Election '08: The Night Before Christmas
I have a special guest blogger today. His name is Justin Warfield. You may know him as the frontman and songwriter for the great band She Wants Revenge. He's a very cool guy who has an interesting and emotional take on this election. His post is below. Also, here's a link to my piece on socialism, or what we talk about when we talk about socialism. Happy election day! Hopefully, by the end of it, we will have awakened from the psychosis that has gripped us for the past eight years,
Fear Of A Mulatto Planet, or, “What am I gonna do when the election is over?”
by Justin Warfield
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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008 1:33 am
With only a few hours left before the polls open on what is widely being called the election of our lifetimes, I sit here awash in a heady mix of relief, exhaustion, and the sort of buzz that can only compare to Christmas eve, and it’s strange that with the job of leader of the free world, an economy near collapse, 2 un-winnable wars, and the future of race relations in America at stake, I actually have no fear.
Of course we could always see a re-run from the guys that brought you the last two stolen elections, but I have to say, I think the odds of that happening are as unlikely as Ari Gold being killed off of Entourage (though the shark-jumping would not surprise me).
No, this time I don’t think it’s going to happen. I mean, yes, voter suppression will occur, the right will scream Acorn, and hijinx will ensue like an episode of Three’s Company, but in the end, when all is said and done, when Palin’s smirked her last smirk, when Biden’s made his last gaffe, when The Maverick™ has cracked his last Bear DNA /Paternity joke, and when every last surrogate has screamed “Rev Wright” from their rooftops like Peter Finch on 20 Red Bulls, Barack Hussein Obama will emerge as President Of The United States.
Like all of you I’ve definitely succumb to the polls, the pundits, and the projections and turned my life over to a power greater than myself during this grueling haul of a campaign, and besides the odd hour or two of paid work I’ve managed to squeeze in, I’ve remained focus on my real work - obsessively looking for a vintage Triumph motorcycle on Craigslist, changing diapers, and hating Nancy Pfotenhauer and Nicole Wallace with the kind of venom usually reserved for people that try to turn me into vampires upon signing up with Facebook.
So, geezed up on Diet Coke I’ll stay up all night with the sound turned low, so as to not wake my beautiful wife, occasionally glancing over at my 13 month old as he dreams and smiles in his sleep, as I glance up at the flat screen to dream of Mika Brzezinski… or a life without GW… or a country where a mulatto kid from the middle class can come from modest means, work hard, and achieve the American dream.
A country where another mulatto kid from the middle class, albeit 2500 miles away can work hard and achieve his American dream, only instead of fronting a rock band and being the oldest guy at the skate park, this kid might be president.
Like many other black men in America (the term African American has always felt like a hyphenated term created for ease of use at the DMV) - I not only thought that it would never be possible in my lifetime, but when I first heard about the candidacy of Obama I shrugged it off as just another chance for white America to prove how far it hasn’t come in the last 40 years, and at least we’d have Hillary in the white house and not the guy with the stiff arms who voted against Martin Luther King day.
Going back a bit, the first time I ever heard the name Barack Obama was out of my mom’s mouth. My mother, a white, Jewish woman from Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, phoned me with the fervor of a woman who had just found a new low-fat fro-yo store in the valley, told me of a young black man she had just seen speak at the DNC, and that not only was he the most amazing speaker she had ever heard, but that this guy was going to be president.
Immediately I flashed back to meeting Jesse (as in, run Jesse, run!) at the Montreaux Jazz Festival back in ‘92, and how even when we were shaking hands for the photograph, I was thinking, “what a putz”, and looking for the buffet.
Cut to a few years later, and I’m sitting in yet another church basement (cause I used to like the drinky), and discussing the primaries with a friend.
“Whaddya think, man?” he says, in a voice so unique in it’s whine and timbre that everyone who knows him has their own impression. “Dude, he’s black”, I replied.
Laughing, he said, “He’s about as black as you”.
But the fact is that Obama is precisely black enough to be elected to the highest office of the land, but he’s also black enough to have everyone I know worried about his well being once he gets there.
Keep in mind this is the same friend who became so distraught during the last few primaries that he took to telling his Echo Park neighbors he was voting Nader just to piss them off and get the vegetable oil in their engines boiling.
Many months later, countless hours spent staring at the masturbatory musings of Nate Silver, one grey hair, one baby, and endless spit-sightings of Chris Matthews, later, (seriously, I love him, but he wets the desk) - and here we are.
So what is amazing about this?
That the inevitable democratic candidate isn’t on the ballot tomorrow?
That the republican candidate is down 10 going into election day, a shadow of his former self, and losing his mind before our very eyes in a flurry of fell-flat jokes, cries of socialism and downright begging for votes, as the black guy who couldn’t even get into the Democratic National Convention in 2000 steals it from his shaky grasp?
What is amazing? That Barack Obama overcame the odds, Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, Hillary, Bubba, John the haircut’s illegitimate child, Tony Rezko, Schmidt, Davis, 527’s, robocalls, hate mail, assassination plots, an Alaskan point guard with a wink and shiv, and Lorne Michaels equal opportunity hazing, to emerge as the party’s nominee?
Actually, yes, it is amazing!
I won’t even pretend that I can get to sleep tonight, that would be an exercise in futility, not with Santa in the skies, on the way with a sleigh full of Dems, perhaps not the 60 I put on my list, but there will be Dems, oh there will be Dems!
No, there’s no way I can sleep with the knowledge that in a few short hours there will be gallops and footsteps on my roof, as a fat white man dressed in red plunks a Hawaiian black man with an African Muslim name down my chimney.
So instead of sleep I will pull one more all-nighter, a “last hoorah” if you will, just Rachel, Keith, and Chris and me, just one more dance with MSNBC, just one more night of imagining myself as Chuck Todd in front of the virtual electoral map sliding states around like the red-headed god that he is.
I think back to that time when my mother first told me about this good looking mixed guy with the weird name, and how he electrified the party, her, and my step dad, and how now, in a few short hours, they will have the chance to make him the 44th POTUS.
Just to further the annoying mulatto theme, let’s jump from the Jews, to the blacks - (since we were pretty much road dogs in the civil rights movement before the Right and the Crazy-Christians™ pitted us against one-another, but I digress) - to a story about my father and I.
Early in the primaries a dear friend had been trying to get me to attend some rather tony Obama fundraisers and events, but seeing as how I didn’t think he had much of a shot, and I had a newborn at home to attend to, I passed.
This friend was a PR machine, and had done a ton of work to campaign and spread the word about Obama, and being that he’s convincing as shit, eventually I relented and agreed to see the guy speak, besides, the wife was out of town, so it was either that or…work, and that wasn’t gonna happen.
In the car on the way I texted him (very dangerous) and he gave me instructions on where to pick up my wristband (very Hollywood), then I did a quick scroll of the mental rolodex since I had a +1 and rolling solo is only fun at movies and restaurants, besides the fact that this seemed like something potentially cool that you’d want to share with someone.
So I called a childhood friend - (coincidentally, another mulatto…I know, but we’re everywhere, get used to it) - he however was busy and couldn’t go.
And then it hit me like a lightning bolt, “Call your dad, you asshole!”
And seven digits later I was headed to pick up my South Central raised father to see the guy that everyone was talking about.
After we saw him speak, after we shook hands and met the man, after we laughed and spoke with him, and after we walked back to the car to sit in silence and hold back tears, it dawned on us both that we may have just witnessed history.
A photograph of Obama speaking that night hangs framed in my father’s office, a photograph that my wife mounted along with the backstage pass that allowed my father to meet the man who would be president.
But as I drove my father home, the silence said more than we could put in words, and though it was punctuated by the odd acknowledgement that something special had occurred, it went so much deeper than we were perhaps prepared to address.
I mean, after all, here was a credible black candidate who spoke with the gravitas of MLK, but had the charm and charisma that JFK could have only dreamed of.
Yeah, I know, the boomers thought JFK was hot, but let’s face it; he was alright…for a president!
Compared to LBJ, maybe.
I mean, he was cute for a pasty Irish kid who kicked it in Faneuil Hall, but this guy Barack was another thing entirely, he was Michael Jackson circa Thriller, he was Prince circa Purple Rain, a true rock star.
He broke it down like a southern Baptist preacher at my grandma’s church, but had the inclusive magnetism of no politician before or after.
I thought of my father walking out of his house and onto his front lawn only to be greeted by a tank and a voice instructing him to go back inside as the city around him burned and looted in riot.
I thought of myself, growing up in a much less racially charged time, in the comfort of private schooling in the San Fernando Valley instead of South Central, and how my life had been so different than his because of the struggles of him, my family, and all those before me.
And then I thought of my son, born in Beverly Hills, who though technically 1/4 black is still blue-black to me, who will grow up in a time much different than both my father and myself, a time I hope, less defined by race than was mine in the lily-white valley, my father’s on Exposition Ave, and his father’s in Texarkana.
So as I lie down next to my wife, mere hours from casting our first vote as a family, hand on the remote, wired and weak, with visions of Jonathan Alter dancing in my sleep, I wonder what it will be like for young Bowie Jonah Warfield, to grow up in the era of president Barack Obama?
I guess we’ll see.
PS - I’m still looking for an old Triumph, got any leads?
Read Warfield's post-election followup, "Very Old Tears: Musings On a Lefty With a Jump Shot Taking The White House."