T.A. Barnhart

President-elect Barack ObamaIn 1968, when Nixon completed his comeback and subjected the nation to an additional 4 years of the Vietnam War and the worst attack on the Constitution seen to that point, some people still believed in hope. Not many, but still: The decade had begun with Camelot, moved through the Summer of Love and was on the verge of landing on the moon. Kissinger was about to ram realpolitik down our throats and pop culture would soon slide into the over-produced vacuousness that would take Nirvana’s emergence from a garage to shock back into another reality. Nonetheless, people hoped for a better world: peace and love and understanding. Hope, the desire to believe in a better world, was still a vialble concern, but its relevance was fading fast.

“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius … let the sun shine in….”

I had turned 12 just days before Election Day 1968. Momentous though the year was, I had not been paying that much attention to events. I knew Bobby and Dr King had been assassinated; I figured out that the wrong person had won the election. What concerned me most, however, was how very unhappy and alone I was. I didn’t know from hope back then: my parents would soon be divorced and by Election Day 1968, their unhappiness was already breaking my life apart. In the coming years, I would grow more miserable, then I would find Jesus, and eventually I would learn that I would have to find myself.

It was, more or less, the typical angst that was part of growing up at the end of the 20th Century. In time I would get my act sufficiently together and figure out how to be happy, how to be productive, how to make things better rather than just drift along. But hope? I never gave it much thought. My christianist indoctrination, not to mention the low-level depression that ruled much of my life as my family disintegrated, had taught me that humans were flawed, failed and futile. I have had to bust my metaphysical ass to learn new beliefs, but simply rejecting that philosophy did not automatically instill an attitude of hope.

Ask me where hope comes from, I could not tell you. Like truth, or love, that’s one you’ll have to find for yourself. What I am confident of, however, is that hope does not come from outside of oneself. I believe hope is a manifestation of the right combination of beliefs and perspectives within one’s own heart and mind. If you look out on the world and see hope coming at you, think again. What you see is not hope: what you see is a reflection of hope. Whatever form that hope takes for you.

For millions of Americans, Barack Obama’s middle name is not Hussein; it is “Hope.” While I understand why this is so, I think it is a terrible mistake to look at him in that way. It’s an unfair burden on him, and it’s an obstruction to our real hopes. I feel justified in saying this because I stood up for his candidacy early on. In the summer of 2007, when most people were either speaking of Hillary or Edwards, or simply not making their mind up (most people, of course, were not giving the matter a moment’s thought), I was out on the streets campaigning for Obama. With a small group of fellow delusionals, I believed enough in Obama’s candidacy to actually do something concrete about it.

As I’ve worked for him and other like-minded candidates, as I’ve ridden the Bus and written my blog posts and organized with the Multnomah Dems, I have found at last that which I lost so many years ago: Hope. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to place that hope on or in Obama or any other person. I have confidence in our President-elect; his election gives me incredible, almost unspeakable comfort, joy, satisfaction. I see what citizens like myself accomplished this year and I am overwhelmed. I am excited for what lies ahead.

And I have tremendous hope for what is possible. Unlike the beliefs I had crammed into my head as a teenager, I now believe that we can learn to live in peace; that we can end poverty; that we can reverse the damage we are doing to our planet; that we can get over ourselves and stop hating people for no other reason than they are different. (I mean, what the fuck?) I think it is just as possible to make the world a good place as it is to make it a shit hole. Why not?

For me, that is what I now call hope. And I will tell you this: While I owe much to the wonderful people who have surrounded and cared for me over the years, that is all they were ever going to be able to give to me: care. I was always the one who was going to have to figure out a reason for living. I was the only one who could define my life, who could focus on whatever truth might be for my life, and who could produce that rare and elusive treasure we call Hope:

Hope. Who I choose to be; how I choose to live.
Hope. What I think the future can be; how I can make that future possible.
Hope. My spirit joining and enhancing the on-going evolution of human life on earth.

Barack Obama speechWatch Barack Obama when he speaks of what is possible, and although he will speak of the responsibliities we each must bear, he will never lay upon another person a burden not freely chosen. His personal confidence and strength suffices for himself; you see that in his eyes as he speaks to the nation of all that lays ahead. Millions of Americans joined his campaign because of hope, because of how Obama affected their beliefs and “gave” them hope. But if it was indeed hope they found, they must, I believe, recognize that they themselves, and not he, is the source of that hope. He just did a damn good job of articulating our shared hopes and giving a voice to what we each carry inside.

So as I celebrate Obama’s election and the future it heralds, and while I will go forward with tremendous hope for what is possible, for what I can and will do, that hope will belong to me and reside in me. I’m not going to add my need for hope to his or any other person’s burdens. I’m not that selfish. I can do better than that, and I will.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    No no no, Mr. Barnhart, obviously you are still drinking the Koolaid instead of listening to the brave Ralph Nader wondering aloud to Fox News whether Barack Obama will be "Uncle Tom to the giant corporations".

    In other news, the naive fools of France are thinking that Obama's success may have something to say to them about doing a better job of integrating racial and ethnic minorities.

  • Ted (unverified)

    Your knowledge of rock history and pop culture in a sociological context is rather pathetic. The punk and heavy metal movements were largely a reaction against Vietnam, Reagan, Thatcher, etc.

  • rw (unverified)

    You spoke much of what I am feeling. He ain't the answer. He is our vehicle to asking the right questions, if we do our jobs.

  • Travis Wells (unverified)

    I think Obama as the ability to inspire hope, which is necessary after the last 8 years of Hell. Inspiring hope is different than being the source of hope, just as nobody can make a great writer great, but they can certainly inspire a great writer to write a great story. My biggest hope is that Obama will inspire the people to continue fighting for right and just causes. My biggest fear is that the people will become complacent. Electing Barack was only the first step in a long hard fight to making the world a good place. Yes, I do feel hopeful, but it's a cautious hope. Either way, the world needs to be saved, and it's not going to save itself. It will take all of us doing our part.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Here's some nice stuff from the "radicals" of Portland Independent Media:

    Anarchists smashing up an Obama ocampaign office

    Obama's links with admirers of Satan

    and some generally conspiratorial ravings

  • Paul (unverified)

    I think you nailed it Mr Barnhart. And to me it means that how OUR recently elected representatives (incl Mr Obama) govern is up to us. We have to tell them of our hopes-in other words, WHAT WE WANT.

    I mean gosh, It's a guvment Of us, by us, and fer us. If it turns into something else ((and yes Of course I realize that it already has been so for decades (the "great" money'd interests have grabbed sooo many of us by the gray cells and short hairs via TVRADIONEWSPAPERINTERNET Inc.com. ...AARGH!)) we have to RISE UP and say what the fuck is this?! Then either we throw the scum out (as we mostly did this month) and/(or?) we take the opportunity we have now to let our elected representatives know what their marching orders are.

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    T. A. Barnhart:

    In 1968, when Nixon completed his comeback and subjected the nation to...the worst attack on the Constitution seen to that point...

    Bob T:

    Well, that honor (up to that point) probably goes to Woodrow Wilson. You should really read about Woody's Admin. Yeah, I know it was "a long time ago", but if ya wanna say so and so is the worst of all time or something, you've got to count them all, not just those in your living memory.

    There was a talking point the past few years, that Bush was "the worst President of all time". When one caller on a radio show was reminded of Carter's record she realized he sounded worse but said, "That was a long time ago". In other words, Bush was just the worst President since Carter (I guess), which is only less than three decades ago. That's what happens when people repeat the talking points without thinking (as for me, Bush II is certainly in the bottom 25% of our 42 Presidents, which puts him in the bottom ten or eleven. But I compare him to all of them, not just the past four or five.)

    Bob T

  • Bob Tiernan (unverified)

    By the way, I've heard for the past eight years that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, i.e. hating/opposing Bush) so I'm wondering if you guys are going to be "less patriotic" now. Or will we see Obama's portrait appearing on murals all over the country? Just wondering.

    Bob Tiernan

  • BOHICA (unverified)
    “I agree with you, now go out and make me do it.” - FDR

    Good advice.

  • joel dan walls (unverified)

    Tiernan sez: Or will we see Obama's portrait appearing on murals all over the country? Just wondering.

    Play this video, Mr. Tiernan, to see the grim consequences of an Obama victory.

  • Hal (unverified)

    HOPE? I reckon many of you are hoping Obama quickly amounts to more than the symbolic icon he enjoys today. But then again too many of you have already attributed to Barak a greatness and acheivevment far beyond getting elected. And I get the impression you'll not care too much what he actually does because it will be better than Bush and lucifer Chaney? We may be about to witness the biggest pass handed out to a president in US history. One that morphs all he does, no matter the good or bad, into an ever growing historical figure of grand accomplishment. Mass euphoria tends to create it's own reality with the affected unable to perceive anything but the desired and imagined. But hey, good luck with all that.

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