Be Seeing You. Be Shaming You, Too.

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For all of its Snidley Whiplash swagger, of late, the GOP seems to have forgotten that the internet exists.

More to the point: they haven’t realized that the kinds of bullshit they used to be able to pull in relative secret–during game 7 of the NBA finals, as in Texas; or at 8 o’clock at night on the eve of Independence Day, as in North Carolina this week–will no longer have the comfort of the shadows.

No. Because somebody’s always watching.

And, as Edward Snowden was helpful enough to remind us (in the douchiest possible way), each of us is caught in a very particular kind of governmental gaze. (Ah, bonjour Foucault.)

As a liberal, I know I should be furious about this, about data farms in Utah and metadata and the autonomy that’s been taken from me. I’ll admit: I feel a bit guilty at not going full-on Rage Cat on this issue; my dreams are full of Howard Zinn shaming me from afar.

But I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking about what it means to have a life online, to be leaving a digital trail all over the freaking place, and I’ve made my peace, mostly, with having little control over data that once was “mine” and that’s now free range on the Internet.

Continue reading “Be Seeing You. Be Shaming You, Too.”

In the Midst of Uncertainty: Know Hope

The thing that frustrated me about working (ever so briefly) in politics is that the energy one expends is likely to be utterly in vain.

At least, that’s what it often feels like in the moment.

You go all in on a cause or a candidate–knowing that losing is always a possibility–but, at least for me, it was sort of hard to deal with the moment when that possibility became reality.

But what I didn’t recognize then, as today’s US Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act suggests: politics is all about the long game.

Continue reading “In the Midst of Uncertainty: Know Hope”

I’ll Make A Man Out Of You. With My Fists.

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So I had C-Span on this AM so that I could watch Mitt Romney’s commencement address at Liberty University.

Make of my sanity from that what you will.

But I was early, or Liberty was late, so, in the interim, I heard a series of calls from C-Span’s morning call-in program.

The conversation centered on the Washington Post’s article this week on Mittens’ dumbassery at a high school student, which, according to the article, centered on at least one occasion on physically assaulting a younger classmate whose haircut Mittens didn’t like.

So he gave the kid a new one. You know, while his buddies were holding the kid down, ignoring his crying and screams for help.

Totally normal behavior. For a sociopath.

Anyway, Steve from Haymarket, VA came in on the Republican line.

And Steve? Couldn’t see what the big fucking deal was about. Because, he argued, he’d been bullied at school, during his time at a military academy. No, not bullied, he said: hazed.

And that hazing had, he claimed, been just awesome for him. Being bullied makes you butch, makes you tougher, he argued. Turns you into the man you’re supposed to be. That’s what it did for him. Getting the snot beat out of him convinced him to take up weight lifting, exercise, blah blah blah macho, and goddamn it: Steve from Haymarket was grateful for it. And he didn’t understand why the kid that Mittens and his buddies “hazed” wouldn’t have “manned up” under such treatment.

Now what struck me wasn’t the bullshit notions of masculininty, or of what it means to be a “man.” How you become a man–through physical violence and intimidation, apparently.

It was that, for Steve, Romney’s participation in this kind of behavior–which Mittens hasn’t denied–is a good thing, is a selling point for Steve on why Mitt is the Right Man for the Job.

To be a man, it seems, means you have to be willing to beat masculine conformity into the bodies of others who are failing to live up to your expectations.

So what does that mean for a guy who wants to be the President, the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military in the world? What about from a diplomatic perspective? Are “real men” only those willing to wage war, to push the physical assault of one kid out onto a multinational stage?

Certainly, I don’t care for Mittens, and I–like most people, I imagine–was bullied in high school. Not physically, for me, but bullied nonetheless. And over what my would-be tormentors perceived as my being a “lesbian.” Now, mind you, at my wee little high school on the edges of the East Coast Megalopolis, there were no constructive discussions of gender and sexuality, more out of ignorance, I think, than any sort of malice. I doubt the morons who tried to give me a hard time [in French class, no less! I think that’s my favorite part, in retrospect] even understood what a lesbian was, other than, perhaps, a girl who didn’t look “girly” enough to them.

So all that said: I’m not with Team Mitt on this one. [Or any one.] But I’m more freaked out by the notion that some people would see this kind of asshattery as a sign of Mittens’ leadership potential, of his potential awesomeness as the leader of the free world. And I wonder how many of said people would also claim to be “Christian,” to be followers of a religion that, ostensibly, is all about treating your fellow humans with dignity and respect.

Not sure what to make of that, exactly. But it doesn’t feel like something good.

Slashing NC’s Amendment One

Suck it, Bob McDonnell.

As Rachel Maddow notes, last night was yet another instance of the majority voting on minority rights: and guess what happened? The minority lost. Shocker.

Except this time, in North Carolina, the passage of Amendment One is a loss for everybody in the state who might, one day, somehow, love someone and want to have that non-marriage connection honored in any way by officialdom. The amendment bans not only “gay marriage” [which was already outlawed by existing state legislation], but also prohibits civil unions or common-law partnerships from being recognized by the state in any capacity.

Straight people, gay people, bi people, whoever: this is bad policy for everybody who might love someone else. Who might want to visit that person in the hospital during a serious illness. Who might want to be able to make decisions re: medical care for their partner. Who might want to care for the couple’s children, to have that parentage recognized by the state. Who might want to be protected from the partner in a domestic violence situation. Bad news all the way around.

Now my friends in the liberal media–and some in the mainstream as well–are blaming the passage of the destructive amendment on a lack of voter education, on the notion that many people who voted for this thing knew not what they did [as a famous man once said].

This is, to me, an optimistic interpretation.

I think many of the folks who voted for this bill knew enough: they knew it was against the gays, that it would “protect” marriage from homo-cooties, or whatever. The rest? Was just noise. Doesn’t matter. The objective here was to hurt, to lash out against the “evils” of homosexuality.

This is terribly sad, to me. And utterly un-“Christian,” the word behind which many of the bill’s proponents took refuge. Granted, I don’t go to church, though I was raised in one. But I do believe in the basic tenets that that Jesus cat was kicking around 2000 years ago, the ones about being your brother’s keeper, about caring for your fellow humans, about treating everyone with love and dignity and respect, even when you think they’re fucking nuts.

Ok, maybe that bit’s only in the NRSV version.

Still. To me, practices that make hate a central tenet of your government, that invest one whacked out version of “Christianity” into the state: that’s not what the cat was saying. That’s not how I read the Good Samaritan, you know?

My fair state has its own issues, namely Gov. Transvaginal Probe and his mealy-mouthed “protecting lady brains from teh hard medical decisions” bullshit. So I cannot cast aspersions on North Carolina as a whole. So, for, now, I content myself with my own particular kind of resistance, summed up in my car tag above: writing gay porn about human and angels, among others.

And hey, you never know. Maybe the nice people of NC would be a little less anxious to kick gay people in the head if they just relaxed with a little Destiel, in their time. Or some nice smutty Wincest. Hell, maybe they need to go straight to the Wincestiel.

Whatever it takes, people. Whatever it takes.

A Rush of Conspiracy


Rush, Rush, Rush.

You just can’t keep your damn mouth shut, can you?

Ah well.

So despite the “apology” he lobbed at Sandra Fluke last week, Limbaugh is still scrambling–not only to justify the three full days he spent spewing misogynist rhetoric at Ms. Fluke, but now to find the real killers, the real cabal that’s responsible for his behavior. Because, “apology” or not, there’s no way in hell Rush thinks that his behavior can be attributed to, you know, him.

Today, as this post over at Daily Kos suggests, Rush has upped the ante and gone for the full 9/11 truther:

The same public relations firm representing Sandra Fluke represents Game Change [the HBO movie about the 2008 campaign]. The same PR firm that handled Sandra Fluke’s episode is handling Game Change, and you know who it is?  Anita Dunn, formerly of the White House! The Mao Tse-tung admirer, by her own admission. Anita Dunn, Obama’s former adviser, is the PR firm for the movie Game Change and for Sandra Fluke. It’s all part of a plan. It is not accidental. None of this stuff just happened…It’s all orchestrated.

Dun dun DUN!

But you have to admire the sheer absurdity of what Rush is “arguing” here. I mean, +1 for the Mao reference, buddy. Next time, go for the triple word score and throw in Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright.

To be fair, Rush ain’t arguing a damn thing. He’s simply stating the crazy as loudly as he can, as often as he can, and hoping that volume and repetition obscure the complete absence of evidence that exists for any of his claims.

The first rule of conspiracy thinking: eliminate any talk of evidence or proof.

Unless it supports your belief, in which case, add it to the shouty talking points.

And any evidence that doesn’t support your theory is, in fact, proof that it’s correct, and that the real truth is being hidden from you by the UN in one of their black helicopters that carry the codes to the Harry Potter Doomsday Weapon that will turn every man gay and every woman into a PhD. Obviously.

And when that happens? Rush will have time enough at last to do…whatever it is he does with his dick. Except, oh yeah. Well. That might make even Burgess Meredith wince in sympathy, honey.

Good, Bad–I’m The Guy With The Gun (it’s true: Rush Limbaugh has no dick)

Pretty sure you'll need a condom for that, babe.

Every time I think that today’s GOP has reached the apex of suck, they come back with a whole new brand of crazy.

Today, Rush Limbaugh made an aggressive push to regain the Raging Asshat title from Rick Santorum, who’s had a death grip on the thing for the last week. Limbaugh, for some reason, felt that he had informed opinion on the [frankly ridiculous] bitchfest that Congress is engaged in over birth control; specifically, over insurance companies and employers covering the cost of birth control, costs which can be prohibitive for some women.

You may recall that the House held a hearing on this issue in which they refused to hear from any, you know, women on the issue. This visual fail was made possible by Republicans’ piss-poor attempts to recast birth control–a matter of women’s health–as one of religious freedom [?!], one in which teh evil evil government was attempting to enforce its questionable morality on the long-suffering penises of America.

That is: some [men] in Congress don’t want to have to pay for birth control, because that goes against God’s plan of sex only being for procreative purposes, for women to be tied to the home and children, and for men to rule the motherfucking world. Or, as Rick Santorum put it in October of 2010 [dude was ahead of his time, right?]:

Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.

As Dean Winchester would say: “Okay, you lost me there, sparky.”

The Democrats on the committee had a field day with the all-male panel image and ran with it for a couple of news cycles. Last week, they staged their own hearing–a purely performative one, since they are in the minority in the House, and thus on the relevant committee–on birth control in which they heard from Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student. In her testimony, Fluke:

told the story of a fellow law school student who required access to the pill in order to deal with a medical condition. Not being able to afford it, because it wasn’t provided on the health care plan, the student wound up losing an ovary.

Got that? So a fellow student [not Fluke herself] LOST AN OVARY, which, hey, she might have wanted to use, thanks, because the school’s health care plan didn’t cover the cost of birth control. Pretty clear connection, for me, between women’s health and health care covering birth control.

Rush Limbaugh, bless him, doesn’t agree. He weighed in on the issue today [ETA: On Wednesday, actually]:

What does it say about the college co-ed Susan [sic] Fluke who goes before a Congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex? What does that make her? That makes her a slut, right?

Yes, he really said this.

But oh, wait. There’s more:

Makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex, she can’t afford the contraception she wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We’re the the pimps. The johns. We would be the johns. No! We’re not the johns–well, uuuhhhhh, pimp’s not the right word.  Ok, so she’s not a slut, she’s round-heeled [???]. I take it back.

[I love the metadiscussion he has with himself over the difference between a pimp and a john. Heh! And this is my transcription, for what it’s worth, so any errors are mine.]

So it’s evident, right, that he has no fucking clue what he’s talking about: he clearly did not bother to read or listen to Fluke’s actual testimony, since he a) gets her name wrong; and b) misunderstands the content of her testimony. Could be dismissed out of hand right there.

But it’s Rush, and I imagine this sort of gleeful ignorance is pretty de riguer for him.

I find this conceptual leap completely confounding, if one uses Earth logic, but totally understandable in fake Conservative logic:

  1. Woman wants to use birth control.
  2. Birth control is related to sex.
  3. Woman wants to have sex.
  4. Ergo, woman is a whore.

And this is, in large part, why the GOP is so hot and heavy to recast birth control–women’s health in general, I’d argue–as a question not of morality but of “religious freedom.” Such a rhetorical move–however lumbering and poorly executed–allows them to have their cake and eat it too: they can still have yahoos like Rush and Fox News make the old familiar, always-already argument that women are whores [what’s up, Eve?], while politically positioning themselves as champions of liberty, rather than would-be installers of chastity belts around the scary, scary ladyparts.

But, hey, what about men?

If the government shouldn’t subsidize female sexuality, shouldn’t encourage women to have lots of dirty sex, then it shouldn’t subsidize men either, right? Surely the GOP is pushing for insurance companies not to have to cover Viagra?

Riiiiight.

Rush, you have some experience with this one, don’t you, darling?

As Rick Perry might say: oops.

Here’s what I’d say: Rush, you do not have control over any woman’s reproductive system or her sex life. You are not a moral paragon, nor does any uterus tremble in fear at your opinion. At your dick, maybe, but your opinion? No.

So you keep spewing Santorum about women’s sex lives and I’ll keep reminding folks that you can’t keep it up. A small protest, perhaps. But, given its subject, that seems only fitting.

This Week In Male Hetero Fail (Thus Always To Tyrants Edition)

This is my boomstick! Not my transvaginal probe. Swear to god.

A friend and I were in a local restaurant/bar last night, eating, talking, trying to get some shit for school done. It was pretty quiet, being a Sunday night, I guess, save for one boisterous exception: a group of aggressively moronic dudes playing darts right behind our fucking table.

Now I have no problem with the individual elements here: dudes, darts, and beer. Fine. But this group took the elemental combination to new heights by tossing homophobia into the mix, which. Awesome. They’d divided themselves into two teams for their game, and their team names? The “gays” and the “lesbos.” Yes, in fact, they were so proud of these monikers that they not only repeated them [loudly] at every possible turn but also inscribed them on the wee chalkboard on which one of their ilk was keeping score.

So I don’t know for certain that these men were exclusively hetero; indeed, you could make a pitch for such aggressive posturing as being a cover for some sort of latent anxiety related to their own sexual identity, much less that of others.

Still. I strongly suspect.

So their dickishness [and my inability to formulate any sort of real-time response, vocal or otherwise], got me thinking about all of the male hetero fail that’s swirling around my home state of Virginia these days.

It’s not fair to consign all of heterosexual maledom into a universal. So take that as my caveat. [Indeed, a friend recently rapped my virtual knuckles for referring to him as “hetero” in a way that he took as a bit of an insult, which, ok, it may have been, but only unconsciously so. Hence me performing my bias so openly here.]

However, a handful of white, heterosexual men–many of whom ostensibly represent the fine people of Virginia–have been doing their damnedest over the past few weeks to make that truism harder and harder to uphold. So to speak.

Most of this idiocy centers around our state government’s attempts to pass a law that would have required any woman seeking the LEGAL medical procedure of abortion to have a transvaginal ultrasound. Oh, yeah. You’ve surely heard about this by now, thanks to the efforts of Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, and The Rachel Maddow Show. Thus always to tyrants, indeed.

Currently, Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governor’s mansion in our fair state. And although the person who drafted the state-mandated penetration bill is a woman, many of the bill’s loudest and most prominent supporters were the white men who dominate Virginia’s House of Delegates and our Senate.  Our right-wing social experimentalist governor, Bob McDonnell, had been touted as a potential running mate for the GOP’s eventual nominee [*cough*Mitt Romney*cough*].

However, once the transvaginal nonsense broke into the mainstream–both in Virginia and in the national press–McDonnell backed down from his heretofore vociferous support for the bill [and its equally insidious cousin, a so-called “personhood” bill that would redefine human life as beginning at conception. Good times!].

Now that the state-mandated penetration bill has been killed and the “personhood” bill has been sent back to committee [effectively tabling it for the rest of this year], you may be asking: of what new male hetero fail do you speak?

I speak, dear reader, of Delegate David Albo, who ostensibly “represents” district 42 in Fairfax, VA. Let me allow the gentleman from Fairfax to speak for himself–and it’s worth quoting in full, via Gawker:

I got Rita [Albo’s wife] some red wine, sat next to her, used my patented cool move. I invented this, it’s a United States patent. I went, “Ohhh, I’m so tired!” I then turn on the TV to find the Redskin channel. I know you think that’s weird, but my wife loves the Redskins more than she loves me. Got my theme music going, my red wine, looking at the Washington Redskins and I start flipping through the channels. And through the channels you have to get through the news stuff. And all the sudden on my big screen TV comes this big thing and a picture of a bill that has “Albo” on it. I went, “Wow! Holy smokes, it’s my name as big as a wall!” And the very next scene was a gentleman from Alexandria’s face as big as my wall going “trans-v-this” and “trans-v-that” and “they hate women!” and “we’re gonna—in that bill—she’s crazy!” And I’m like this with my wife. And the show’s over, and she looks at me, and she goes, “I gotta go to bed.” So if the gentleman’s plan was to make sure there was one less Republican in this world, he did it.

[If you have the stomach for it, you can watch the video of this display of rhetorical impotency here.]

As the commenters on Gawker’s story point out, Albo can’t even SAY THE WORD VAGINA, yet he professes a desire to legislate how and when the state should have access to it.

What’s almost as bad, I think, is his apparent assumption that if he wishes to have sex [shudder–why am I thinking of tentacle porn?!], then his wife should [by right] be in the mood. And I also love his assumption [a peek into his figured world, perhaps?] that it’s the talk of the transvaginal probing legislation that gets his wife “out of the mood,” as if she was already in said mood, given all of his careful preparation for seduction. Hey, at least he recognizes that talk of state-mandated penetration is, you know, less than alluring–as might be, dare I suggest, her knowledge that he supports such legislation of women’s bodies. Might not really make her want to, you know, give you access to her vagina, dude, knowing that you spend all day thinking up way to virtually worm your way into those of women all across the state. Just a thought.

And, to top it off, the Daily Caller website threw a video tantrum today over Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Governor Transvaginal Probe and his buddies. Seems the good people of the Caller don’t like Rachel using the word “vagina” on the TV machine. Loudly. Repeatedly. And in the context of GOP policies. [Also, note the totally squeamish way in which the blogger from the Washington Post presents this video. Can’t even bring himself to comment on it beyond a coy: “That’s as much detail as I’m willing to provide on this affair.” And the use of the word “affair”? No mistake there.]

So let’s add “vagina” and “transvaginal probing” to the list of words with which the dominant discourse is very, very uncomfortable–to the list of words I vow to now repeat early, often, loudly, and occasionally even in context–in a way that’s totally different, I think, from the heebie-jeebies that words like “anal” and “sodomy” give to said discourse.

Freedom’s just another word for liberal dogmatic thought

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You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Earlier this week, President Obama called once again for all American children to have the opportunity to attend college. This isn’t a new idea for him; it’s one he’s touted in some form since his 2008 campaign, but one to which he’s returned repeatedly since last month’s State of the Union address.

For Obama–for a hell of a lot of other people–education offers freedom.

Unfortunately, in the world where Rick Santorum spins, a world where other people’s sex lives pose a clear and present danger to his own, freedom = slavery to “liberal” ideology, to thoughts that are critical of this country, her leaders, her practices. In a speech in Michigan on Friday, Santorum told an enthusiastic [geriatric] audience that:

President Obama once said that he wants everyone in America to go to college. What a snob. There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor. That’s why [Obama] wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.

Yes, that’s right: America needs some of its children not to go to college so that those children can “work hard every day”–which, apparently, people with college degrees–people like Santorum!–do not do. Yup. We just sit around not fixing shit and watching the world go to hell as we stare at our degrees and drink pinot and sing the Marseilles. Man, Rick: you nailed it.

But let’s be clear: for the Vest, giving all Americans–read: black, white, latino, asian, rich, poor, southern, northern, first-generation, seventh generation, christian, muslim, atheist, jew, woman, man, gay, hetero, transgender, bi–the same chance to access higher education is akin to packing these young minds into the rhetorical Amistad and shipping them off to Marxistville. Learning = indoctrination in what Santorum sees as multicultural bullshit, gender equality, and the notion that no idea should be swallowed hook, line, and sinker without critical reflection and inquiry.

You fear ideas, man? You fear exposure to ideas? What does that say about the strength of your own convictions? Oh, that’s right: we’re not talking about what you believe–for you, it’s a given that those ideas are “correct,” grounded in your god’s law or whatever. For you, any idea that doesn’t match your Opus Dei-inscribed view of life, the universe, and everything is “liberal” and therefore dangerous and wrong.

Right.

Also, Rick, my love, you have a very strange understanding of how “teaching” works. I can assure you, as one of those “liberal” professors for whom you express so much contempt, that exposing my students to ideas, to perspectives that are unlike their own, does not automatically cause them to adopt those ideas. Far from it. Students are not obedient little sponges, darlin’–they come in just as resistant, just as married to the ideas they consider their own as any adult. If anything, I think, they are a weird paradox at 18, 19 years old: on the one hand, they’re open and pliant and more receptive to experience than ever before. But on the other, they recognize that openness, this newfound desire to be more than they are and they resist that, push back against their own wills with everything they’ve got; not all the time, not in every instance, but often enough so that their own identity–the one they’ve spend their adolescence and late teen years constructing carefully, so carefully–is not corrupted.

They’re smart, Rick; they’re so much fucking smarter than you give them credit for. And yeah, sometimes they change their minds but they’re the ones that do the changing, not me or any of my colleagues [not all of whom are the liberal bastions of idiomatic thought you seem to imagine].

And that’s what you’re really afraid of, isn’t it, Rick? Of your kids changing their own minds. Having thoughts that you didn’t plant in there with the spade of the Bible. It’s called growing up, man: it’s called becoming a human being. It has less to do with what job the kids end up getting, whether they’re on Wall Street or own a business on Main Street or care for kids with cancer or create their own comic series. It has much more to do with the way that the kids see the world, the epistemology that they fashion for themselves to help them make sense of their own existence and I know I’ve lost you now, baby, because I used the word “epistemology” and if you’re not careful, I’ll point right back to Foucault and that would REALLY piss you off, wouldn’t it, me citing the ideas of a gay French dude, right?

So, Rick, let me bring it back to a place that maybe you can understand, one where you won’t be smelling poppers and dreaming of Donna Summer as you read my text. I used to work for an amazing woman, a university president [stay with me, Vest: take a deep breath] who didn’t just believe that, as our university’s slogan said, “Education Offers Freedom,” she embodied this ideal. Both of her parents and her grandparents: all college graduates. Her parents: both teachers who moved from Chicago back to the South in the 1950s, going back to their family’s roots–to the roots of slavery–to teach those who hadn’t gotten out, not yet. She and her husband: both teachers early in their careers. She: president of a for-profit university [hey, you like that idea, right?] with an on-campus presence that encouraged students, faculty, and staff alike to come to her with concerns, questions, comments. She embodied the potential of education in her DNA, in her everyday actions, and in the genuine love and concern she felt for all of the students, even those she met only in passing, or only on graduation day when she handed them their diploma.

Rick, this woman’s life illustrates the truth of the axiom that education can offer freedom: from poverty, from circumstance, from history, and yes, from ignorance, from fear, from derision. But the key word here is CAN; education isn’t a magic bullet, it’s not the universal means of escape from the dominant ideology. It’s a tool, man, a tool to which all those who want it should have access. This is what the President means when he says that everyone should be able to go to college: everyone should have the chance to see if education is the key to their lock, an answer–never the only answer–to some of their questions.

Your fear precedes you, sir. Your desire to consign others to ignorance all in the name of “freedom” is repugnant and will only hasten your obsolesce as a political and cultural force.

Hope Not Fear (four years on)

So four years ago today, on January 8, 2008, Barack Obama lost the New Hampshire primary and I took to my bed in tears, decrying the unfairness of it all. I was still stinging from Howard Dean’s defeat in 2004—I worked for his campaign in NH—and it felt like, oh no: here we go again.

And then, that night, Obama gave this speech. The one where he introduced the idea that would become the lynchpin of his campaign: Yes We Can.

This is the speech that affected me the most, that convinced me that, without a doubt, Obama should be—and would be—the next President. It’s a speech that comes from defeat, from setback, and yet it’s the most forward-looking—and realistic—take on what this nation is capable of. Obama’s rhetoric, his campaign, his candidacy, convinced me that *I* had something to contribute to this country, damn it, and I better as hell figure out what that was. Is. Will be.

I’m a pretty cynical person. But on a good day, I think of myself as a cynical idealist. I suppose you could say that I’ve shaped my hard cynical shell to hide the hope and optimism that’s there, dug really deep within me.

Despite all of the weird shit going on in the world—that’s omnipresent in the world, I’d argue—President Obama still gives me hope. No, that’s not it—he doesn’t give me anything. At his best, he simply reminds me of what’s already there, of the hope I carry around like a concealed weapon, a force of possibility and change.

And his actions, his rhetoric poke at me and say: hey. Do something with it. It’s there. And nobody can use it but you.

So, chop chop. Get to it.

Four years ago, I was on the verge of finishing a Master’s degree. Four years later, I’ve finished that one, completed another, and completed my first semester in a PhD program. I’ve changed more in the past four years—for the better, I think—than I have in a long time. I quit pretending that I wanted to make it in the business world and started teaching. Found out that I love it, and that knowledge has booted me onto the path I’m on now, one that makes me happy—which still feels weird to say, to read, to feel, but there it is. Maybe most importantly: I’m a writer, now, and I can say that and believe it without flinching.

No, Obama did not make me the person I am but his example—the one that began with his speech on January 8, 2008—kicked me in the shins and told me that hope alone wasn’t enough, that I couldn’t wait around for someone else to change things, be it in my life or on some larger scale–that it was up to me. Which was liberating and terrifying. Awesome and really fucking weird. Still is, in fact.

So, four years on, I think: yes we can. Yes we did. And yes we will, be it personally or in our communities or on the federal level. Because we must. And, despite everything, despite every soul-sucking and dispiriting GOP debate I’ve sat through in the past nine months, I still believe that, when the chips are down, most Americans, hell most people, will do what they must to care for their sisters and brothers, for their fellow humans.

In the closing days of Dean’s campaign in NH, his slogan was Hope Not Fear. And I think that’s where I am, at the core. Leaning towards hope. Moving away from fear.

Idealistic cynic, over and out.