I do a lot of my thinking through conversation, and the last few days have been full of rich conversations. They all seem to be connected in one way or another to this thing that is happening to the world, this transformation and all that it brings, the joy and optimism, the fear, the resistance, the confusion.
Ah the confusion. The delightful feeling that everyone is as confused as I have been my whole life. That none of us can even begin to predict what the world will look like in five or one year. For once I don’t feel like an outsider, I feel like I am the middle of the moshpit with everyone else.
The reason I am so happy clappy is because I am certain that this transformation is headed in the direction that it’s been heading in since the beginning of time: Wholeness. Growth.
I had my doubts. I spent a few years in the cynical Adbusters crowd. In 2000, I found myself working on a high-level with Ralph Nader’s campaign. None of my work amounted to anything, but I got to travel in a van with the candidate in the last days of his campaign, and I spent election night with his staff at their headquarters.
I was attracted to Nader because he clearly spoke the truth, that the American 2-party political system had devolved into one party dominated by corporate interest.
I knew he wouldn't win. He lacked a positive vision and the angry/frumpy suit thing was off-putting to everybody but the hard core. I assumed Gore would win. Everybody did. But we thought that the solution to America's long-term prosperity meant strengthening the Democrats with an injection of far-left, socialist/collectivist values. None of us anticipated what actually would happen to move us forward. Nobody saw it coming.
Remember Barack in the early days of the campaign? No, you don’t. Unless you are Mike McCommon, the only person I know who stuck with Obama from the day he announced his candidacy. For me, I quickly dismissed him as the guy who gave a great speech in 2004 who was going to get 12% of the vote. He wasn’t radical enough. He was boring. Intellectual. He reminded me of John Kerry. No charisma. Remember those days? When we were all talking about Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and speculating as to whether Al Gore would enter the race? None of us saw it coming.
I don’t know when it flipped. Sometime before the Iowa Caucus in January.
In March I went to his rally in Portland. The first thing that struck me was the crowd, not the size of it – which was huge – but the make up of it. I had attended Clinton rallies, Nader rallies, anti-WTO rallies, Democratic rallies, and this crowd was different. It looked like America.
It was clear, watching him onstage that day, that Barack Obama had realized, This is not about me. He’s said the words himself, plenty of times, and I believe him. It takes someone with an ego problem to recognize someone who doesn’t have one.
This was not Al Gore, lecturing people who didn’t agree with him, this was not Bill Clinton – or Hillary for that matter – who think they deserve to be the president, because they can do it better than anyone else.
This was a guy in service to a simple and transcendent idea: The United States of America. Not the Good-People-of-America and the A-holes-Who-Disagree-With-Us-America, as it has been - from both sides’ perspective - since, I don’t know, Nixon? We elected an idea, an old idea, and the idea is: Us.
We thought we had to elect a Democrat, and instead we elected a democrat, a guy who believes he is servant to the People, who work out solutions based on discourse, not a guy who is convinced he owns the best idea and is going to politically manipulate the system anyway he has to in order to get it through. A guy dedicated to process, not outcome. Wow. Wow. People keep pointing to FDR and Lincoln, but I think his role models go back even farther than the that.
People keep asking me, So are you working for Barack yet? Not yet. What would you do for him? I also get asked a lot. Usually I say, I don’t know, anything that will help. But if I get the sense that someone is serious, I say that I think I could help him tell stories.
Our old stories have been shredded. That's why it's so mixed up right now. We've relied on these stories for decades, ordered our lives according to them. Work hard and you’ll get ahead. A home is your security. Save and stick with the market and one day you’ll retire.
We need new stories. Stories about what it means to be an American, what a good life is, what wealth is, what value is. Stories that reconnect us around real value and nourishment in our lives. Stories that center us in our own individual lives, and connect us to everyone else, all at once.
I’m going back to work now – busy! In some ways, I'm already working for the President, because I am working with people whose work aligns with his vision. People working towards wholeness, not separation.
Not sure what it will all add up to. Will I make enough money to support myself? Will I take a job? Will we move to DC? I don’t know. We’ll see. Faith is a big part of this thing too.
Love to all of you –
P.S. Today’s my wife’s birthday! Her mom and dad are driving up from Eugene, bringing ribs and spaghetti and meatballs, family recipes with roots in Roseto, Italy.
Tomorrow we're going to play football in the park, no kids allowed. Hope all of you have a wonderful weekend too.