“If you live with hope you’re dancing to a terrible tune.” My sister of time and family, if not shared parentage, is reading me a line of graffiti she sees scrawled on the wall as she rides Marti down Atlanta streets into the hood where hope all too often, when found at all, is encased in a neon glow looking almost tawdry in open sunlight, a certain house, an abandoned pawn shop, a game show title, a child who doesn’t know any better. Hope, Xam Cartier (http://www.answers.com/topic/xam-wilson-cartier) wrote in her first book, Be-Bop, Re-Bop, is a brand of toothpaste, something that can be marketed and sold but in itself has limited value- cleaner breath, a fresher mouth, possibly whiter teeth, but no better off in life, in love, in circumstance. Yet here we are in times which are full of hope. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope) The hope is almost palpable- maybe there is another way, maybe there is a way to will cool the planet, to minister to all the sick, to will feed the hungry, to stop the wars. Maybe we can hope for something better.
At least that is what the political pundits bandy about usually next to the name of Barak Obama. And Obama does offer hope, that thing, which he correctly avers, can never be false. It is simply not the function of hope to be false. Yes, one can be lied to, misled and betrayed. But that does not make one’s hopes false. Possibly it speaks to a lapse in one’s logic or a shortcoming in one’s judgement, but the hope, the hope is true. And Obama does indeed present a paradox of hope. I grew up be told over and over again that a black person could never be president, no matter his eloquence, no matter his intelligence, no matter his accomplishment, no matter his vision. I learned this as fact, as truth. Now the possibility that a person of African descent might be our next president exists. I was wrong. We were wrong. How wonderful! Now I am one of those that believes part of his “acceptability” comes from the fact that his blackness comes direct from Africa and he does not carry the stench of slavery in his bloodline. But that is neither here nor there, a person of African descent is running for president, and he could well win.
Obama is certainly the best choice, the best chance, the best hope for things to get better. My politics one a linear level are far to the left of Obama, and are far more circular in their embrace. I understand the words he parses and positions he takes as the price he will pay for the presidency, turning from Palestine, undercutting Cuba, even distancing and then divorcing himself from his pastor, are not just the limits of his ideology, but of his character. Yet, I cannot but be swayed by the hope, the hope of all those who now believe that more is possible than they thought was possible the day before yesterday, the hope that they can find a way to reach at least some of their dreams. Because when you hope, when you dream you move towards life and away from death and despair. It is wonderful to see so many so hopeful. But hope is not enough. That is what was written in the shadows beneath the graffiti writer’s plaint. Because if that is the only music you have to hold onto- hope without skills, hope without strategy, hope without tools, you are indeed dancing to a terrible tune.
My friends Brenda Wong-Aoki and Mark Izu of First Voice (http://firstvoice.org/) returned from Japan recently. There they were repeatedly asked to remember that when they voted for president they were not just voting for America, they were voting for the world. All around the world people are watching the United States and they are hoping, they are hopeful. Only time will tell if the tune is terrible, the music is certainly sweet.