As regular readers know, from time to time I can't help but let the reality of the current presidential campaign intrude upon my usual garden musings, and after yesterday's post, it should be abundantly clear who we're voting for later this week. For the first time in my adult (voting) life, I will be enthusiastically voting FOR a presidential candidate who has truly inspired us and millions of other very real Americans who dearly love their country and desperately want to see it set back on a saner course after the rape, pillage and plunder of our democracy, constitution and economy after the past eight illegitimate years of the current administration. Little more needs to be said about that, and my intention is not to launch an angry polemic ... rather, I prefer to laud a very special woman, who along with her husband instilled the young Barack Obama with his fundamental values and helped him become the remarkable man he is today.
No doubt you've already heard the news announced last night that Barack Obama is taking Thursday and Friday off the campaign trail to fly to Hawaii to the bedside of his last remaining immediate family member (other than his sister Maya), his grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who according to some accounts is dangerously ill as a result of falling and breaking her hip recently. To say that "Toot" (as Barack calls her) played a crucial formative role in his upbringing is a grossly reductive formulation of the richness and unconditional love she and her husband Stanley brought to Barack's life, and is a characterization best left to Senator Obama himself (as he has previously detailed in his books). I won't even attempt to go there, and my intention is more to express my deepest admiration for this exemplary woman, who with her husband helped to bring us the most inspiring presidential candidate since my hazy recollections of the days of John F. Kennedy (I was 5 when he was assassinated).
Just look at the young couple in the photo above ... young Stanley and Madelyn Dunham (ca. 1940's, though I'm not sure when it was taken), the grandparents of Barack Obama. Look at them very closely, especially Stanley. When I first saw this photo today I was stunned by the unmistakable resemblance Barack bears to his young grandfather ... there's no question about his heritage, and just take a closer look at Madelyn's wonderfully genuine smile ... these are good people, you can see it in their mere presence. And you can see it in Barack Obama's presence today, for he is truly their legacy, indeed gift, to the American people, no matter what the flailing right wing screech monkeys of the McCain campaign try to fling at him. (And we all know what monkeys like to fling best, don't we?) This humble couple from Kansas, who by happenstance ended up in Hawaii, took on the task of raising young Barack during the years their daughter was abroad studying, apparently never considered their grandson as "Other" (the meme so desperately propagated by those less accepting and tolerant) despite the times they lived in. By all accounts, he was just their "Barry" whom they cherished and nurtured as he grew up. And it's only fitting that Barack now must take the time he needs to spend what time he may have left with his beloved grandmother "Toot" despite the pressures of the final days of his historic campaign.
Anyone who dares to criticize or cynically dismiss this move on his part to pay tribute and express his love to his grandmother is indeed a heartless, soullless person. Unfortunately, in this, George W. Bush's America, there are a lot of those types out there screeching in derision. Enough. It's time to take our country back before we truly dissolve into eventual mindless mob rule, the likes of which Sarah Palin and John McCain have so gleefully encouraged the past few weeks. We're a much better people than this, and Barack Obama can lead us back to a saner world, provided we give him the chance to actualize the concepts of hard work, fairness and devotion to a common purpose and greater good that his grandparents instilled in him.
Two weeks from today, we will hopefully cross an historic threshold by electing this man who can restore our faith in that common purpose and begin to heal the wounds of this divided nation so cynically inflicted by the liar who claimed to be "a uniter, not a divider" who cheated and bullied his way into the White House, thanks to a stolen election and complicit cooperation by certain corrupt members of the Supreme Court. Hope may spring eternal, as some long ago phrasemaker put it, but I fear that if we don't seize this opportunity, America as we grew up to know, love and cherish it, may be lost forever to the minions of hate, fear and cynical self-interest.
We're an infinitely better people than that, I desperately hope. But I've lived long enough to see plenty of ideals dashed and harsh realities bitterly replace them. I want so much to see those hopes and ideals revived before I die.
So let us all, despite any partisan leanings, send our best thoughts and prayers toward Madelyn Dunham, in the hope that she may see her beloved grandson Barack fulfill the great truly American values she worked so hard to instill in him and sacrificed to give him a better chance in life than she was able to achieve for herself (despite her own success as becoming the first female bank Vice President in Hawaii). Her selfless devotion to family is truly an inspiration to us all. Or at least it should be, in a better America. I sincerely hope that we are up to the challenge of bringing that America back to stay.
Thanks to Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic for her inspired and truly touching post today that set me on this path tonight. I literally wept as I read her post about the Dunhams, and it's a must read.
And if you still haven't seen Barack Obama's electrifying acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention in August, please take the time now to see for yourself the new direction he wants to take this country in ... far away from the darkness and despair of the past eight years.
I'll step down from my soapbox now. Even humble gardeners such as myself have to express other passions from time to time. Thanks for reading, and don't forget to vote! If you can go early (as we lucky folks in Iowa can do until November 3), by all means do so. It looks to be crowded out there on November 4th.