Barack Obama “lost” in New Hampshire by thousands of votes. Not long ago, this news would have been the stuff of science fiction and opium dens. Now it is the subject of historic headlines penned by sometimes breathless reporters who actually seem to grasp that something unprecedented is happening. Some thoughts:
— Steve Sack was right on the money in the Jan. 6 Star Tribune with his cartoon of Dr. Martin Luther King in heaven (headline: “I Have A Dream”) holding a newspaper that reads “Obama Wins Iowa” and the thought balloon “Pinch Me.” Jan. 21 is MLK Day. On Jan. 15, we’ll be taking our kids to the Basilica of St. Mary to hear a speech by Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of Medgar Evers. Fine, but the best part will be sitting in that pew, knowing that history is in the making and that all the good guys aren’t dead guys.
— Speaking of my kids, in last issue’s column I exercised a rare moment of self-restraint and failed to mention that my wife and kids and I met Obama when he was in town stumping for Amy Klobuchar two years ago. When my brother saw the photograph that accompanies this column — two Colombian-American kids and a would-be African-American president — he said, “That’s the face of America. That’s what America really looks like.” That’s what I’m talking about.
— One of the things I dug most about Obama’s victory speech in Iowa (http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/iowavictoryspeech/) was his underlying anger — which, as any shrink or mystic can tell you, is a sign of rising energy.
— I’m tempted to nominate Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Paint The White House Black” as the Obama’s penultimate campaign song, but it’s too retro and dude is too cool for such inside-the-boxism. More like, “Paint The White House Colorblind.”
— The night of the Iowa speech, I walked the dog just as Obama took to the podium. I did my peeping-Tom thing and saw that virtually every house with a TV on was tuned in to Iowa. When I got home, I made my kids sit up and pay attention. I said what Mr. Mike Gruidl, my 3rd-grade teacher at Annuciation, said when he dragged a TV into the classroom for the first Apollo moon shot: “This is history, boys and girls. This is history.” Damned if they did lock in and watch.
— “How is he going to change your day-to-day life?,” asked a politics-wary friend the other day. Simple: He will inspire me and give me something to talk to my kids about. America is built on symbols, and Obama is, at the very least, a beautiful example of how things can be. “We can do better,” he said early on, and the simplicity of that statement is powerful because it is a challenge, not a promise.
— Brother talks like a leader, not a candidate. Big diff.
— Aldoux Huxley: “Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.”
— Last summer when Obama was warming up to the task at hand, he said, “I’m LeBron, baby. I can play at this level. I got some game.” His invocation of LeBron James and not, say, Michael Jordan is crucial: He is many things, but perhaps most importantly, he could be a president for the youth of America, the way Kennedy was for their grandparents.
— Closed-circuit to the Washington press corps. We here in the hinterlands know that the junior senator from Illinois plays a mean game of pick-up basketball, but we need to know: Can he or could he ever dunk?
— In the months to come, Obama will be described as “The MySpace Candidate,” “The Black Candidate,” “The Sexy Candidate,” etc. They’re wrong. He’s The United States Of America Candidate.
— A few days before the Iowa run-off, CNN interviewed a farmer who said that having Obama at the helm would instantly make the rest of the world view America in a different light. The white farmer from the 95 percent white state that had never elected a black person to any office thought this was a good thing.
— Motto for the new year: “Yes We Can.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.