My life is crazy right now. Everyone’s leaves are coming down and as a landscaper I’m swamped with hauling them away. Plus I’m caught up in the ongoing effort to build a ‘platform’ through my blog and other activities. And I feel compelled to get back into my writing. I generally delve into that right after Thanksgiving. The past three years I’ve written a book over the winter, but this year I plan to revise the ones I’ve already written and work on some short stories.
I have a to-do list three miles long and I keep adding to it, which puts me into a continual state of frenzy. This morning I got an email from the library saying one of my books will be due in four days. When I went to their website I discovered that four other books are overdue by one day. Ack! Just one more thing to make me feel inadequate.
There are a lot of things in life that can make a person feel inadequate. Knock them down a peg. Break their spirit. The biggest thing for me lately is running into people who are so much better than me at everything I care about. But that’s the way it is, right? Only one person can be the very best at any given thing, and chances are it’s not going to be you. This has always been a fact, but now we have the internet to connect us to the world and put it right there in our face. Beyond that, there’s news that the publishing industry is tanking, and the ever-present mantra from editors, writers and agents that it’s virtually impossible to get published. With all this negative energy, it’s hard to maintain a feeling of hope. Which is why Obama’s win is so inspirational.
Have you ever seen the movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the story of how a good-hearted, ordinary man makes his mark on the political machine? It’s one of those films that leaves you feeling all warm inside, while at the same time saying, “that sort of thing could never happen.”
But it is happening.
I remember the first time I saw Barack Obama. He was speaking at the 2004 democratic convention, delivering what is now lauded as “one of the greatest political statements of the 21st century.” This particular phrasing made me shiver: “The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too: We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States.” The moment I heard those words, I knew I wanted this man, this uniter, to be my President. And now he is.
In this world of political corruption, where might, greed, and big money win out, where the honest man is at the mercy of the one who is willing to break any law or moral to get his way, it’s hard to believe that honor can take the upper hand. That’s the stuff of fairy tales. The stuff of Hollywood. And yet it happened!
Honor has always been important to me. When I was a kid, I swooned over the concept of chivalry, and I’m still stirred by the qualities of honesty, loyalty, and simple kindness. I’m not impressed with the current political argument of a particular action being technically legal. I care if it’s ethical. And not in-agreement-with-the-Ten-Commandments ethical, but beneficial-to-all-living-things ethical.
I can’t say that Obama’s platform didn’t influence me. But what sold me completely were his principles. He is the first truly honorable politician that I can remember. While he was campaigning, no matter what the opposition threw at him, he didn’t stoop to their level. He didn’t let himself be distracted from his message of hope and change. And contrary to everything logic would tell us, he was able to win with this strategy. How incredibly cool is that? No longer do we have to hold two standards in our mind, The Ideal and The Real. Now we have proof that attack ads and character defamation are unnecessary. Now we have proof that this country wants—even craves—honesty, decency, and a positive message.
But beyond that, the idea that a candidate with so much stacked against him can win should give us hope for our own individual campaigns. It should tell us that yes we can publish that novel. Yes we can achieve our dreams. It should convince us that we don’t have to give in to our doubts, our fears.
And dispelling fear is an incredible thing. Fear is my #1 enemy, my #1 detractor. I realized that after the election. Everyone else was celebrating and I felt detached. Why? Because I never let myself hope and believe enough to truly participate. Long after the election had been declared I continued to bah humbug. “I’ll believe it in the morning, when all the votes in Ohio have been counted.” I refused to let my hopes be devastated again, and because of it I lost out. I missed my chance to belong to something of historical proportions because of fear.
I don’t want to live in fear. I want to live in Barack Obama’s world. As Fox Mulder of The X-files used to say, “I want to believe.”