Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poll Position

When I was a kid I marched up and down the sidewalk in front of my house carrying a "Richard Nixon for President" sign. I didn't really know who he was—I was nine—but I knew there was an election, and I found the sign in the alley, and I liked marching around. I had some doubt because I thought his opponent might be born for public service because his name was McGovern. But on the other hand, Nixon's running mate was Spiro Agnew, a name which is an anagram of "Gains Power." Besides, one of my favorite toys was a Spirograph.

A lot of public officials get elected thanks to such associations. For a while there just being named Kennedy got you a good government job. Back then no one even asked if you could keep your car out of the river.

But the times, they are a-changin'. Caroline Kennedy, as poised and elegant and toothy-beautiful as her father John, was startled when someone asked why she deserved Clinton's vacated Senate seat. She smiled and said, "Kennedy?" But it wasn't enough.

Nobody was ready for that. Unrelated Kennedys across the country were aghast at the implication: they might actually have to be For Something. This could even spread to the Cavanaughs.

As I write this, Barack Obama has been President of the United States for ten minutes. But one thing he has done already is show a whole lot of people that they matter. We saw our vote create a change. We got out of our La-Z-Boys, and it made a difference. Holy cow, the system works? Who knew.

And now that we're getting what we want, we have to think about what we want. We'll discover we actually care.

I still love Spirograph, but I'll think twice before waving an Agnew sign.

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