Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Nation of Community Organizers

A very dear friend of mine who grew up in the one of the reddest parts of the Commonwealth of Virgina, coming from a family with old money and ties to the Republican party, someone who had voted for the first Bush who became president and then Ross Perot, rather than Bill Clinton, emailed me the other day to explain what she was doing to help get out the vote for Barack Obama:
It's all very exciting. And nerve racking. I just came from our "Campaign for Change" Arlington VA headquarters office where I dropped off breakfast. A very good buzz while they got ready for the final push. There were several intersections where "young people" had signs that said "Honk for Obama". I passed several very long lines at voting places. We have volunteers at all the polling places to help people pass the time.

It will be a very long day. I woke up at 5:45 to cook after not much sleep last night. Yesterday I put door hangers on 71 houses. I will have some time to take a nap this afternoon and should... but it's hard to sleep. And I'm sure I'll be up late tonight, either way!
In an earlier email, in which she explained how she got from supporting GHWB to supporting BHO, she put it plainly:
I'm just trying to pay my penance!
Indeed, I think we as a nation have a penance to pay. Change will not come just because a new President will move into the White House. This will become apparent to us all quickly enough. I suspect the euphoria over the election of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United (and yes, I mean "United") States of America many of us feel will be short lived. There are simply too many incredible challenges facing us for the celebration to last. The hard work begins now. As the former community organizer said in his victory speech last night:

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term. But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand. [...]

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

If you watched that speech though, you couldn't help but notice a certain heaviness in President-Elect Obama's tone. On a night when he should have been so very proud of his accomplishment, he seemed genuinely humble and perhaps even a bit somber. Something George Packer noted [via Sullivan] might explain why:

Obama seems a bit grave to me these days. The death of his grandmother has edged his public mood with sadness, but this heaviness preceded it. [...]

The reason came to me when I was reading the galleys of H. W. Brands’s new biography of F.D.R., “Traitor to His Class.” On the night of his landslide victory over Hoover, in 1932, in the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt had an intimate conversation with his son James:

“You know, Jimmy,” Franklin said, “all my life I have been afraid of only one thing—fire. Tonight I think I’m afraid of something else.”

“Afraid of what, Pa?”

“I’m just afraid that I may not have the strength to do this job.” He paused reflectively. “After you leave me tonight, Jimmy, I am going to pray. I am going to pray that God will help me, that he will give me the strength and the guidance to do this job and to do it right. I hope that you will pray for me, too, Jimmy.”

As I watched the throngs celebrating last night in Chicago, in Harlem, in Rockefeller Plaza, in Times Square, I thought to myself that President Obama need not be afraid that he will not have the strength to do this job. He need not fear because we, the people, will be right there working with him. Things simply have to change. Thousand of people are losing their homes, their jobs, their healthcare insurance, their businesses, and their security. The "Era of Me" must come to an end. It's time for the US to become a nation of community organizers. We have a penance to pay and it's truly now or never.

Bambino and I attended a benefit for The Coalition for the Homeless Monday night and the event's co-chair Richard Gere told the assembled what must become our mantra: it's easy to give when you're flush with's easy to be generous when times are good...but it really means something when you give when it's hard. It's gonna be hard for so many folks. Unfortunately, the experts all seem to feel it will get worse before it gets better. Now is the time to donate to your favorite charities. Now is the time to volunteer in your community. Now is the time to ensure our new President that casting our votes was our commitment to do our part, that we understand it's not "Mission Accomplished," but rather mission just getting underway.

For anyone out there still unfamiliar with the term, I should explain what a "community organizer" is I suppose. It's a bit tough, actually, as the term is used more as a description of a belief system than any concrete sets of tasks or responsibilities, but I guess a community organizer is kind of like a small town mayor, except that a community organizer can actually change the world. *

*OK, so pettiness and immaturity are hard to give up...but I promise to try hard to make that my last swipe.

Labels: politics


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barack Obama cured me of my racism. Change indeed.

11/05/2008 09:04:00 AM  
Blogger Stefano Pasquini said...

I've seen the "Era of Me" going from strenght to strenght for most of my life, since the early eighties, exported worldwide.

Yes, let's change.

11/05/2008 09:37:00 AM  
Blogger jeff f said...

Here here.
Today the Civil War is over.

11/05/2008 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

Allright, where's the next community gallery where I can just come up and show my stuff
(no questions asked).

+++Barack Obama cured me of my +++racism. Change indeed.


Cedric C

11/05/2008 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger nina said...

great post and wise words! I also hope people will keep this spirit and coem together. Change needs to be worked for. I am up for it and I hope everyone else is too.

11/05/2008 11:39:00 AM  
OpenID deborahfisher said...

The thing that made FDR capable of his task is having the humility to understand that he needed help. The country pulled together to address the Great Depression and WWII, and to my knowledge anyway, FDR lead from the bottom up more than he led from the top down.

Obama gets that. His humility and heaviness and experience as a community organizer soothes me. His acceptance speech was appropriate--an untriumphant call for national sacrifice that placed the citizen center stage as much as possible.

It's the first time I have ever, as an adult, been spoken to by a politician in a realistic way.

11/05/2008 11:40:00 AM  
Blogger George said...

The "Era of Me" must come to an end.

Truer words were never spoken.


We can, yes we can.

One election cannot defeat racism.

One election can lay on the mantle of pride and possibility.

One election can open the door, can we walk through it.

Can we? Yes we can.

11/05/2008 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Pretty Lady said...

I don't feel any euphoria at all--what I feel is that now, just maybe, when I work really hard at things that are important to me, the work won't be in vain. Because maybe the culture is starting to consciously share my values.

Interesting that two close friends of mine who voted for McCain contacted me immediately after the election to offer congratulations. They both said they were 'at peace with it.' That's what I'm seeing in the conservative blogosphere, too. Healing is possible.

11/05/2008 05:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PHEW! We can now have back our life!

No more American news where the main national CNN remain so devoid of international/foreign news! No more darling snl and riotous msnbc (fox we simply could not stomach).


We have prayed for you guys to get a good gal or guy. We hope now you'd cooperate and finally, begin to behave like the intelligent people we are certain you are!


11/05/2008 06:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Pretty Lady:
+++I don't feel any euphoria at all

Well, it's the first time ever that a majoratively white society
has a non-white as president. This topic might sound vain but it's still historical. It beats Toussaint Louverture (debatable). It's Alexander The Great's dream of the multicultural cosmop society fulfilled. It's very good for America as it's a choice oriented toward the future. The future will be multicultural or won't be.

I can't believe we have someone as unfashionable as Harper in Canada.


Cedric Caspesyan

11/05/2008 08:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I was thinking of rephrasing my previous comment as to include any nation that was presided by someone
of different racial origin (than the nation's majority), but that mostly only happened previously with colonialism (most often by white people), and in rather dark circumstances.

For example there were black kings who ruled over Egypt, but again that was by force (correct me if I'm wrong). Same for Genghis Khan. If Barack is the first case of someone not being of the racial majority being voted by a nation, than that's historically significant. In the future this issue will become pointless as the racial mixmatch will be the majority in most countries. Maybe less in China, but they're actually all mixed with mongols there.

Barack is actually the most handsome US president in a while.
And he has a deep comforting voice. If presidency is all about image, than this should work out.


Cedric C

11/06/2008 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m an average guy and I don’t relate to Obama. If you look beyond the hype he is just another politician wearing a custom made suit by Hart Schaffner Marx. His wife wears designs by Narciso Rodriguez. Pricey stuff. All of these guys wear clothing throughout the week that is worth more than what most of us earn in a year. I can't relate to that. If you can maybe you should spread the wealth so that I can have a nice suit as well.

11/06/2008 12:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With change in mind. Does this mean that gallerists like Ed will start giving more breaks to emerging artists? Maybe they will keep mid-career artists instead of dropping them for a Hunter grad? The art world needs some change of its own.

11/06/2008 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

With change in mind. Does this mean that gallerists like Ed will start giving more breaks to emerging artists?

Grrr.... freaking self-centered can you be? Stop the self-induced pity-party and volunteer for some cause.

As difficult as it may be to accept, this is NOT ABOUT YOU or what you perceive as the injustices of an art world stacked against you.


11/06/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger David Cauchi said...

I'm a little disturbed by the result. Yes, it's a decisive victory, but it's not that decisive. It's by no means a landslide, and it should have been.

I mean, seriously, a 6% margin!?! This after the worst president in US history and the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression!?! What's going on?

And then there's things like gay marriage being voted down in California.

The US is a strange place. Your 'centre' is quite a lot to the right of most other western democracies. If you want to change, that's a good place to start right there. Get some balance into your political culture. And do away with that pernicious doctrine of US exceptionalism. A grosser thing I've never heard.

Oh, and Cedric, Canada is not alone. NZ is about to vote in a right wing ex-market trader as prime minister. He's running on a 'vote for change' ticket. Groan.

11/06/2008 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can't force laws down the throat of half of the country. The country is still split on gay marriage and aboration. Obama does not change a thing about that. It should be up to each State to decide. Force it on people and there will be civil unrest.

11/06/2008 03:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think if Obama is afraid of anything it is the fact that now all eyes are on him. When he told us about change he made it sound like he would do it the moment he took office. Now he is saying it will take two terms. Maybe he is concerned that he bit off more than he can chew.

I think we all have to help with change. Change can't come too fast. Maybe a delicate change is best. Little by little. Inch by inch. The problem is that many people view Obama's change as meaning it is ok to go against the will of half the US. That won't work. That will lead to struggle.

This election showed how divided this country really is. Not just with race but with geographic location as well. I can't tell you how many times Obama supporters have called certain groups of people hicks or worse during this race for the White House. There are racial bigots and geographic bigots. Change indeed.

11/06/2008 03:54:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

You can't force laws down the throat of half of the country

No, but apparently you can treat minorities like second-class citizens and still sleep just fine.

11/06/2008 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Young people are more open minded, and most religions except islam is going downward (thank God! Cos he never had anything to do with them...) so opinions against gay marriage and abortion should decrease every year.

Below 40 per cent usuallly allows for laws be forced down your throat. So give it about 10 years, baby.


Cedric C

11/07/2008 02:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Franklin said...

Mark my words, the next time a couple of Mormons turn up on my doorstep, I'm going to make them cry.

11/07/2008 07:38:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Mark my words, the next time a couple of Mormons turn up on my doorstep, I'm going to make them cry.

I'm not feeling particularly generous toward that "church" at the moment either. The irony of Mormons funding a "marriage = 1 man and 1 woman" proposition campaign...insisting that that is how it's always been and should too rich to swallow.

11/07/2008 08:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There have been some off the wall comments here. First of all, Cedric, re first minority president: Fujimori in Peru.

"Allright, where's the next community gallery where I can just come up and show my stuff
(no questions asked)."
What does this have to do with anything?

Anon 12:34, you're an idiot. Should Barack and Michelle wear clothes from Kmart while they're campaigning and appearing before millions of people to give their victory speech? Um, no, see this is a special occasion, where you dress up.

Anon 12:40, you're even more of an idiot. Yes, "change" means that everything should now be free and you should get whatever you want handed to you on a platter, including a show at Winkleman Gallery, regardless of whether your work fits in with Ed's program, or hell, whether you're even an artist. And you should be given a million dollars, tax-free.
I have no idea what this means:
"Young people are more open minded, and most religions except islam is going downward (thank God! Cos he never had anything to do with them...)"
People, think (and proofread) before you write if you want people to understand you.
And, in conclusion, any religious proselytizers, or any persuasion, who appear at my door are ALWAYS GIVEN a hard time. I mock them mercilessly, point out their hypocrisy and generally let them know that I consider them at best misguided, ignorant and ridiculous, and at worst dangerous. Believing in god does not give anyone any kind of moral high ground. Intelligent people decide for themselves, with their intellect and compassion, what is right and what is wrong. They don't just accept what is shoved down their throats by some authority figure.

Have a nice day!

11/07/2008 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ed, I know it's not polite to start calling people idiots the minute you turn off comment moderation. I'll try to restrain myself in future.

Have a great Bambino's birthday! 23 is a good year - I remember it from a couple years ago.


11/07/2008 02:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May I take this opportunity to let you know that half of Italy is really sorry for the little mussolini who commented about Obama's tan and didn't even think it was a racist comment.
Unfortunately, the other half still really likes little mussolinis.
And their racism.

11/07/2008 05:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know the thing about all these is that it is not the so-called 'foreigners' who are going to take Obama to task --it will be Americans.

In the past several months, I have traveled from Africa through Western Europe to the furtherest edge of Asia--and, apart from England, Canada and Saudi Arabia --there was not a single country where Obama was not believed as the best possible choice. AND he WAS the better choice! What a campaign! What admirable desire to help his country!!!

But Americans? The American media?? They are already demanding he prove himself ALL over again...making him work harder than any president-elect while complaining too that he is being forward etc etc

It is the same old.

We are watching you America.
We want you to do well.

11/07/2008 07:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

I was talking with someone yesterday who told me about Fujimori. I was going to correct myself when I saw Oriane's comment.

Fujimori's in prison now for...some kind of self-coup d'état, but originally was voted for. That made me realize that I have a peruvian friend and the politics in Peru never came into conversation. I could tell you right now who leads in Chile or Argentinia, but I don't know about Bolivia or Colombia. I'm pretty much of a news skipper.

++What does this have to do with ++anything?

Community organizing VS how the Artworld functions. Actually I was thinking there was no such thing as a community-oriented gallery in Chelsea when I remembered Exit Art and some of what White Columns do.

Everything has to do with everything, btw.


+++I have no idea what this means:
+++"Young people are more open +++minded, and most religions
++++except islam is going downward ++++(thank God! Cos he never had +++++anything to do with them...)"

Take the end sequence of the movie Offside, when people fest in the streets. This is a portrait of contemporary youth in Iran. Statistics everywhere inform us that the youth is less attracted by codes and laws of religion, and more tolerable toward difference.

The "God has nothing to do with religions" comment: there is no religious writtings in the world that ever came directly from the hand of God, except perhaps the 10 Commandments which were never found. Everything else is
hearsay. People putting down on paper the stuff of oral culture. By deduction you can infer that if God had wanted his words written down in a human language he would have probably used some more stone tablets, because that was a much better idea. So this illogic adds to the many illogic precepts that religions defend, except for the fact that most religions defend the interests of the people
who practice them: this is very too logic and crudely human. For the details we would have to go religion by religion.

As for the use of "he", sorry. I was thinking of abrahamic religions (2 third of the world) which describes the Lord as male.


Cedric Caspesyan

11/08/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

Ooops, philo:

If everything has to do with everything, can God have anything to do with religions?

Can this cancels itself? Something about God has to do with everything including having to do with religion, but religions also having to do with not having to do with having to do with God but and youknow, bla bla bla?

Nothing has to do with anything.


Cedric C

11/08/2008 11:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric C said...

By the way I don't think that the ME is opposed to the WE. If a lot of artists reflect on the lack of spaces to show, that's a lot of ME that can become a WE. But you don't know if you have a WE until you express a little of the ME. Like you can't know if they are other gay people out there until you say "hey, you know what, I'm a man and I like to have sex with other men". I don't see anything wrong with an artist asking where they can show up. The communists meant to suppress the ME to devastating effects. Let people express their need, that's the first step.


Cedric Caspesyan

11/08/2008 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing that up.


ps one word: gaydar.

11/08/2008 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

To clarify...

A NY Times article which addresses the victory margin of Barack Obama.

From AP Obama victory opens door to new black identity
"Obama's overwhelming triumph cast America in a different light. There was no sign of the "Bradley Effect," when whites mislead pollsters about their intent to vote for black candidates. Nationwide, Obama collected 44 percent of the white vote, more than John Kerry, Al Gore or even Bill Clinton, exit polls show."

At Obama's first press conference...
"The economy is job one — but for now, it’s President Bush’s job." So said Sen. Barack Obama at his first press conference as president-elect, with 18 heavyweight economic and political advisers behind them.

The 18... mit credentials...
* William Daley - Chairman of the Midwest, JP Morgan Chase; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Commerce, 1997-2000
* Robert Reich - University of California, Berkeley; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Labor, 1993-1997
* Penny Pritzker - CEO, Classic Residence by Hyatt
* Roger Ferguson - President and CEO, TIAA-CREF and former Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve
* Lawrence Summers - Harvard University; Managing Director, D.E. Shaw; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Treasury, 1999-2001
* Anne Mulcahy - Chairman and CEO, Xerox
* Richard Parsons - Chairman of the Board, Time Warner
* Paul Volcker - Former Chairman, U.S. Federal Reserve 1979-1987
* Rahm Emanuel - United States Representative (IL-05)
* Vice President Elect Biden
* Jennifer Granholm - Governor, State of Michigan
* Robert Rubin - Director and Senior Counselor, Citigroup; Former Secretary, U.S. Dept of Treasury, 1995-1999
* David Bonior - Member House of Representatives (Michigan) 1977-2003
* Laura Tyson - (Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; Former Chairman, National Economic Council, 1995-1996; Former Chairman, President’s Council of Economic Advisors, 1993-1995)
* Antonio Villaraigosa - Mayor, City of Los Angeles
* William Donaldson - Former Chairman of the SEC, 2003-2005
* Eric Schmidt - Chairman and CEO, Google
* Roel Campos - Former Commissioner of the SEC

It's good to have information before making a decision.

11/08/2008 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

! Le trés bufoon Jacques-Alain Miller, he speaketh:

How do you explain the Obamania?

By the fact that Bush has become a phobic object. Already, after the diabolical Nixon of Watergate, America had given herself to a child choir that grew peanuts, Jimmy Carter. Bush did in fact much worse than Nixon, he camped himself with delight in the role of “the enemy of mankind”: rejection of the Kyoto Protocols, contempt for international institutions, pre-emptive war policy, the right to torture, the worship of force, chauvinism, etc… Cheney, his vice president, was nicknamed “Darth Vader”. The duo had managed to make of the USA the new “Evil Empire”. For Americans Obama is the equivalent of redemption. Kindness is all over his face. He is a listener. Inclined to consensus, he respects other’s beliefs (”we can disagree without being disagreeable”), he is attached to differences, he appears considerate with the poor and the weak, “everybody is beautiful, everybody is nice."

Yes, but the fascination for Obama goes beyond the USA, he just became a global phenomenon.

Because the United States remains the only global super power. Bushophobia is widespread over the entire planet; it is now logically reversed into universal Obamania. Obama is the mirror-man of the Universe, “the microcosm- man” as it was called during the Renaissance, the one that represents the world in its diversity, who reconciles within his own person the races and the sexes: he is African, he is American, he is black, he is white, he is a man and yet he is very fashionable, very “mannequin”, almost feminine, he is smooth, he epitomizes “coolness’ itself, he can be sweet and at the same time is able to reveal himself as tough, just the opposite of John McCain, who at times appears handicapped, confused, stiff (almost inelastic), reckless and hotheaded, positing an aggressive masculinity which appears now as simply outdated. Métis and hermaphrodite, who says better?

With Obamania we are beyond the political realm; we now talk about “hope”, we are expecting “miracles” both in the economic and political fields, we compare his “Yes we can” to John Paul II’s “Do not be afraid”.

Obama has indeed cleverly cultivated the image of the Savior and Redeemer of the world, he has promised to “heal” and he assured us “change”. His genius consisted in not to shy away from the “phony” (loufoquerie) and draw without shame or hesitation in the stock of ancient myths, of the oldest beliefs of humanity. And that works for him, even in our age, the age of science and impiety, even when we are supposed to believe that we no longer believe. At the same time, his campaign masterly utilized the latest fads and gadgets of technology. He knowingly played the part of the Messiah, while repeatedly modernizing the role with a Hollywood rhetoric: Obama talks like in a movie.

Currently Obama is the most loved man on the planet. But we know that disappointment is inevitable. Will Obama be able to love and be loved?

This is raw politics. Obama made his political career in Chicago, where blue flowers do not make old bones. Everything indicates that he at least does not take himself for Obama. Who will be his first accomplice? His buddy, another Chicagoan, Rahm Emanuel, he will be the real number two: the political hyper-efficient hit man, someone who doesn’t take prisoners. He will mercilessly operate behind the scenes, while on the stage our Saint John Chrysostom (golden mouth) sings lullabies for us.

11/09/2008 09:19:00 PM  

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