Well, here we are, almost four years later, more divided than ever.
It was not supposed to be this way.
"Change we can believe in," you chanted to us, over and over.
"No more business as usual," you pledged to us, over and over.
"Yes we can!" you chanted, over and over.
There are those, of course, who must blame the Tea Party et al for America's ever-deepening divide. And there are those, of course, who must blame the Occupiers et al. In fact, both factions bear more than a little culpability in the matter -- enough certainly to put icing on the cake. The cake itself, however, sir, belongs to you, and to you alone. You are the one who promised us no more business as usual. You are the one who promised us change we can believe in. And you are the one who has failed to deliver on those promises -- leaving America even more polarized into South-Going Zaks and North-Going Zaks, and even more cynical.
What our troubled nation needed four years ago, and needs even more desperately now, is not another pseudo-leader beholden to the appetites and desires of a robust vanity, not another champion of Machiavellian expediency, but a leader of a very different stripe; indeed, a true agent of change.
A rare bird that one, but every so often there's a sighting or two --
- The day before he was assassinated, Martin Luther King Jr. said this at a public rally: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man." He all but knew he would die early.
- In 1962, Nelson Mandela of South Africa was sentenced to life in prison for engaging in anti-apartheid activities. Freed from prison after 27 years, Mr. Mandela fostered the negotiations with the white establishment that would ultimately lead to a multiracial democracy. As president of South Africa, Mr. Mandela sought reconciliation rather than retribution, and pursued policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality for all. He all but knew he would die early.
- For leading a pro-democracy movement in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest on numerous occasions, for extended periods, by the ruling junta. All told, Aung San spent 15 years under house arrest. Rather than accede to the junta's wishes that she leave the country, Aung San Suu Kyi stayed put, so she might continue to serve as a symbol of hope for her people. Part of the cost to her of this decision was being almost totally separated from her husband and two sons for over two decades. She all but knew she would die early.
O would, sir, that we might glimpse you in the same aviary!
My own hopes in this regard began to slip away one afternoon when I was driving home from work. This was well before you had officially declared yourself a candidate for President, but after you had begun to associate your image with slogans such as "Change we can believe in," and "Yes we can." You were being interviewed on NPR, and you were ducking and dodging the tough questions in artful emulation of every pol who has ever too much wanted something to allow himself to risk telling the truth.
I could feel myself grow heavier in my seat as you continued bob and weave. I did not give up on you, though (not with the specter of Ms. Palin haunting my every dream), until two years later, in the very moment you accepted the Nobel Peace Prize.
The message of that act, for me, was crystal clear: "Change We Need," a.k.a. "Change we can believe in," a.k.a. Hope, was going to have to wait a bit longer for a true champion.
Which one, though? Ms. Palin? Ms. Pelosi? Mr. Trump?"