Portland, Oregon. I'm on his email list. He recently sent the following letter, which Pagan Sphinx's 11/13 post has encouraged me to reprint here:
Friends around the world keep asking me questions. Are you excited? What do you think of Obama? Others are simply congratulating me. And I must say, it was a thrilling moment.
As a teenager, in 1984, I volunteered for the Mondale/Ferraro campaign, mostly pushing bumper stickers. An anti-nuclear group was doing this, in the belief that Mondale would be less likely to cause Armageddon. I grew up in an overwhelmingly white, Republican town. I was a news junky from an early age, though, and politically active in one way or another. Of the Democratic candidates my favorite was Jesse Jackson, but looking around me I reasoned he had a slim chance of getting elected.
As an adult, living in urban areas all over the US, I saw little to dispel this illusion. There were more African-Americans getting elected to political office, but usually we were talking about mayors of majority-Black cities or Congresswomen from hotbeds of progressivism like Berkeley. But here I was, hanging out with my toddler, listening to my favorite local band, the Pagan Jug Band, sitting in a pub in Portland, hearing that Barack Obama has been elected President.
My initial reaction was that of Jesse's. I got a lump in my throat, and tears came to my eyes, thinking about the insanity of all the suffering that has gone down for so many centuries, the homes, dreams, and bodies broken by slavery and racism. And in fact until very recently, on the news broadcasts when they would mention the number of Black people in the Congress, in order to be factually accurate they always had to include the caveat, "since Reconstruction." More than that is rarely said about this ten-year period of Union Army occupation that allowed something approximating democracy, and even serious land redistribution, to exist in the South, before the Union withdrew and the South was plunged into at least a century of Apartheid rule.
Whether South or North, the prisons are filled with mostly dark-skinned people from places where you can graduate from high school without having learned how to read, where you can get asthma from breathing the air, where the police shoot first and ask questions later. They're in prison, but Barack Obama's not, he's on the TV giving a humble victory speech, quoting Lincoln. And this crowd of mostly young white people around me at the pub are all cheering at the TV screen, shouting his name, laughing, crying, and drinking. I'm pretty sure they all voted for him. Or if some of them were slacking too much to get around to it, they would have voted for him.
I had just gone there to hear the music, but it turned into a spontaneous Obama party, at that pub and at pubs and sidewalks and streets in cities all across the US, and apparently in other parts of the world as well. I remember being near the front of a march of tens of thousands of people back in 1985 or so, seeing Jesse Jackson at the front of the march with many of his volunteers lining the marchers, all wearing football-style shirts that read "88" on them, for his next Presidential campaign effort. I remember seeing on the faces and the placards of this mostly white crowd of marchers, an admiration and affection for the man at the front of the march, and I was wishing the whole country could be more like this crowd. And I feel so gratified that all the people talking about the so-called Bradley effect were wrong, that a majority of our eligible voters(not counting those millions of ineligible felons) would really end up voting for Obama.
There was one black-clad young man from Olympia who happened to be at the crowded pub, which was more crowded than I had ever seen it before. He bummed a light from me and started to talk. "This is great, you know, but I just can't help but think, 'meanwhile, in Afghanistan...'"
Every party needs a spoiler, and here he was. Too cynical to be entirely swept up in the moment, he was worried about the possibility that Obama might actually follow through with his campaign promises and send more troops to Afghanistan. And then over the past few days, the news gets more and more grim. Rahm Emanuel, a zealous supporter of Israeli Apartheid for Secretary of State. Larry Summers, Clinton's chief advocate for the World Trade Organization and deregulation of the financial sector, is being suggested as an economic advisor. Joe Biden, who voted for the war in Iraq, is already his VP.