William requested a post on Barack Obama and as a result I woke up early this morning, pondering what could be written that hasn't already been said. Obama speaks eloquently of the direction he hopes to provide to the United States, and his style of leadership, thoughtful and careful, will be a welcome change ~ if enough voters make the effort to help him achieve it, not only at the polls, but during the course of his administration.
Obama's approach to the interdependent tasks of economic stability and security are, to my way of thinking, the best we've been presented with. These are the pressing issues of our time, and there's nothing that I could write here that would add to the conversation. Instead I thought I'd mention a few observations of Barack Obama's positions on art and social justice that are personally meaningful.
Barack Obama is the first candidate for president (as far as I know!) who has mentioned art in a primary speech. In his description of improvements needed in our education system he included art as one of the necessary subjects. This coincides with my belief that until we value the development of the imagination our lives will be the worse for it. Art, relegated by our current culture to a trivial pursuit, is one of the few things that distinguishes humanity from machinery. One only has to perform the little exercise of imagining life stripped of every aspect of art, remove the pleasures of color, texture, form, harmony, flavor, and movement, to name a few, and you'll get the picture. Since art is my first priority after survival, Obama gets my vote.
Obama is also the frst candidate to actually call for inclusion of "gay and straight" in the rolecall of respected citizens, wisely trumping an issue used by the past administration as a scare tactic to secure the votes of the insecure. There is much conditioning in our current society to view sexual behavior as primary identity, and divide the choices into a narrow either/or ultimatum. I reject this imposed and artificial categorization as the ultimate assault on personal freedom, but at least Barack Obama has included one more possibilty for respect than I've been offered in the past, so for his defense of my personal freedom to choose who I love, again, he gets my vote.
But these two important stances aside, he would get my vote anyway for doing something very well that I'm sure many voters would consider absolutely irrelevant - he can dance while the world watches. The context of his public demonstration of dance was a fascinating one, and his performance, though very and appropriately exact in its brievity, amazed me. Challenged to dance on the Ellen show, Obama gamely showed his "I'm just an average good-natured guy but I have some moves" gambit. What really impressed me was how he accomplished the necessary ending by hamming what I can only describe as a "flash of the spirit"- he freezes for an instant with a funny look on his face, looking directly back at the eye of the camera, then just as instantly makes the funny look dissappear. This move is so complex, and was executed under such intense pressure that the theater/dance director in me remains in complete awe. Consider the frame; being a black man compelled to demonstrate his ability to dance, on the dancefloor of inclusive sexuality, before an international audience, with a time limit of 15 or 20 seconds, no more, no less. More would have sunk him just as certainly as less would have. In our time, a president, and certainly a president to be, could hardly have a more critical public demonstration than to dance.
Maybe what this tiny dance pointed out to me is the incredible adeptness and confidence in Barack Obama's nature. He certainly has nerves of steel, but he also has enough strength to demonstrate his humanity, even his vulnerabilty. That's what I'm looking for in a leader, and I'm not willing to settle for anything less. (I'd rather lead myself otherwise.) And that's the main reason I'm going to vote for Barack Obama.
(I couldn't find a youtube clip for the dance on Ellen's show that I saw, but here's the dance-commander-in-chief on another episode.)