Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Conventional Wisdom

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since early August, you know that almost as soon as the Olympic flame was lit in London, all television cameras turned to Denver as the Democratic Party convened their quadrennial convention. Since I get a bulk of my news from a bizarre combo of NPR and the Daily Show, I've admittedly been a touch behind on the substance and mainly just getting the hype from Matt Lauer as I brush my teeth in the morning.

For the first time since I've been eligible to vote, there is actually a Democratic candidate who has captured the national imagination and certainly many people of my generation. I have friends who sport "Change we Can Believe In" bumper stickers and others who have participated in voter registration drives on his behalf. Yet, I've stood at the sidelines, hesitant to put my trust in any politician and never one to be a "cheerleader" or "joiner."

But after reading several Facebook status updates that professed crushes on Michelle Obama, I finally decided to check out what she (and he) had to say. "It's time we listened to our hopes instead of our fears," cried Michelle as she spoke about her childhood on the South Side of Chicago and her blue collar roots. "It's time we stop doubting and start dreaming," she urged as delegates cheered her on.

OK, reasonably inspiring, but what else ya got? Well tonight Bill Clinton told me to "believe that America must always be a place called hope," and I gave in.

Fascinated by the promise of an entire social calendar for my Labor Day weekend filled with Barack Obama events and in the interest of “blog research,” I reluctantly signed up for an account at

Instantly, I was presented with a range of activities including convention speech watching parties, canvassing at my local farmer’s market, bike races and even a group garage sale where proceeds go to the Obama campaign. If I were a more Gonzo blogger (or if I were getting paid for this), I might make a bigger effort to cruise over to the Morristown Green on Sunday morning.

Still, I lingered on the site to see what Barack had to say to Jewish Americans, Latinos, Environmentalists and Kids. I found designated bloggers and content for every subsection of society, with of course some room for error. A woman profiling a delegate from Iowa noted that even though Kathy suffers from Fiber Malaga (aka fibromyalgia) she's still out there campaigning.

More than any other candidate in American history, Barack Obama (or his strategists) has figured out how to harness the power of the Internet - providing links to 16 social networking sites, recruiting volunteers and in a stroke of pure genius revealing his pick for vice president via text message. He has captured the youth vote (in theory) more than any presidential candidate since JFK. Could he be my generation's JFK? Does he risk becoming victim to the same fate as this antecedent?

As I pondered all of these messages, speeches, events and ideals, my cynicism got caught up in the momentousness of the convention. For the first time ever, America has selected a black man for their major party candidate. We all have a chance to watch history and maybe a little progressive change in the making. And while that might not make me a wide-eyed optimist or a clipboard-carrying activist - it has given me a little something to believe in.

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