George Carlin once said that, “inside every cynical person is a disappointed idealist.” Well, after spending the near entirety of my adult life in The Bush Era, governed by the politics of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, it should come as no surprise that I have viewed government, and our system as a whole, with a cynical pair of LASIK-corrected eyes. But after witnessing what went down in our nation’s capital on Tuesday, it’s hard not to be slightly buzzed on a cocktail of pride and optimism over what took place.
This election was a statement. It was the long-overdue acknowledgment, and rejection, of the hypocrisy in our actions not matching up to the rhetoric this country was founded on (hmm… maybe now the words declared by our forefathers that “all men are created equal” can actually become the Mad Lib they are supposed to be, only this time without the preceding adjective blanks for race, gender, religion and – hopefully much sooner than later – sexual preference already filled in like when they were first put on paper). It also rejuvenates the promise of The American Dream® in the eyes of the world, and serves as a reminder that America isn’t just a series of fast food chains and department stores, plagued by an ethnocentric anti-intellectualism that feeds on gluttonous overconsumption and celebrity obsession. No, within these borders you’ll find that, for those willing to put in the effort, this is the land of unlimited possibilities. And can we please put to rest the absurd notion that the further down the family tree our immigrant ancestors reside, the more American we somehow are? Because, lest we forget, most of us wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for someone X-amount of generations ago buying into the idea that the grass was greenest in the US of A.
And if you just look at a few of the steps the president has taken in his first week alone, you’ll see the potential to do more for our homeland security than anything the last administration put into place. Initiating the shutdown of Gitmo can finally put an end to the do-we-or-don’t-we torture argument for good (because let’s face it, citing a lack of terrorist attacks since 9/11 as justification for the suspension of basic human civil liberties is like saying that, since I haven’t broken any bones in the last five years, my paralysis has been worth it: it hasn’t kept us safe, just further cultivated the hatred of our enemies). And making his first calls as Commander in Chief to the various leaders involved in and around the current conflict in Israel instead of wasting time schmoozing a few allies sends a clear message that our foreign relations will once again be rooted in diplomacy instead of unwavering ultimatums.
And I realize that the man has been lauded by the left (and mocked by the right) as the second coming of Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, Dr. King, Gandhi, Ted Williams, Walter Payton, sliced bread and Jesus himself all rolled into one, but I’m not quite that naïve nor that arrogant. I’ll tell you what I do see, though; an intelligent, articulate and pragmatic leader with a deep sense of history and a clear picture of the future he wants to mold. He’s humble enough to know that he can’t solve all these problems by himself, wise enough to surround himself with some of the strongest minds available to him and has the backbone to make the right decisions when it comes down to it. Now, I’m not suggesting we’ve entered some sort of post-partisan utopian age, but the ability to be ambitious politically and still remain inclusive of all perspectives is crucial given the challenges we face. 2008 wrapped up in hellish fashion with the loss of 2.6 million jobs, the national debt rocketing past $10 trillion and our military entrenched in two wars with no real consensus on how to end one while simultaneously ramping up the other. All in all, I guess it’s pretty safe to say that collectively we are in some pretty deep shit.
And the last year or so hasn’t exactly been all puppy dogs and pixie dust for me personally either. I’ve spent the majority of the last 10 months relegated to bedrest from a pressure sore I could have easily prevented. So much time in the dungeon hasn’t done much good for the psyche, trust me. Then in a freak accident at a monster truck show a little more than a week ago, a large piece of metal debris shot into the stands, tragically killing a six-year-old boy, and striking a close family friend square in the face, shattering the majority of his jaw. Actually, “close friend” is a severe understatement, since he is the closest thing to a big brother I will ever have. He was one of my first wrestling coaches and the person who fed me my first meal in the ICU after my accident. So seeing one of my heroes brought to his knees like this has been a struggle to say the least. The inability to help is maddening. And though his oxycodone-hazed thumbs up gave me immense hope that he will be okay, I still left the hospital last Monday with a great amount of anger towards the world in general. But as I watched the hundreds of thousands of people converge on the capital the next morning, I could feel my boiling blood slowly begin to cool.
It was strange, because the larger the crowd became, all I kept picturing was that scene from Forrest Gump where Tom Hanks and Robin Wright Penn’s characters reunite in the Reflecting Pool amidst the sea of war protesters. And that led my tangent-prone mind to wander to the 60s in general; an era I’ve always been curious about because of the almost palpable sense of social and political activism that seemed apparent at the time. Or at least that’s the impression I’ve gotten from things I’ve read, seen on the History Channel, etc.. And that simple fact – that the only personal experiences I could relate to the moment have come from the wistful words of dead authors, the grainy images of documentaries and the special effects of blockbuster films – helped to reinforce just how rare and monumental the day actually was. And that really got me thinking.
This could be our moment; that once-in-a-generation opportunity to leave an indelible mark on the course of history. It’s a chance to usher in a new era where we take the power back from the megacorporations that have been distracting us from what is really important with Cialas commercials and iPhone apps or whatever else. It’s going to take our own brand of vigilant activism similar to those of generations past, where we decide that our idealism will not be written off by the cynicism of others as a weakness or a blind faith, but recognized and respected as a measured optimism tempered with the resolve that we can do better; we must do better if we’re going to weather the storms still gathering on the horizon. But in order to do better, we first have to recognize that this change won’t begin on Wall Street or in the halls of our capital buildings. It has to start in our living rooms and backyards and spread from there.
Everyone of us could make a better effort to conserve energy, manage our finances and educate our children as well as ourselves. I mean, how can we rightfully expect our elected officials to be held accountable if we aren’t individually attempting to walk the walk first? That being said, the former just might be a little easier this time around given this president is breaking the stranglehold the last administration had on the Freedom of Information Act. We can no longer avoid the path of the road less traveled for fear of the unknown, paralyzed by threats from the outside world and wallowing in self-pity over our various plights.
Because make no mistake, Barack Obama is not some sort of savior, and he’s not going to pull us out of this ditch with the snap of a finger. But who knows, perhaps with a little help, he could one day be looked back on as the catalyst that helped motivate a generation to reengage in actively shaping the future of those that followed. Or maybe he won’t. Maybe in four years I’ll view this post as my very own Jerry Maguire moment. Either way, I think it is a lot less up to him than it is up to us, so I’m going to try to work a little harder than I did yesterday.
The truth is, my friend’s face will heal. My ass will heal. This country will heal. Will any of it be easy? Hell no, and it will probably get worse before it gets better. But we are a resilient bunch (with my buddy pretty much topping the list) who can overcome this and anything else that gets thrown our way if we can somehow keep a white-knuckled grip on hope. It has been a crazy week, a tough few months and an arduous eight years. But after seeing what a little “community organizing” did to this country last week, I can finally say I have reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, this year will be better than the last.
Now…… who’s coming with me?
19 Comments Add yours
At least now there is hope with this new administration. Bush made such a mess of our country with his useless war that killed thousands of young men and women and putting us in debt billions of dollars. What a loser president he was. Good riddance!
I always enjoy your insights Kenny. Thanks for sharing :-).
You are so right! We need to take action on microlevel to have change on macrolevel. Start bringing up your own kids instead of relying on school and daycare to do that for you – they also will have an important role but family comes first and foremost. Each little bit of energy you save, bag you re-use, food you do not trow away but creatively turn into cooking experiments will help! And also each positive thought you will have will help also – the world sometimes is so overwhelemd by complaining people, especially those who lay responsibility on others besides themself: take action, make choices and do it YOURSELF! Great piece Kenny, lots of light and healing to your friend (and your butt 😉 )Take care, Sabine from Holland
For some reason I checked your blog today after months of inactivity. Glad to see you are still doing well (relatively) and still taking the time to write once in a great while. I share your hope and your trepedation. Take care man.Smarmy Bastard
Kenny, you\’re one of the most insightful, funny, intelligent (and probably best looking…) people I know. I\’m so glad you\’re writing again, I missed it! I agree with your sentiments 100%, and I hope for your sake and mine that things start to look up for this great country! 🙂
Dude, you can\’t wax poetic like this only every 10 months ;)I hope E and your ass are on the mend. I\’ve been thinking of you guys daily.
What an unbelievably cogent entry. I really wish I had your ability to write what I\’m thinking.May your butt heal fast and I sincerely hope your friend recovers quickly. Send me a message if you ever feel like chatting about all the damage the psyche takes when one is sequestered. I\’m probably one of the few people who completely understands where you\’re coming from in that regard.Take care,BP
"I will come with you."wow friend. sometimes its hard for me to decide if i want to take in the message or admire your ninja-like writing skills. so i usually read it a few times. you, kenny, are a genius. AND.. you make some amazing points. great entry, great writing, great message, great ideas.. i could go on forever. glad to hear eric is home and on the road to recovery.now let\’s break some rules and go see a flick! i love you.
Hmm, I used to read your entries all the time. For some reason I was reading my old (OLD!!) ones today and I decided to check your space. I\’m glad that you are still writing! Keep up the good work. I look forward to a book 🙂
I am !
I am also glad to see you are writing again. I just saw the story about your Friend, and also the interview with the promoter who spouted the words of there safety record who days later was killed by one of the trucks himself.I hope our country heals as well as your a$$ and your friend.
Wow! It\’s always nice to share with someone who has the same feelings/thoughts as ones-self! It sounds like you found a passion and I hope others grasp at the same! I know it was sureal to watch the historical events of that Tuesday – not for the reasons the broadcasts kept harping on but for myself the hope for a better future for my children. I was sorry to hear about Eric. I hope the boys are doing ok as well. Take care – love ya, Tina
Hi Kenny, Thinking of you and was pleased to see you writing on your blog again. I was shocked to hear that the man injured in the monster truck show was your former coach. I have been wondering about how he was doing and am so glad to hear that he is healing as well as you. You are a gifted and passionate writer especially when the subject ignites a fire. This fire, fuled by hope, is one that we can all easily get on board with. Take care. Sandy
Hey, Kenny. I was reading some of Billy Paul\’s writings and he mentioned you, so I thought I\’d slink across and read your blogs. Haven\’t got past this one yet. Brilliant page from an intelligent writer who knows how to express himself. Take care. Keep writing. I can\’t get enough of intelligent blogs.
Hi Kenny,It\’s been a while but I changed jobs in September and then there was the election. My friend in Chicago was in Grant Park to hear the speech and I had already told her that if he won to make her reservation–she knew she had a place to stay. So she and I and 1.5 million people were down on the Mall on January 20th to be a part of history. I\’ve lived in Virginia since 1980, voted in my first presidential election in 1976, but until now I had never watched one on television, let alone went down to see it. What an amazing thing to stand there by the Jumbotrons behind the Washington Memorial and turn around and see people all the way back to the Lincoln Memorial, and to chat with the folks around us–a man and his daughter who had driven in from Illinois, a woman in front of us with an "Alaskans for Obama" sign and the woman behind us who biked in from Bethesda. The last time we had an event this important in my lifetime was when I stayed up intil 1 in the morning in 1969 to watch a man walk on the moon. It was a long time coming and I hope the next 4 years are better than the last 8–take that loser Republicans! :)On the negative side, someone highjacked my hotmail account–talk about sucky, why would anyone want to me me? So I\’m starting out all over again and I\’ll need to set up a page. The jerkoff who did it has no idea how much crap he\’s put me through…actually I\’m sure that\’s exactly why he (and I\’m assuming since most hackers are "he" did it.Hope you are better,Leslie
One thing that Obama has going for him that Bush did not is simply unity among the people. Two elections in a row for Bush saw our country almost completely divided. This year when Obama was inaugurated our company projected the event in the main cafeterias of each building and I saw people in tears as they stood next to their co-workers sharing this historic moment. I beleive that Obama\’s humbleness will be one of the things that will make him a great leader because the presidency isn\’t like babysitting, Bush doesn\’t just leave him some emergency numbers then walk out the door and kiss the country on the forehead, there\’s a full ADMINISTRATION and I think Obama is more than aware of how much he needs others to get the country to where he wants it to be. I\’m on board and ready to roll out wit\’ ya too! (Little east coast slang going on..) I hope your friend/brother/mentor does heal quickly as do you and I\’m serious Jersey shore in the summer is the BEST!!! Think it over! 🙂
I just have to tell you, your writing is AMaZING! You really have a talent. I try to check in on your blog every so often to see if you have written anything new, I really think you should write a book, …I\’m callin it now it will be a "BEST SELLER" Fo sho! Haha Well keep it up, I love reading it! :)PS: I\’m coming with you, we all could use some healing.