I turned 33 the other day, and it got me to thinking about life and death and politics and many other things. My father passed away about a year and a half ago now, much too young. He was 62, and I was 31, and I can’t help but think about being half way through my life. I can’t help but compare myself sometimes to my dad, who was a kind man and a hard working man; and the measure mostly comes up short these last few years. My dad, of course, would argue against me, he and my mom have always expressed pride in what I do; someday I hope to justify their mostly optimistic view of me with some hard facts; I’m a big fan of hard facts.
The anniversary of my birth happens to fall on January 20th, which in some years is inauguration day for the President here in America. And it’s always the same week as Martin Luther King Junior Day.
Back in 2009, when Obama was sworn in, I was working as a bus driver in Seattle, and spent the morning with a big grin on my face, and a copy of the Seattle P/I with a big picture of Obama on the front conspicuously lodged in the windshield. I remember that day; strangers had the same big grin, and we all seemed to nod a little friendlier and feel a little happier about this big step that our country had taken. I’m proud of that election, and consider it the greatest political accomplishment of my lifetime, and no, not just because we elected a not-white guy… It wasn’t long till I started seeing those “How do you like you change now” bumper stickers, and realized how much hate there was for the guy, just because he was not-white and smarter than the last guy to boot. These days, it’s hard to remember the feeling that I had that day, the hope for the future that we all seemed to share (or maybe that was only a symptom of being in a decidedly blue town when it happened). I hear a lot of people complaining where I live now, mostly about the enormous taxes that everyone is bound to be paying soon, and the socialist country we’re going to turn into any day now. It’s ridiculous, of course, as he hasn’t raised any taxes yet (and EVERY president does, blue or red); and don’t get me start on the whole socialist rhetoric and the lies and damn lies that his opponents try to propagate. I’m still proud of my country for electing a marginally liberal President; but my heart aches with the hate and fear this has caused, and the inevitable pendulum swing back to so-called conservative “values” that will take place this next election or, if we’re lucky, the one after that. I am pessimistic by nature, but it’s nice to remember that day two years ago when I was actually optimistic about the future of my homeland, and (almost) everyone else was too…
As for MLK day, this year the car sales and promotional discounts far outweighed any kind of national consciousness of the civil rights struggle, past or present; and that’s depressing. Here’s a little ditty by my favorite musician, Dan Bern, about MLK day, you can listen to it if you want at Archive.org.