Friday, October 31, 2008

Electing Redemption (or, Requiem for the Culture War)

For those on the fence about this election, there are some excellent fact-based endorsements that are well worth your time and consideration.

As election day approaches, I've been thinking less about whom to vote for (readers of this blog will already know that answer), and thinking much more about what this election actually means.

I've previously talked about how this election is less about ideology and policy, and more about endlessly refighting the disputes of the past vs aspiring to create a possible future.

I am excited beyond words that this election is more meaningful than throwing scat at the wall to decide whom to vote for.

I am also very aware of the true pain this election has rekindled in those that had so much of their hopes and dreams and soul ripped away from them in the 1960s.

As my mind has been wandering around the overarching themes and arcs of this campaign, I believe November 4 will be a collective opportunity to finally step out of the Star Trek'ish time loop we've been stuck in, forever linking us back to 1968.

As we decide whether to break the time loop and fork an alternative time stream, I can't help but ponder:
  • How would our world have been different if the Dream of social equality and social justice had not been gunned down on a Memphis hotel balcony?

  • What if the moral embodiment of hope and our obligation to each other had not been silenced in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel?

  • What if the children of the greatest generation hadn't been ripped into two Americas, forever at each other's throat?

  • What if they hadn't been lost to self indulgence, despair, and defining themselves by their anger/hatred of each other?

  • What if we hadn't doubled down in an unnecessary and unjust war just to make sure that those damn hippies didn't get their way?

  • What if we embraced our moral obligation to equality (civil rights, women's rights) rather than losing the message in the culture war of us vs them?

  • What if we were able to recognize sleaze and incompetence in our leadership and reject dirty tricks and smears, rather than trusting our leaders of having the best interests of the nation at heart?

  • What if we took our obligations to our environment and world more seriously, rather than any discussion of the environment becoming a cruel joke to denigrate those on the other side of the culture war?

Starting Tuesday, we have an opportunity to actually find out.

As we look around us, the echos of the 1960s are becoming tangible all around us: echos in music (Shins, King of Leon), echos in endless wars for reasons long ago forgotten, echos in TV and movies (Mad Men, Bond), and echos in language (socialist, communist, victory at all costs, drill baby drill). What has always been just below the surface is bubbling into plain view. 

After 40 years wandering lost in the desert, we are on the cusp of finally exorcising the cancer of our nation's soul that took root 40 years ago. Now that we can see the beast, how will we confront it? Will we ignore it for yet another generation?

It is time to confront these echos, recognize them for what they are and the importance they once had, feel compassion for the generations lost to the pain and anger of the culture war, and move forward to what could have been (and should have been) 40 years ago.

A New Day is breaking just over the horizon. It is time to look up and face the sun. It is time for the forever war to end, a nation to heal, and the Dream to be redeemed.

Regardless of whom you vote for Tuesday, let us all prey that we will finally move out of the desert, and once again move into the promised land of the American Dream. It is time for redemption.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Real Straight Talk From the Boss

This past weekend, Bruce Springsteen was in Philadelphia for a voter registration concert on behalf of Senator Obama. He delivered more straight talk in 5 minutes than I've seen from any politician during the entire presidential campaign.

Via Joan Walsh at Salon, the here is the must read text of his words, and a link to the concert (speech starts around 25:00). Hey Bruce, I want my country back too!

Hello Philly,

I am glad to be here today for this voter registration drive and for Barack Obama, the next President of the United States.

I've spent 35 years writing about America, its people, and the meaning of the American Promise. The Promise that was handed down to us, right here in this city from our founding fathers, with one instruction: Do your best to make these things real. Opportunity, equality, social and economic justice, a fair shake for all of our citizens, the American idea, as a positive influence, around the world for a more just and peaceful existence. These are the things that give our lives hope, shape, and meaning. They are the ties that bind us together and give us faith in our contract with one another.

I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no healthcare, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities. The distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful.

I believe Senator Obama has taken the measure of that distance in his own life and in his work. I believe he understands, in his heart, the cost of that distance, in blood and suffering, in the lives of everyday Americans. I believe as president, he would work to restore that promise to so many of our fellow citizens who have justifiably lost faith in its meaning. After the disastrous administration of the past 8 years, we need someone to lead us in an American reclamation project. In my job, I travel the world, and occasionally play big stadiums, just like Senator Obama. I've continued to find, wherever I go, America remains a repository of people's hopes, possibilities, and desires, and that despite the terrible erosion to our standing around the world, accomplished by our recent administration, we remain, for many, a house of dreams. One thousand George Bushes and one thousand Dick Cheneys will never be able to tear that house down.

They will, however, be leaving office, dropping the national tragedies of Katrina, Iraq, and our financial crisis in our laps. Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care; it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back.

So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday Afternoon with Hope

This afternoon, we caught the matinee performance of the new musical Little House on the Prairie at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. A wonderful production, and one that is sure to hit Broadway in the next year or two.

Although the show has Melissa Gilbert as Ma Ingalls, it was about as far as could be from the old TV show.  Fast moving, great songs, great cast, wonderful story arc as the Ingalls girls learn responsibility to themselves and each other in the harsh homestead days.

For those looking for a glimpse into why fly over country is what it is today, I can think of no better way to do so than to watch this production. 

For the early settlers, risking everything they had (and everyone they loved) for a chance to make something their own. Overcoming hardships, many dreams were lost along the way. 

However, these fiercely independent people never lost their hope for a better life for themselves and their children. They also knew that hope is manifested in active doing, not passive waiting. Those who risked all to come west were those who believed more in their hope for the future than their fear of the present. They succeeded far beyond what they would have ever imagined in their lifetimes.

A wonderful musical.  Highly recommended.

The show was also the first our family had attended in the new Guthrie Theatre.  For those who haven't visited the new facilities, they are a profound statement of our community commitment to bring compelling live performance experiences to audiences of all ages and sophistication. 

Walking through the facility, one gets the sense that it also represents a generational commitment based on hope for what will be. As I walked through the complex with my daughters, I have no doubt that they and the other children there will someday walk through this same building with their grandchildren, sharing the magic that can only come from real people creating new worlds to share with a live audience. The building itself was the embodiment of the community's hope for the future over fear.

As we walked along the Endless Bridge, reaching for (but not quite reaching) the Mississippi River, I saw for the first time the new 35W bridge, recently opened after last year's devastating bridge collapse. A little over a year ago, I had been driving through downtown Minneapolis with my family within a mile or two of the bridge when it collapsed. When my parents first called, I thought they were joking. The pictures on the TV were a sight that I never thought I would see, and hope to never see again.

Now barely a year later, a new gleaming bridge was teaming with life on a Sunday afternoon.  After years of neglect (and perhaps incompetence) and pointless tragedy, we had rebuilt and embraced a New Day. I can only hope that our nation will choose to do the same.

The choice between fear of the present and hope for the future is the story behind the story of all pivotal moments in our history.  It is also the central crucible of our times. As a father, for me there only is one choice.

On this Sunday afternoon, I'm very glad that my daughters were able to enjoy Little House and see part of that story, and I'm grateful for a community that believes so much in itself to build something as enduring and extraordinary as the new Guthrie. 

Alas, I am also saddened that the choice between fear and hope is becoming so stark with 30 days left before the election. As the political temperatures rise and the smears fly, that sadness is tempered by an excitement beyond words that our collective choice on November 4 will signal a definitive New Day.