November 04, 2008

The Epic Rises and Falls of History

As I listened to John McCain give his concession speech, I thought of the likes Henry Clay and Adlai Stevenson, of great American statesmen who inched so close to the presidency, falling just short. Both men helped define America, though most citizens know not who they were. They served long and hard. And, as it is, both sought the highest office, both full of qualifications and brilliance, and both didn't live to achieve that aspiration. Sadly, most Americans know little of either, two of the greatest statesmen of our time.
And as I watched John McCain surrender his great fight last night, my mind also drifted to General MacArthur, when he declared that old soldiers don't die, they just simply fade away.
Truthfully, I will always think it is one of the great Shakespearean tragedies of our time that John wasn't the president on 9/11. I imagine he would have hunted Osama bin Laden personally, like some rabid dog on the trail of a crippled rabbit. But, the Republicans didn't nominate John in 2000 and, subsequently, we got George Bush. I suppose we could hash over a million different factors that lead to tonight's outcome, but either way, I think we will all agree the Bush presidency decided it more than the war or history or the economy.
With the mentioning of Henry Clay and Adlai Stevenson, you might have suspected that I love history, particularly American history. I've loved this country my whole life, so much so that I continue to love learning passages of its history I don't know yet. I know that is novel to some. While I don't want to take this victory away from Barack and from the family that lifted the most unlikely young man to a place of greatness, I also want to note this victory is not his alone.
If you have followed this blog much at all, you've probably learned many things about me. Like my father, I have a profound memory and, like him, I can often relate current events to my own personal life. Of all the emotions, nostalgia is one of my favorites.
I spent most of this day thinking not just of Barack Obama, but rather, thinking of Bobby Kennedy. I remembered that not long before his own death in 1968, Bobby declared that we would have our first black president within 40 years. Bobby was a trailblazer, burning paths for the equal rights of others even when it burned bridges for him. As I told my father that, a man who is legendary at least in my mind, Dad recalled his own memories of his life as it fell around the death of Bobby. I could tell it pleased him that this served Bobby's memory well. And as Dad ran through his own life's intimate connections to Vietnam and Civil Rights and most things related to the 1960s, the victories and losses of today's election were poignantly clear. On one hand, a prisoner of war from that era, a man who bleed almost endlessly for this nation, was rejected for the second time from the high office. On the other, the battles of my father's greatest idol, Mohamed Ali, were finally put to rest. My father is a living, breathing paradox for the time period that produced both John McCain and Barack Obama and, honestly, without him I would a smaller understanding of both men.
As I listened to John's concession speech last, I saw the statesmen I've always thought him to be. Frankly, my heart broke. During this campaign, John seemed not to resemble that at times, but I saw him clearly last night. While I have pulled so heavily for Obama, I've also known John is one of the great statesmen of our time, like Clay, like Stevenson. Like so few remember the two of them, 100 years from now, most Americans won't remember the Shakespearean highs and lows of John McCain. Under different circumstances, maybe I would've voted for him. I look forward to continuing to know John, especially now that a presidency is most definitely out of reach. I look for these next few years to be his greatest, where he will help guide both America and his own legacy. He has been a very special brand of leader and I'm so thankful to call him ours, as in "our time."
But, with the certain end of John's presidential aspirations, our nation embarks upon another journey, a journey as exciting as I can imagine. Barack Obama's life is that of epic proportion and I won't pretend that I am not in awe of the amazing resilience in overcoming his life's obstacles. When I look at him, I see Bobby and Martin. I also see my two baby sons. While I think Roberta McCain has the class of a great lady, I don't see myself in her. However, I do see myself in Ann Dunham. If my sons chose to stay out here in Western Oklahoma, I will shutter at the mercy of God. However, if they dream of horizons that cascade upon the Seine and trickle down Tigris and lead them to destinations I have never even read of, then I will consider my life a success. I want them to ride the great waves into the bliss. I want them to make love in a waterfalls just outside of Delhi and leave poker tables at dawn, ahead of course. Whether they fly big planes over Egypt or drive big tractors of the beautiful American plains, I want their lives to be their ultimate dream. I want them to taste life, even when it is bitter.
Congratulations, President Obama. Our challenges are the biggest of our generation and I am excited to see how you rise to meet them.

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4 comments:

Lorrie Veasey said...

Awesome and beautifully written post.
Seriously.
Repeat above a gajillion times.

remorji said...

That was well spoken "home girl" I to saw the stateman in John in his speech. He could have had the people in attendance frothing at the mouth. Instead he took a greater path. I look at them both as unifiers in their own seperate way. Great post!

romach said...

Shonda, this is a really good post and should teach a lot of people how to come together and work together after this momentous election. If America is important to all its citizens who voted for these two men then surely they should all becoming together now for the good of the Country. One thing I will say is that I admired Mc Cain in his speech for praising Obama and of acknowledging him as 'his president' now and of being willing to do all he can to support him. Showing grace in defeat is a lesson for us all. Your country like ours at the moment is facing a great deal of economic turmoil which will effect everyone so surely it is time to put all the differences aside and work for the greater good! Hope you and your family have a lovely weekend! :-)

apathy lounge said...

Though I voted for Gore in 2000, I believe the version of John McCain that was available AT THAT TIME would have been far superior to the President we DID get. McCain was railroaded by the Rovian machine and the victim of some terrible, terrible lies that were orchestrated to bolster Bush's appeal. Sadly, it worked. In the last 8 years we've watched McCain change into something/someone else. He changed his stance on torture (from Con to Pro...even though he was a victim of it) and his middling views of Roe v Wade to something more draconian. And? He's old. The Presidency ages a person three times faster than any other job and a 72 year old man with 5 years of torture under his belt (and 4 bouts of skin cancer) would be awful. He also allowed Rove to run a filthy campaign against Obama that verged on slander and libel.

I think the country made the better choice. But I feel sorry for McCain, too.

Unfortunately, he allowed his handlers to lead him away from his original choice of Joe Lieberman...to Sarah Palin.

Finish This Page, but click on the older posts, too.

The knee-slappin,' cursin,' GOOD TIMES don't start or end on the front page, so read the older posts! Maybe you missed something. Maybe you forgot. I try to post daily, so read the older posts!
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