: get to work. "You are the change you've been waiting for."

    Now I have to stop yapping and go get out the vote, because that takes shoe leather, also :-)

    Don't forget to vote! Even if it's for Reagan :-)

  5. Good final address.

  6. This is why I'm voting for McCain