I can see why he went with the Rita G version. This new one is much darker and less...eye-catching. Still, you have to appreciate the fact that Kanye still takes music videos seriously.
I can see why he went with the Rita G version. This new one is much darker and less...eye-catching. Still, you have to appreciate the fact that Kanye still takes music videos seriously.
I think I'm on some kind of vulnerable, emotional introspective kick right now with these last few posts.
I've been working on a new poem, my first new poem in months, and I've pasted what I have so far (below), but it made me think about some of the old poems I've written. I've done hundreds of poems. I sometimes write about current events or interesting things in my life or around me, but mostly I write about love and girls. And while it may sound silly and immature, I think those poems - even the ones posted below from my teenage years - meant a lot to me when I wrote them and they meant something to the person who I wrote them for, if that was the case.
Even when I write for Althea, I don't pretend as if she's the first girl I've ever written a poem for or been inspired by. Instead, I try to relate to her that she is the only person that could have possibly inspired me to write those words. If it was a different source of inspiration, then the words would have been different. That much I know. It's no shock to me that I'm more comfortable with what I've written Althea than anything I ever written before. And that's not because I'm older and more mature and more in love and a better writer. It's just because I'm more comfortable with the way Althea makes me feel than the way any girl/woman has ever made me feel.
Here's the beginning (or part) of that poem I said I was working on...I don't know what it'll be called because I don't title them until I'm completely finished:
In the middle of it all, I'm somewhere outside.
In the end of everything, I'm back to the beginning.
In the heat of the moment, I'm so far away.
And, for shits and giggles, here are some poems I wrote when I was 18. Like I said, I write about love and girls a lot. The first one, Wedding Words, wasn't inspired by anyone whatsoever. I think I wrote it after watching When Harry Met Sally or something.
You are my true success,
because you and I feel the same.
You're not another relationship,
that I will not maintain.
This loving fulfillment I now have,
so long I must have waited;
Failure after failure,
often getting frustrated.
I almost thought it too hard,
could not persevere to the end,
but then you came to me
in the form of a friend.
You got me past my failures
and on to my success.
Others have shared my life thusfar
But to you I will give the rest.
This next one, Cursive Writing, was written when I got caught after cheating on my girlfriend during my freshman year of college. Yeah, I got caught...not in the act, but in writing.
The innocence has departed
like my lesson on cursive writing,
The innocence has escaped
since this love has replaced liking,
The innocence has run dry
like my eyes from crying all night,
The innocence has been exploited
since I learned wrong from right,
The guilt has been exposed
because I can not hide my past,
The guilt has shown its face
and the memory of it will forever last,
The guilt has made its presence felt
because it follows me like a shadow in the dark,
The guilt has formed an impression
and it will always be felt by my heart.
This last one, I'm Not Afraid!, was written when I was unofficially dumped by a girl during my senior year of high school.
I'm not afraid of the dark
because I have never seen light,
I'm not afraid of saying I'm wrong
because I have never been right,
I'm not afraid of taking the pill
because it can only make me better,
I'm not afraid of standing in the rain
because I know of no other weather,
I'm not afraid of walking on thin ice
because this is the only path I know,
I'm not afraid of taking that route
because this is the way I always go,
I'm not afraid of losing again
because I have never experienced winning,
I'm not afraid of starting over
because my life is full of beginnings,
I'm not afraid of being alone
because I think of myself as a lonesome dove,
I'm not afraid of lusting
because it has proven to be better than love.
I posted this video because it makes me cry. These Disney commercials, dating back to the early '90s when the Cowboys were the team to beat, have made me tear up within seconds of hearing that music. I must note that I've never been to Disney World.
I remember thinking that no one was allowed to go to Disney World unless they won the Super Bowl or whatever major sporting event it was. I remember feeling sorry for the losers, who I thought would never be able to see Mickey and ride rollercoasters. I remember feeling inspired by the winners, who I thought had fairly earned their right to go the Disney World.
So even today when I know anyone with the money can go if they wanted to, I tear up when I see these commercials because it puts me back in the place, when I was an impressionable young kid with shooting star dreams, where I believed you could make your dreams come true if you worked hard enough and were the best. Thus the earlier post about my striving to be the best.
So, in saying all that, it should come as no surprise that I love a good cry. I'm not afraid to admit it.
I remember standing at the Greyhound station in Greenville, South Carolina, and crying like a baby when my grandmother would take the bus to visit family in Houston. I was only eight or nine years old and didn't understand that just because she was saying good-bye didn't mean good-bye forever.
I remember when my dad (for lack of a better term) called me to tell me not to come visit him in New Jersey because he wasn't up to having me over when I was just 13 years old. That's the last time I talked to my dad.
I remember when my mom moved us back to Texas - Killeen of all places - in the middle of my high school years. I missed my neighborhood. I missed my friends. I missed my life. I certainly don't miss crying as much as I did that year.
This year, I've had my share of good cries. Althea knows because she's been there. Most of it is family related. Most of it, like the aforementioned things, are completely beyond my control.
Which brings me to the reason I'm bringing this up. I only cry when I lose my ability to control the situation. I hate, I repeat HATE, losing control. Please don't confuse this with me saying that I hate giving up control because I have learned to do this at times, although Althea would probably say I have a hell of a lot more learning to do. Mostly, I just hate losing control. I especially hate when there's no advance notice, but then again that's just another control issue with me.
So when I lose control...of where my grandmother is going or where I'm not going or where I am going or what's going on with my family, I cry. And I don't mind it one bit. A good cry never hurt anyone. Not even us guys regardless of how many men want to believe crying is a bodily function of females only.
But crying is a source of inspiration for me. With each tear drop comes another drop of energy into my mind, body and soul. I use those drops to quench my thirst to succeed and overcome that loss of control, that fear.
So when I stopped talking to my dad after that disappointing, tear-inducing phone call, I started talking to my inner self more. Never again would I let someone convince me that I wasn't worth it or that I wasn't good enough or that I wasn't important. Call it a recourse complex or something, but this is pretty much how my ego was born. It was born out of that energy to succeed and make everyone know that I was always and eternally worth it (whatever it was) and prove that I was good enough and important enough to invest in. I would not be ignored or denied my right. Back then, I thought I had a right to a father. Now, I just think I have a right to do whatever it is that I want to do...be it write a book or run a race or get that dream job.
That also helped me when I was struggling with the move in the middle of my junior year of high school. Before I moved, I thought I had a good thing going in South Carolina. I had great friends. I was a fairly capable runner and member of the band. I was a great student. I was sort of popular. I even had a girlfriend. And, trust me, that last one was a total shocker at that stage in my life.
But when I moved that changed everything and for a little while I couldn't figure out how to get past my disappointment and frustration with my mother for moving us like she did. I hated my step dad. I hated Killeen. I hated having to start over. So I cried.
Eventually, I got over it. I pushed through. I decided that I wasn't going to let the move stop me from accomplishing my goal of getting into a good college for free. I re-doubled my efforts. I joined the math and science club. I became the president of the future business leaders group. I worked part-time at Pizza Hut. I started running sub-5 minute miles. I got straight As. I volunteered for the March of Dimes and got a seat on the city's board. I applied for dozens and dozens of scholarships. And it all paid off. For every tear shed because of what I had lost by moving, I was making moves that would lay the foundation for everything that has happened in the last nine years of my life.
Right now, I have a bunch of family issues that I can't go into fully, but will just say it has a lot to do with long-standing internal turmoil amongst family members and appears to be getting more complex by the week. I've never felt more out of control of something so important in my life.
Thankfully, based on the lessons I learned from those previous examples and my ability to push through I know that there is daylight on the other side of this dark tunnel. Even if it's not a tunnel I'm going through myself. This has as much to do with my own inner drive as it does with my faith in God that he doesn't give us anything we cannot handle.
Crying, to me, is just a way to reinforce to yourself that you can handle it. After all, if you couldn't handle it you'd never stop crying. Once the tears stop, that's God's way of telling you that it's time to get back to work. And to work even harder.
In a way, this may be some grand insecurity I have with losing control and wanting to convince myself that I have re-taken the control by crying. But, even if this is true, I think it's been a pretty reliable source of inspiration.
"Greatness is greedy." - Doug Collins, former NBA coach (he coached Jordan) and TNT commentator
It happened again last night. Kobe happened. He is, quite frankly as ESPN's Stephen A. Smith would say, out of this world. The best player in the game, the baddest dude on the hardwood, the Black Mamba, the present and the future, the one and only Kobe Bean Bryant showed once again why he's the best player in the entire National Basketball Association, a.k.a. NBA. Sorry, Lebron. Maybe next year. Or not.
I've been having a debate with my brother over why Kobe is the best player in the league for the last five or so years now. My brother, like many pundits, has criticized Kobe for driving Shaq out of LA, his apparent selfishness, his ball-hogging tendencies, his ability to shoot his team out of the game, his inability to make his teammates better, yada yada. The pundits, unlike my brother, have finally realized no one is listening anymore. Kobe is - without a doubt outside of the City of Cleveland - the best player in the league. And has been since Shaq left his Laker jersey behind.
Last night, to take a word from a savvy marketing campaign, we were all witnesses. The verdict? Kobe is THE MAN. There is now overwhelming evidence. So overwhelming that even the NBA writers couldn't deny him an MVP trophy after years of being considered the best player in the game, bar none. While down by 20 points in the middle of the third quarter, Kobe decided to make his case against the defending world champs (and my brother's favorite team):
I don't intend to spend this entire 'tribe talking about Kobe...I really want to write about why I love sports and what sports means to me. Kobe is just the tip of the iceberg.
My earliest sports moments came from watching TV with my oldest brother when he was a big Michael Jordan fan like most kids in the late '80s and early '90s. I owe much of my sports knowledge and interest to him. My brother, not Jordan.
I remember how much I admired Jordan, not for his basketball skill, but for his ability to be the best at what he did. I've always admired men who I thought were the best at what they did...Ben Franklin (America's greatest diplomat/lobbyist), Albert Einstein (America's greatest scientist), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (America's greatest activist), Michael Jackson (America's greatest entertainer), Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks (America's greatest actors (in their peak)?), Jay-Z (America's greatest MC). If you ask DC insiders who the best U.S. Senators are (since we're picking our next president from this body), I'm pretty sure my preferred presidential candidate's name will come up first.
So sports have always been a very easy-to-follow and rewarding way for me to learn about what it takes to be the best at what you do. From Jordan, and now from Kobe, I've learned that it takes a combination of will, determination, selfishness, vengeance, hard work (duh), impatience, swagger and, most importantly, introspection. You can't raise your game, as both Jordan and Kobe did in their late 20s, without taking a step back to notice and correct your own faults.
Over the years, my interest in sports has mirrored my interest in what I want to do with my life. My desire to associate with the best players and teams in sports (loyally) has mirrored my desire to associate myself with the best in myself. The best running, the best writing, the best friendships, the best jobs, whatever. This is not saying that I'm the best, at any of those things, by any regard. I'm simply saying I strive to approach the best of myself and my surroundings. I sometimes grow impatient in my inability to reach that "best" faster, but onward and upward I strive.
I strive to be the best at what I do like the Cowboys when they were the team of the '90s or the Braves when they won 13-straight division titles or Michael Johnson when he won the 200m and 400m in the '96 Olympics or Jeff Gordon when he won his third NASCAR championship or Tiger Woods when he won his 13th major championship or the Lakers when they won three straight titles with Shaq and my favorite player or when Vince Young strided into college football lore a couple of years ago.
I want to be that guy.
Whenever I watch Kobe play or Tiger putt, I see what it is that I want. I want that certainty, that calmness, that intensity, that drive, that pride. I want those things that one earns by being the best.
In 25 years of life, I've seen some phenomenal sports moments on TV. In no particular order I've seen Cal Ripken breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive games played streak...McGwire/Sosa smashing Maris' home run record* only to see Bonds hammer it Hank style*...Michael Vick outplaying Favre in Lambeau...Agassi coming back to win the career grand slam...Tiger winning big at the Masters...and even bigger at the U.S. Open...and the Red Sox win the Series and breaking the curse and the NY football Giants slay the undefeated Patriots.
Each of those moments has sent chills down my spine not solely because they're great displays of athletic success, but also because they represent what so many of us want (and often passively seek)...to be the best.
Sometimes when teams or players actively seek to be the best they are chastised. Deion Sanders was considered a showboat because he was the best and proud of it. Kobe is considered a ballhog because he has faith in his abilities on the court. Even those not in sports are even lambasted...Kanye West is the best (and hottest) artist in the rap game right now, if not all of music, yet he's too often called egotistical because he so tirelessly wants recognition for attempting to be the best. Grammy voters, you know it's true.
I mean, that's part of the reason why I love people like Kobe and Kanye just as much as I like guys like Tiger and Vince Young. The passion they display, the hard work they put in, the success they've had and the recognition they deserve...all represent characteristics I find in myself.
Last night, when the Lakers were down by 20 points to the calm and consistent San Antonio Spurs I found myself in a familiar position. You see, when the Spurs win, everyone talks about how underrated and overlooked they are and how they were underdogs and how well they played to win. This, we're told, is what makes them the best...they've defied all odds.
Yet, when a Kobe-led team like this year's Lakers win we're told "they were supposed/expected to win" as if to say they didn't have to work hard, play well or face overwhelming odds. All in an attempt to say that "yeah, they're the best, but they're supposed to be."
The truth of the matter is that whether you're Kobe Bryant or Tiger Woods or Kanye West or Tom Hanks, the best is not a given. Being the best is a full-time job. And sometimes, even when you know you're the best, that doesn't mean you're going to be able to overcome the odds against (or for) you.
Just ask Tom Brady and Randy Moss.
Two hours and forty-five minutes never felt so long. Thirteen and two-tenths of a mile never felt so painful. Twentieth place never felt so rewarding. These are the simple truths behind the most daunting, mentally-challenging and physically-tasking endeavor I have ever embarked upon. The North Face Endurance Challenge was just that, an endurance challenge. Testing both one's ability to succeed with one's ability to survive, this race proved tougher than any of the hundred-plus races I have run over the last 13 years.
But before I tell you more about the race, I have to tell you a tidbit about my trip to Vancouver and Seattle, which the race was sandwiched between. For starters, I've wanted to visit the Pacific Northwest for years. I went to San Francisco - another city I'd been dying to visit - earlier this year and have continued to make good on an '08 promise to myself that I'd get more serious about my running, travel more and get out of the country, even if just for a hundred miles...err, kilometers. And, to top it all off, I had Althea with me to make the trip all the more memorable. She's awesome.
So...here's the trip recap:
Thursday 10:00 a.m. - After flying into Seattle the night before, we wake up and get on the road to Vancouver about three hours up I-5.
Althea giving me directions.
11:30 - Pit stop in Bellingham, WA, to get my race packet with free North Face goodies (yes, my $70 registration fee did get me something!) and some Starbucks. Our first of many trips to Starbucks.
1:30 p.m. - Arrive in Vancouver to the sight of what seems to be 1984 in Miami...just about every building is gray with blue or white glass from top to bottom, this is odd. Thankfully our hotel, the Executive Hotel Vintage Park, is not so ugly and outdated. [I highly recommend this hotel based on its proximity to downtown shopping and Stanley Park and two nice restaurants, a Sushi place next door and II Giardino, which I'll mention later.]
Is this Vancouver, Miami or Seoul, either way, it's 1984?
5:00 - Althea and I visit the wonderful Stanley Park, which includes a fun walk through the Vancouver Aquarium. The weather is gorgeous so far, mostly sunny and low 60s by the feel of it.
The aquarium was awesome...especially the dolphins!
10:00 - Late dinner at II Giardino...probably the best Italian food I've had in two years and the bottle of Deen de Bortoli "Vat 8" was probably the best Shiraz I've ever had. I LOVE Australian wine. Or maybe it was just that the food was so good, it even made the wine incredible. [Earlier in the night we had a bottle of Adobe Carmenere, another great pick, from Chile.]
Friday 11:00 a.m. - Drive over the Lions Gate Bridge to visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a walkers-only bridge that was built a hundred years ago and can now support the weight of two jumbo-jets. Fantastics views up there...as was true for the entire trip.
The view from the Capilano.
3:00 p.m. - After a breathtaking two-hour drive up to Whistler, Althea and I stop for lunch at a nice little market restaurant in Whistler, home to some of North America's best skiing and snowboarding slopes and sight of Alpine skiing in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
One of the many awesome views on the drive to Whistler.
6:30 p.m. - Back in Vancouver, we stop to do a little window shopping (well, I did buy two t-shirts at Band On) on Robson Street...their shopping version of Georgetown (DC) with more flair like Haight & Ashbury in San Fran...
My recap of Vancouver is that it seems like a medium-sized city...small enough to be very clean and easy-to-navigate while big enough to have a good fashion scene (I credit the Japanese/Korean influences)...oh, and all the tourist stops were over-priced, but I should be used to that since I live in D.C. and everything, especially the stuff for the city residents, is over-priced.
10:00 p.m. - Althea and I get into a bit of an argument about God knows what...I blame it on the Lakers for losing that night. We still manage to work out last minute details for the next morning, race day, which we're both a bit antsy about.
Saturday 7:45 a.m. - We arrive at Lutherwood Camp, a cozy little campsite off of Lake Samish and leading up to some private forest land. I'd learn all about that forest land in a bit. After having been in one outdoor community, Whistler, Althea and I quickly immerse ourselves in another...the runner's community. I'm used to the scene of race sponsors, free snacks and runner's glares ("I wonder if that's the guy who's here to win?")...this is all new to Althea and she handles it gracefully, helping me stretch and giving me an abbreviated back massage, holding my excess clothes and helping me stay relaxed.
9:00 - The half-marathon race begins. I take off with the other 140 or so runners and I'm immediately realize who I'll be running with for the next 13 miles. There's a big gap between serious runners and casual runners and I'm proud to say, at least for this race, I proved to be amongst the faster group. We quickly broke up, there was probably a group of 6-8 in the "lead" pack, then my group of 6-10 in the "chase" pack, then the others. Within the first 15 minutes of the race, I knew I could finish amongst this group if I just maintained my energy and pace, well not so much pace.
9:30 - We come through the first 5k (3.1 miles) in 30 minutes...I haven't run a 5k that slow since...never. The course is muddy from the overnight precipitation and getting worse by the runner...the 10k runners are only making it worse. My shoes, bought by Althea, were already covered in mud and it was only a matter of time before my legs and hands were as well.
10:05 - We come through the first 10k in more than an hour...I've already thrown out the idea of running this thing in close to 2 hours, but I'm still hovering in the top 15 or 20 runners and not far off the leaders' pace. The mud has only gotten worse though...every third step is ankle deep. I've fallen a couple of times, nearly decapitated myself on a couple of tree branches and have had some close calls with severe ankle injuries. I get a small glass of water on my 2nd trip by the start/finish location where I hear and see Althea telling me I'm doing a good job. By this point, I had a couple of cuts and scrapes on my hands and legs from broken tree branches and rocks, but was feeling okay for the most part. Even at this point, there was already some serious fatigue setting in...the terrain was treacherous and even the best runners had to walk in the tough trails and muddied sections of the course.
10:35 - I've spent the last half hour running just a little over one mile in distance, but it feels like I just ran a gauntlet. Imagine running up a hill. Now imagine running up a hill for 30 minutes after having run up and down hills for an hour. It sucked. I did nothing but think about how much was left and how good it'd feel to reach the top and how embarrassed I'd feel if I quit (trust me, I wanted to...it sucked that bad) and how great Althea is and how much I wanted to see her at the finish line and how much further could the hill possibly be and WHERE THE F*CK IS THE NEXT WATER STATION??? I ran with one guy for a few miles and he and I took a couple of wrong turns, but were able to stay on the course, marked with yellow ribbons.
11:00 - I've made it! No, not the finish line...I've made it to the third and final aid station where I get a couple gulps of water and keep moving my legs like a steam engine...a really slow, exhausted one with little-to-no coal to burn...I still have 3.5 miles to go. I could hear streaming water, like a nearby waterfall, but I never actually saw anything. I was hoping that meant I was getting closer to the lake, but I don't think that was the case.
11:30 - I can't believe it's taking me this long to run a half marathon, but for anyone that hasn't run this kind of race before they wouldn't understand...it's like I told a reporter after the race “it’s not like running. It’s climbing, it’s pushing, it’s pulling...it’s both brutal and incredible." I still have no idea how much I have left, all I know is I'm still somewhere in the top 15 or 20 and I have no energy left. None. Empty. Zilch.
11:37 - I see a race volunteer and I'm guessing and dreading that he's going to tell me I have another mile and a half or two left. I guessed wrong!!! I only have "three-quarters of a mile left..." I summon the last bit of energy I have...through prayers.
Finally! I made it!
Participants in The North Face Endurance Challenge crossed the finish line near Lake Samish Saturday, short of breath with shoes and legs caked in mud.
Bent over with his hands on his knees and the sweat still dripping from his brow, half-marathon runner Joah Spearman described the 13-mile race.
...Spearman, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to participate in the half marathon said that no matter how much anyone trained for the race, no one could have been prepared for it.
12:05 p.m. - After stuffing something like four peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, a Luna bar, two bottles of energy drink and a bottle of water down in 10 minutes, I'm ready for my post-race massage/stretch. Thank God because my muscles are about to join forces and kill the rest of my body.
1:30 - We're back at the hotel, checked out and ready to hit the road to Seattle. After yet another trip to Starbucks.
4:30 - Up and up, on an elevator though, to the top of the Space Needle! Thankfully, the weather was still pretty clear (by Seattle standards) and we got some decent pics.
Just before we made our way up.
7:30 - With garlic fries, fried mushrooms and a couple of beers in hand, we sat for a ballgame between the Mariners and the White Sox. The Sox led most of the game, but the Mariners did get some runs on the board and it was Washington State Employee Night, which apparently meant all of Washington's government employees could get drunk with their co-workers and do the wave. Good times.
Like all the Seattle fans...I came to see Ichiro!
11:30 - Althea and I go to a cool, cocktail lounge in downtown Seattle called Viceroy. I leaned, through researching local bars and clubs, that Seattle is a big cocktail city...just about every bar description included something about martinis, which is surprising given the music scene (i.e. grunge) would lead you to believe everyone drinks out of the keg or straight from the bottle. Or just gets stoned.
Sunday 11:00 a.m. - We have an Austin-like TexMex breakfast at Peso's. It was the second-best meal of the trip and my first BIG meal since the race. Speaking of...I'm sore as all hell and am walking like a 82-year-old man who just had hip-replacement surgery.
Yeah...I ate a huge burrito and three pancakes...I was starving.
1:00 p.m. - The Experience Music Project is pretty badass. There's nothing like it. Kinda like how there's no one like Jimi Hendrix. The best part was when Althea and I got to sing together. Let's just say we won't be asking you to download our track onto your iPod.
Sorry if it's hard to see, but this is the cool guitar installation (that actually plays music) in the EMP.
6:00 p.m. - We head down to Pike's, the famous market where you can have a 20-pound King Salmon thrown at you. It's also home to the original Starbucks. We went there, of course.
Anyone want some salmon? There's plenty here.
7:30 - Althea and I ride around in the beloved Queen Anne neighborhood where homes have a nice 1920s look with big steps, lovely gardens and great views of the city down below. Wealthy people love their hills don't they? Beverly Hills, Westlake Hills...I could name plenty others. Anyway, we end the Seattle trip with a nice Italian dinner (I had three different meals with prawns during the trip) in Queen Anne.
The skyline from a Queen Anne street.
11:40 - In the air and on our way back to D.C. Both Althea and I are impressed with Seattle's mixture of city coolness and community coziness. She thinks she could consider living there...I'd probably have to visit in the winter to be certain, but I will say it made a really good first impression...good seafood, good sports city, nice arts and music scene, what appeared to be a thriving nightlife and close proximity to outdoor adventures. And the houses were nice...and I haven't written off the possibility that I'll be able to afford West Coast living yet.
All in all, I think this trip was yet another accomplishment and job well done for 2008 so far...I ran/hiked pretty well in the toughest race in my life, I went out of the country for the first time in years, and I made even more great memories with Althea while visiting another great American city. Kurt Cobain sang "Come As You Are" and I'm happy to say both Vancouver and Seattle (and everywhere in between) were okay with that.
I've packed my bags and I'm headed to Seattle and Vancouver for a few days as part of my great American city tour with Althea - so far we've done Austin, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, and, of course, D.C. - and to run a half marathon as part of the North Face Endurance Challenge. Wish me luck!
In the meantime, read this brilliant piece from my good friend Joe. He may be on the other side of the political aisle from me at times, but he's one of the few 20-somethings I listen to and deeply respect for his knowledge of current events in politics. Read on...
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE BABY BOOMERS
Dear Baby Boomers,
Please stop ruining our presidential elections.
While that is an over-simplification of my guest “diatribe,” it is the basic gist: every four years, the baby boomers use the presidential election as a forum to re-litigate the battles of the 1960s.
Thanks in part to the sage punditry of our national media, every four years we participate in a national discussion that enlightens us about the lives and values of our presidential candidates. We get a glimpse into these candidates so we can make an informed choice on Election Day. Let’s see if I can summarize what I have learned about the candidates from the elections I have been old enough to follow...
Communist draft-dodger Bill Clinton organized hippie anti-war rallies in between smoking pot and visiting the Soviet Union while John Kerry faked his medals of honor and spit on his fellow Vietnam veterans. “Goldwater Girl” turned radical liberal antiwar activist Hillary Clinton split summers campaigning for pacifist Eugene McCarthy and running the Wellesley chapter of college republicans. Dick Cheney cowardly “deferred” the Vietnam draft (FIVE TIMES) while aristocrat George H.W. Bush got his spoiled, serial underachieving son a free ride in the Texas Air National Guard. His grateful son was subsequently too busy with drinking binges and coke benders to show up. John McCain was tortured. Bob Dole is really, really old. The end.
For better or worse, individuals who both shaped (as foot soldiers) and were shaped by the 1960s have dominated the last several election cycles. From one perspective, traditional American culture degenerated into anti-American, orgiastic displays of hallucinogenic-induced flag-burning. Privileged radical students seized college administrative buildings while our entire social order turned upside down. From the other perspective, the unjust and untenable status quo was broken. The Civil Rights movement culminated. Liberation thrived. A healthy enthusiasm to challenge authority emerged. The Warren Court pushed too far—or not far enough. And somewhere all those events gave Jenny AIDS.
My intention is not to trivialize the accomplishments of the baby boomers (e.g. the Civil Rights Movement). Nor is it to demean their sacrifices and the pain they endured—from the marcher who fought police beatings and injustice with nonviolence to the Vietnam veteran who proudly served his country only to come home and be called a “baby killer.” The sixties were an implosion of culture and counterculture; it was the inevitable eruption of the old American order. Its triumphs and failures still resonate today. Its backlashes are many.
But herein lays my resentment towards the baby boomers. These events occurred forty years ago. Yet, the same divisions, the same polarization, and the same players continue to fight the same forty-year old battles. And those who lived through that decade continue to dominate American political discourse today.
I mentioned Forrest Gump earlier intentionally. It is undeniable that Tom Hanks’ role as Forrest Gump allowed viewers to see those passionate and unclear events through a lens of clarity and dispassion. His simple yet brilliantly anti-ideological nature managed to take at least some of the partisan sting out of those polarizing historical events. In the end, you could almost view the birth of him and Jenny’s son, Forrest Jr., as a sort of reconciliation between the so-called “radicals” and the so-called “silent majority.”
Forrest Junior would fictitiously grow up unshaken by the divisions of the 1960s as a product of his own generation. With all the talk this year of breaking barriers (whether racial, gender, or even age), for me, the most remarkable and least discussed barrier being broken is the generational barrier. Barack Obama is the first viable post-baby boomer, post-1960s presidential candidate. To some extent, I see his rise as “generational politics” as opposed to the oft-repeated “identity politics” mantra. Yes, women and African Americans largely make up Clinton and Obama’s respective core constituencies. But, a gross distinction among age groups has also surfaced. Most recently, in North Carolina, Obama won voters under 40 by about 30 points. Clinton won voters sixty and older—those who remember the 1960s—by roughly the same margin. Indiana mirrored that disparity less dramatically.
For those of us with boomer fatigue, we finally have someone without the baggage of the 1960s. One could, and many will, argue that he has baggage by association. He has known and associated with some polemical baby boomers in his life. But so far, in a language indecipherable to the baby boomers, he has been able to brush the “dirt off his shoulders”. Baby boomers should take note that “swift boating” a candidate with the words of someone the candidate happened to live by or went to church with is much less effective than doing so with the candidate’s own words.
I have a larger point—although I am a supporter, this diatribe is not an Obama commercial. Regardless of who wins this year, this process of generational change is beginning. While Obama is the first viable post-1960’s candidate, he certainly will not be the last. As a new generation of leaders—whether from generation X, Y, Z, pi?—begin to take center stage, we can take comfort in the fact the baby boomers’ time is running out. The time for rehashing 1960s-era melodrama every four years is coming to an end. The time for “swift-boating” and forty-year old grudges dominating the political agenda is coming to an end. It may or may not end this election cycle but the end is near.
People who are skeptical of Obama’s lofty rhetoric often ask “what kind of change will he bring?” That’s an easy one: generational change. And if not Obama, then someone else soon because those of us, under 40, unencumbered by the 1960s, thirsty for honest discourse and political progress, are emerging as a potent political demographic. We may be cynical about the present but we are hopeful for the future.
A future governed by the offspring of Forrest Gump and Jenny.
Joe Scro was born in 1982.