Thursday, August 28, 2008

Change We Can Believe In (or, Earnest Interlude)

My grandpa and I swapped stories about our recent travels tonight, me to India and him to California, taking a trip that he never would have agreed to a year or two ago. As I watch Barack Obama accept his historic nomination as the Democratic candidate for the presidency, I'm thinking about "change we can believe in" and the stories we keep hearing about the heartland, the people who work hard and practice self-reliance and self-deprivation in order to make life better for their children and grandchildren. When I think of the heartland, it's not an abstraction, and it's not all's struggling and human and sometimes boring and sometimes ugly, full of empty sky and big-box stores, and people who look at strangers to say hello, though they mistrust fancy foods and large vocabularies - and I believe everyone on the coasts should travel there before going abroad because how can we know ourselves without looking inward, and how can we convey the U.S. to others without knowing the U.S? I am so proud to be a New Yorker, but my love for this city stems from my journey to get here. I think of my own family, my mom who cleaned rich people's homes to pay the bills, my dad who worked all shifts as dispatcher at a trucking company, uncomplainingly. My grandma, a nurse. My grandpa, a tool & dye man at John Deere, who served in the Pacific Theater for three years, a kid heading to war straight from an Illinois farm, with a Bible given him by his mom, a keen eye for detail, and a soon-to-be developed habit of trading ration cigarettes for others' chocolate. That's my grandpa - and it is thanks to him and my grandma that I'm here in Brooklyn tonight. Ottumwa, Iowa; Oklahoma City; Brainard, Minnesota; Gettysburg: they took me with them in their motor home across the U.S. And it's with them, when I was 11-years-old, that I first set foot on Manhattan. So here I am, and there Barack Obama is, radiating hope. My grandpa called earlier to tell me that he was going to be watching Obama's speech. A lifelong Republican, from when being Republican meant other, better things, my grandpa is tonight the change I can believe in, whole-heartedly Democrat in his 87th year, himself radiating hope and love to New York City from the heartland - and receiving my heart, in these thoughts.

(W.C. Williams once commented, "What a fool ever to be tricked into seriousness," and so my next post will contain some kind of absurdity, I promise. And I will now go to sleep with a smile. )

No comments: