“Our country has a black president. how about yours?”

Suitably so, given that he’s provided so much of our election coverage at the Fletcher household, it was Jon Stewart who informed us that Barack Obama was the next President of the United States. We had channel-surfed over to Comedy Central and Indecision 2008 for some comic relief, unaware – even though we knew he had certain victory – that the stations were all just waiting for the west coast polls to close at 11pm Eastern Time before calling it for Obama. The next fifteen minutes were like watching a New Year’s Eve celebration that actually meant something. And I wanted to share in it. So, despite the relatively late hour (hey, Campbell is on the school bus at 7:10am every morning!) I couldn’t resist driving a few miles into Phoenicia and joining friends at the Sportsmans Alamo in time for Barack Obama’s coolly understated victory speech.

Hope at the store Home, on Main Street in Phoenicia, as photographed last night, after Barack Obama had been declared the 44th President of the United States. Thanks, David, for the beautiful window display.

On getting home, I found an e-mail waiting for me from James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, he who was responsible for the best album of 2007, Sounds of Silver.

“Just saying…”

it began.

“Our country has a black president. how about yours?”

Trust Murphy to hit the nail right on the head, right where it mattered, in such a perfectly New York manner. Of course the e-mail was not a personal note from Murphy to me, though I might take it that way regardless. It was essentially an invite to a party he and his DFA friends are throwing tonight.

“After years of hanging our heads traveling around the world, we’re kicking off the celebration of our new found international pride at santa’s get down spot! please, invite yourfriends! especially if they don’t think santa’s is for them, because this is post-election america, and it’s a beautiful fucking place!!!”

The thought of dancing to the DFA crew in a post-election frenzy is almost enough to get me down to New York City for the night. But Posie and I are heading to Albany this evening instead – the State capital, where I received my citizenship last year – to see David Byrne in concert. By one of those sweet little coincidences, Byrne was the only pop star who has my e-mail on some mass mailing list and decided to use it to send out a missive yesterday morning reminding me to vote. Thanks, David, but it was unnecessary; we were all anticipating the highest turn out in history. Actually, it was a little weird given that Byrne, who’s been living in America for 50 years – since he was a school boy, in fact – has never gotten around to become a naturalized citizen so that he can vote in an election, but doesn’t mind telling other people how to practice their own democratic rights. And it was especially strange that on a day of pure positivity, when we knew we were going to elect a black man as President, David Byrne felt it necessary to tell me that “there are plenty of racists in this country who will vote against their own best interests.” I’ll resist the temptation to conclude “yes, and they’re Republicans,” because hardcore McCain supporters would have voted for McCain whether the Democrat candidate was black, white or every shade in-between. If there are plenty of racists in this country, believe me, yesterday was not their finest hour.

Reading Byrne’s e-mail, I was relieved that most musicians had kept their political thoughts to themselves. Reading Murphy’s, I was grateful to have been on the receiving end. That’s the beauty of free speech, I guess. Thank the Founding Fathers for the First Amendment – it’s saved this country so many times.

The video to Neil Young’s song “Looking’ For A Leader.” Just hit play. Someone needs to tag on President 44.

Talking of which, the musician who got it right, and a long time ago, was Neil Young. On his low-budget, instant-download Living With War album from 2005, he had the foresight to write the song “Lookin’ For A Leader,” and include not just the wonderful lines

“Maybe it’s a woman, or a black man after all,”

but to reference Obama by name:

“Maybe it’s Obama, but he thinks that he’s too young.”

Did Young’s song play a role in convincing Obama to run? I don’t know. But I want to thank Neil Young – and all the musicians, even those who don’t vote – for doing their part these last few years, writing the songs that tell the story of our times. For, by another pleasant coincidence, the editing of my book yesterday brought me to August 28 1963 – the day when Bob Dylan, just 22 years old, stood at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, alongside Joan Baez, Peter Paul and Mary, Odetta and Harry Belafonte, Josh White and Sammy Davis, Jr. – and, of course, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who gave his famous “I have a dream” speech to a quarter of a million. The songs they sang that day included Dylan’s own “Blowin’ In The Wind,” along with “We Shall Overcome,” the popularization of which is a fascinating cultural story all of its own. Anyway, it seemed a good place to put down my work for the day, and move into the present, knowing that 45 years since that crowning moment of the Civil Right movement, King’s vision had become some sort of reality. This beautiful morning it is, as King fought for, and Young dared consider, a black man after all. And best of all, it’s the right man. Just saying…

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Shaggy

    5 November, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    “In America, The land of the free, they said,
    And of opportunity, In a just and a truthful way.
    But where the president is never black, female or gay,
    and until that day,
    you’ve got nothing to say to me, to help me believe.”
    ~ Morrissey

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