Posted tagged ‘2008 election’

Obama – New York City Cab Driver

October 3, 2010

Mid-term Coming

Like many who voted for Obama in 2008, I’ve found the news these days, particularly prophesies of the upcoming elections, very depressing.  I do think O’s in a slump;  he seems to be having a hard time rousing himself, much less others, his conviction and confidence worn as thin as his person.

I find it hard to fault him for this, given that almost everything he says is greeted with knee-jerk misinterpretation, misinformation, distrust.

My personal advice is that he should be himself as fully and unapologetically as he can, even if that means being subject to even more distortion.  Americans, though divided in terms of issues, almost uniformly dislike perceived artifice;  even a super-careful reserve can be interpreted as phoniness.

The fact is that you can’t please everyone.  Better to be rejected for who you actually are than for who you are carefully trying not to be.

That doesn’t read quite right–what I mean is that it is better to fail for your whole, real self, than for a carefully promoted dissection of yourself.

In the midst of my depression, I had an experience that made me feel better both about the situation (and the country)–a New York City cab ride.

I don’t take many cabs these days;  good for my pocketbook, but a loss. I’ve always found New York City cab drivers to provide a wonderful window onto the greater world (if not the smoothest ride).  This guy, for example, who was from Mali, explained that his first language, and one of the main dialects in a country filled with dialects, is Bombara.   (I had never heard of it before.)

The driver also spoke French, which he briefly practiced with me, sweetly tolerant of my linguistic clumsiness.

In Mali, he explained, children learn French for the first seven years of school, and then have a choice of English or German.

I asked if his mother spoke French.  A long-term postal worker, she spoke it very well, he said.  But his father, who had died in 1971, after a trip to Mecca, had only spoken a dialect called Hasani (which seems to be somehow connected to Arabic).

The driver loved the French language, but had less patience for the French people, whom he felt had no sympathy for Africa.  He spoke proudly of his U.S. Green Card, which he described as a real protection for him on a recent visit to France.  He expressed strong feelings of gratitude for the openness of Americans as opposed to the French.

I gingerly mentioned that some Americans were not all that open, that there was sometimes a certain racism here too, but he brushed that aside, beaming that the United States had elected Obama.

I noted that the country was giving Obama an awfully hard time.  He shrugged.  The fact that the United States had elected Obama–had elected Obama–was enough for him.

He turned off the meter then, though we were a couple of blocks from my destination, and even when we reached it, drove somewhat further to get me to what he thought was the best entrance.

I thanked him.

The Twilight Zone – Lessons Obama Might Learn From Stephanie Meyer

February 10, 2010

I’m still reacting to the news that Stephenie Meyer has sold over 45 million Twilight Saga books.  To put this into a bit of perspective, Barack Obama only got about 69 million votes when he was elected President in 2008. 

Granted, 69 million is substantially more than 45 million, and, of course, that 69 million only consisted of U.S. citizens.  (I believe Stephanie’s tally is worldwide.)   But, on the other hand, Obama’s voters were not paying more than $10 per shot. 

These figures have led me to think that if Obama is looking to “up his numbers”, he might consider some lessons in popularity from Stephenie Meyer, and her prime male Twilight character, Edward Cullen.

 (Note: these are not my lessons.  But popularity is, unfortunately, not my strong point.)    

Here are some I’ve gleaned: 

1.  Make the trappings of wealth–big house, fast car, great clothes–seem easily attainable;  do not gloat after these trappings yourself, but do not poohpooh the pleasure they give others.  

2.  Abolish speed limits.

3.    Make it very clear (a la Edward)  that you are subject to murderous rages which you hold back through iron (but imperfect) self-control.

4.  Always tell the American voter (we’re your Bella) that we’re beautiful.   (Even if we’re fat.) 

5.   Make us feel (a la Stephanie here) that magical thinking really does work, i.e. that if we truly want something, we will get it.  Yes, there may be a bit of dramatic bustle along the way, but no significant trade-offs, sacrifices, or even analysis, will be required.   (Sarah Palin seems to have mastered this one.)

6.    Keep it sweet.  Simple.   No big words.  

7.  Think about change, sure.  But use paradigms that are familiar, instantly understood.  (Don’t worry about inconsistencies.)

8.  Don’t worry too much about those that can’t keep up or get caught in the cross-fire.  Think of them as the tourists who are the victims of the Voluturi while Edward saves  Bella.   Yes, it’s too bad.   But hey, Edward and Bella are back together again.  

9.  If all else fails, hire Robert Pattinson.