Saturday, April 3, 2010

Estimated Prophet

Catching President Obama in Portland, Maine reminds you of going to a Grateful Dead concert. Friends with connections get tickets and you hit the road. Sun shining, music playing and windows open, you tap out rhythm on the steering wheel as carloads of happy Democrats whiz by on their way south from the capital to the show. Obama Biden bumper stickers and dark suits replace Steal Your Face and tie dye, but the feeling is the same. You are connected by a common purpose.

After parking blocks away you make the pilgrimage with the masses to a place transfixed by the event. Instead of buying a veggie burrito from a nice Dead Head, you grab some Thai noodles at Whole Foods and a water bottle. What had been the dingy Expo Center on Saturday for your daughter's track meet is now the center of the universe. Peaceful protesters and people looking for tickets mill around, bells ring and police stand at attention.

Being a part of the establishment has its perks. The blue ticket you scored gets you on the fast track with the usual suspects. Former governors, candidates for governor, legislators, congress people, and big donors get shepherded in by volunteers you also recognize from conventions and caucuses. White ticket-holders are in a line that hasn't moved since 5 AM.

Inside the echo chamber some people fill in the bleachers, some jockey for media exposure and schmoozing, but you go to the floor in front and join believers who want to look the President in the eye.

Jerry Garcia caused hysteria simply by tuning his E string. Jerry! Jerry! Jerry! And the Obama staffer who places the Presidential seal on the podium and tests the sound system receives a standing ovation. Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!

Preaching to his choir Barack Obama is relaxed and playful. He is among friends who are high on victory. His speech is good, but it's more than the words that inspire. It is a confidence in our country and in us that makes some middle-aged women jump up and down, and scream. It's the promise of a future for our children. It is hope, and yes, things have changed.

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