“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” as well as “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” were some of those trendy-sayings that were in vogue in the early 1970s. I use to doodle the phrases on the front of my school notebooks in those days. Or as Dylan might say, “Strike another match, go start anew …” after all, it’s all about change.
DC partied hard into the wee hours of the morning and it’s still continuing into the mid-day. Thousands poured out of their homes, apartments, and condos and into the city streets last night, finally ending up in front of the White House as though they were having some San Francisco-Happening love-in – idyllic, enthusiastic and romantic exuberance as though a war had ended, which perhaps – from a certain point of view – many believe has ended.
What is curious is that many – if not most of the revelers appear to be upwardly-mobile, well-educated, and fashionably dressed urban professionals. They are still celebrating here in Dupont Circle – I just passed a whole host of them, who were yelling and hugging and carrying on with their excitement on the sidewalk, as though the Redskins had just won the Super Bowl.
What we have is the Perfect Presidential Bobo, the first GenXer President. David Brooks has written a splendid book about the Bobos in America (called Bobos in Paradise which you can get at Amazon here). Bobo stands for Bohemian Bourgeois. A Bobo has the outer trappings of the bourgeois, the family, the nice house, the nice car, the nice church, the puppy – the structures look quite bourgeois, but underneath all those trappings is an embrace of more bohemian values, dressed up in the nice package so we might not at first grasp that these values, this philosophy, this political point of view are anything but bourgeois, but are in fact as far “out there” as one can get while still living in the nice house with the nice family, the nice puppy, the nice car, the nice church – all upwardly mobile and a focus of envy.
What struck me this morning is that America actually elected the “traditional” candidate. Obama is far more “traditional” in appearance than John McCain, who spent years in a prison, who has been married twice, divorced only to immediately marry a blond heiress, who has been a politician for thirty years in Washington. There is very little there that Americans want to identify with (even if they do). That past is filled with shame, just like America.
But over here with President-elect Obama we have an ideal – a handsome man in his prime, very well-educated, sorta cool but not exactly, with his beautiful first-and-only wife, with adorable children – to whom he promises a puppy. Who spends most of his time uttering slogans that are received as though they were anointed from on high – why? Because he is appealing to the best part of people. There is no room for shame, no, not any more. It’s all bliss. The New America.
What is really surprising is the lack of cynicism – at least openly. It appears that for many people, they do believe they have entered into the Promised Land and out of Egypt. They are truly filled with glee – even here in hard-nosed Washington. Overseas we see similar outbursts – why even Kenya called today a national holiday to celebrate. The world rejoices as this new American messiah who will come and feed the people, calm the seas, and bring light to the world. All caution is tossed to the wind, as though to even utter a word of caution will somehow break the spell.
It’s as if America – and the world – has fallen in love.
But someone somewhere still sits in a cave and waits.