November 6, 2008

Tears Of Joy

I will always remember the evening of Tuesday, November 4, 2008 as one of the proudest and most profound moments of my life. To repeat the clich├ęs, it was history in the making. It was one of those moments like the first moon walks or the Challenger explosion that is forever etched into our collective memory. The first comparison that came to mind that evening (aside from weddings and new babies) was graduating from boot camp at Parris Island in early February 1978 as a 17-year-old high school dropout newly minted Marine. But that was a personal pride, a solo accomplishment. Tuesday night I was proud as an American, proud that enough of us could look beyond skin color and elect a man based on the content of his character (sorry I couldn’t resist), on the hope of his potential, on the faith in his abilities. As a 48-year-old grizzled and often ill-tempered old man I nevertheless wept. Such joy, such unbridled emotion.

I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I voted for both Reagan and Clinton. I even vote for the deceased. On the local ballot Tuesday the position of Surveyor was open but there was no candidate so I typed in Henry David Thoreau. George Washington would also have been a good choice although he’s probably a little too old school for me.

Veterans (especially combat veterans) have a special place in my heart. When I used to put on a uniform and strap on my hand cannon I would never knowingly write a veteran a traffic ticket. I would simply send him on his way with the sight of my grateful salute fading in his rearview. The men and women who defended our country and our way of life do not need me giving them grief. Who better in our society to honor? We are a peaceful society but we rely on the mettle and resolve of our warriors, the men who answer the call, the men who stand in the breach, the watchmen on the walls, the eternally vigilant.

Having said that I honor Sen. John McCain and the tremendous sacrifice he made on our behalf. He is truly an amazing man, a hero in the truest sense of the word, an example to us all of how we can maintain our dignity in even the most trying of circumstances. He would be a great president and truth be told he probably deserves it more than just about anyone. In his concession speech Sen. McCain quieted those who were booing and urged everyone to unite together behind President-elect Obama. He once again demonstrated the qualities we want in our political leaders, tenacious fighters who when faced with the inevitability of defeat bow out gracefully and support the victor.

But I did not think his would be the steadiest hand at the rudder. That feistiness, that bulldog response is not the best approach to dealing with the almost insurmountable problems now facing President-elect Obama. In my mind these issues are better resolved with a cooler head, a longer fuse. I suspect we will see that Obama is indeed a man of tremendous resolve and able to keep his head when those around him are losing theirs. A man who understands that compromise is not synonymous with weakness, a man who will be willing to trust but will also verify. For too many years now we have bullied our way around the world stage and alienated pretty much everyone in the process. We have been the ugly American. It is time to embrace the hope of a brighter future and to reclaim our heritage as the greatest nation in the world.

Two works come to mind:

The Second Coming
Robert Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.
There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High.
God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early.
The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth.
He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.


Fr. James Early said...

Yikes! I'm off your blog list! Was it something I said?

Anonymous said...

Great to get an insight from you about the election; and thanks for introducing me to the Yeats poem.

My prayers for President-elect Obama, and for all in the US. God bless.