Yes We Can

February 5 It’s important to be open to possibility in life, and certainly in politics. Moreover, two parties a democracy does not make. So I’m a registered Independent. This choice means that today, in New York, I can’t vote.

Which is kind of bogus, but it’s the rule.

And so I will sit patiently in my office, vetting the efforts of MTV citizen journalists (Street Team ’08), managing the production of our Super Duper Tuesday coverage, and waiting — like the rest of the world — to see what the day brings. Which isn’t to say I’m divested from the outcome.

The narrative arch of this election cycle is already too complex and convoluted to summarize in the few minutes I have before work. It seems to me, though, that — between global warming and the great rift between Jihadist and Capitalist ideology — we stand on the edge of a precipice (if not dangle by a thread over the abyss).

I, for one, have had enough of GWB’s reductive, simple-minded, black-and-white, New Testament-meets-John Ford declarations (“We will rid the world of the evil-doers,” “I said a long time ago, one of our objectives is to smoke them out and get them running and bring them to justice”).

The world is gray (more charcoal than heather), and calls for finesse, subtlety, and nuance. While governance may require spiritual, moral and even religious grounding, it doesn’t require religion.

Alan Alda, playing West Wing candidate Arnold Vinick says it well. “I don’t see how we can have a seperation of church and state in this government if we have to pass a religious test to get into this government.”

Above all, I think, leadership requires heavy dose of humanity. I can suffer through a tablespoon or two of optimistic ideology. I think we need it.

Which is why Senator’s Obama’s “Yes We Can” speech moves me so. Is he “untested”? Largely. Has a segment of culture projected a full range of un-earned and potentially unwarranted associations on him? For sure. Has he crossed over into some strange cult-of-personality space? Definitely. (Reference the Shepard Fairey — he of Obey Giant fame — poster above.)

I’m not endorsing him; I have too much homework yet to do.

But this speech (by design, of course) is the closest thing I’ve heard to those of my hero, Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s rhetoric, to be sure. But it moves. And it inspires. We could use a little inspiration today, to say nothing of a movement. We could stand to open our hearts, open our minds, and consider each other’s perspective for a minute.

In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this world. Yes we can.

And so tomorrow, as we take this campaign South and West; as we learn that the struggles of the textile worker in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas; that the hopes of the little girl who goes to a crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of LA; we will remember that there is something happening in America; that we are not as divided as our politics suggests; that we are one people; we are one nation; and together, we will begin the next great chapter in America’s story with three words that will ring from coast to coast; from sea to shining sea – Yes. We. Can.

Whether you pull the lever for McCain, Huckabee, Paul, Clinton, Romney, or Obama, it’s a fine message to consider.