Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When Hell Freezes Over

There's a ice storm wreaking havoc on the metropolitan DC area this evening. I'm glad I packed my "Get a Grip" treads in my bag today, as I wouldn't have made it down the hill from my car and back into my apartment without them. A friend and I saw a guy take a header on the sidewalk on M Street this afternoon - he was rescued from his painful-looking face-plant by a man campaigning for Obama just outside the "no electioneering zone" for the local polling place. On a slow, freaky drive through Georgetown, I saw a guy on a bike slide off into the ice - and into a car - just ahead of me. As we crept forward across an icy overpass, I saw him swearing and trying to uncrumple his back fender on a slick sidewalk. I heard there was a 20-car pile-up somewhere, but I haven't seen the details yet, and now, we have an ice storm warning until 7 a.m. tomorrow. It's a good night for cocoa, a hot shower, and fuzzy jammies, frankly. I'll worry about my hobble to work tomorrow when I have to. Mañana, baby. Mañana.

Tonight, I'm watching the local primary news and starting to get organized for a personal project I'm about to undertake. (More on that later.) The polls had indicated Barack Obama would sweep the region, and it sure looks like the polls were right this time. By the way, Obama made a stop at my favorite coffee joint, Mayorga, last night. I would have loved to grab a cuppa joe with the Big B.O.

Wait. That just didn't sound right. So not a good candidate nickname...

Speaking of the candidates...

As a child of the North, it was somewhat unsettling for me when I realized that my move to Maryland put me south of the Mason-Dixon Line. I know some of my southern friends will roll their eyes or hiss at me for that bit of of leftover snobbery. We're a few generations removed from the Civil War, yet it echoes for us still. Maryland was a state torn between the Union and the Confederacy, but if you have any doubts about lingering feelings after combat ended, just sneak a peek at the lyrics to the charming lied that is *still* our state song. Here's one of my favorite lines: "Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!" Ahhh, heartwarming!! Speaking as Northern Scum myself, I'd like to thank the Union Army for winning the war.

Nota bene: my mother's Civil War-era peeps were from the South, and they fought and died for the Confederacy. Some are even buried in the Union Army's prison camp cemetery at the Rock Island Arsenal, which adjoins the National Cemetery where my parents are. Imagine my amazement one morning when I saw an African-American children's choir from Georgia on the Fox Morning News, with an African-American choir director whose surname matched the unusual, distinctly Hessian-deserter family name of my mother's kin. I had a brief, horrific moment of realization that some of my ancestors were slaveholdin' suthuhn gentlemuhn. Lovely.

So, here I am today, in my home, south of that bloody line, marveling at the fact that my choices today for the Democratic Party's candidate for president of the United States are a black man and a white woman. Sure, black men and white women have run for president before, but it's never before really been a serious possibility that one of them could - and probably will - occupy the Oval Office. That's amazing to me. And maybe it shouldn't feel so amazing to me, considering the diversity of this nation. Yet, it is still a marvel.

Hillary has never been my candidate of choice. A loooong time ago - well before anyone had declared their plans to run - I actually wrote a blog entry as an open letter to Hillary, asking her to not run. I catalogued all my reasons why I felt she wasn't the right candidate, why she was beatable by a solid Republican... but I never posted it. I think she lacks the charisma required of the leader of the free world. (If there is such a thing as the "free world" after the Bush regime. Stupid bastard.) I think she lacks the personality and power to inspire people, inspire confidence, inspire our allies... And, though god knows I liked Bill Clinton as our president, I think I would have more respect for Hillary if she'd dumped his cheatin' ass.

So, my vote goes to Barack Obama. He's got the charisma. He's smart. He's polished. He doesn't bring the baggage along that Hillary does. (Yes, Hillary, Bill is a double-edged sword.) And there's something intangible that gives him the edge.

I wonder what the Marylander who wrote that charming state song would think of a black man as the frontrunner for president of the United States. I have a feeling he who railed at the "Northern scum" back in 1861 might have suggested that Hell would freeze over before that would happen.

Well, kids, I'm looking out my window at an ice-covered hill and a skating rink of a street. Bethesda may not be the very center of Hades, but we're close enough to the White House to count, I reckon. If what I see tonight is any indication, seems like the Devil needs to wrap up in a few layers. I think we're gonna have a black president.

Bring. It. On.


Anonymous said...

The big B.O.-- fill your lungs with freedom!

Anonymous said...


I hope Obama wins. Hillary is about as inspiring as a can of past- expiration- but- the- top- hasn't- popped- so- it- might- be- okay- to- eat- it tuna.

As I said to a friend the other night, Obama may seem naive, but I'll take naiveté any day over hubris. It certainly can't be any worse than what we have now and it just might be successful. And, as you point out, Obama is charismatic and hopeful.

He's got my vote!

Heather Meadows said...

I reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally hope Obama wins.

As a resident of Georgia, I didn't roll my eyes at your post, but I did feel rather sad. It seems like people still think we have slaves down here. While I'm originally from Kentucky, which the Mason-Dixon splits neatly in two, I do rather like it in the South. I like, for example, that the black-white ratio is close to 50/50, because back in Kentucky I barely knew any black people, and unfamiliarity breeds misunderstanding. We still have race issues here, and there are plenty of people who still fly the Confederate flag, but we are definitely not the Old South. (I knew more racists in Kentucky than I know here. I think people who fly the Southern Cross do so out of tradition, and possibly because they are pro-states' rights.)

The only reason slavery is not part of the history of the northern states is because the north didn't have the abundance of rich farmland. You guys made your money with factories. Factories provided jobs for people; there weren't so many factories that there was a run on labor. Meanwhile, the South provided your cotton...and chose the wrong way to produce more cotton faster.

I'm not going to argue that slavery was inevitable, but I do think it's silly to assume that certain states had higher moral standards than other states. The Civil War wasn't even really about slavery; it was about economics.

Merujo said...

I've been pondering a thoughtful response to your very thoughtful comment all day, Heather! I'm so sorry the post made you sad - it wasn't my goal to upset or offend any of my friends and readers in the South. Elements of the post represent my reaction to moving south, based upon the images, ideas, and, yes, prejudices I grew up with in the North. It also reflects some things I've seen and experienced since moving here in 1993. I'm still amazed that Maryland has retained a state song that castigates the Union to which it belongs. That said, half of my family was on the Confederate side of things 150-ish years ago.

Re: the causes of the war - slavery did spur the war to begin - the Republicans didn't want slavery to spread beyond its then-current borders, they won the 1860 election, and some of the southern states seceded. That was rebellion in the eyes of the Union, and it set the ball rolling. There's actually a pretty darn good Wiki on the Civil War that gives a decent picture of the events that brought about secession, rebellion, and war: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Civil_War

When my mother was a little girl in Nevada, there were still Civil War veterans in the Armistice Day parades - that seemed so unreal to me, but I have to remember that Mom was born in 1921, and men who were teenagers or twenty-somethings in the Civil War were in their 70s and 80s when she was a kiddo. Phrases and concepts left over from the war and Reconstruction peppered my mother's speech throughout her life. Growing up, when I wanted something badly, my mother would say, "Save your Confederate money!" What I didn't know until I was an adult is that the full phrase was "Save your Confederate money - the South will rise again!" An exhortation to maintain Southern pride. (Maybe it was also said derisively by Northerns? I don't know. I'll have to look it up.)

I know some of the prejudices and presuppositions I had about the South before moving here came from my parents - parents who both lived in the South in the 1940s and were afraid to take my siblings camping in the South in the 1950s because one of my olive-skinned sisters had a big 'fro of hair. They had seen firsthand how some folks reacted to mixed race kids.

I grew up in a town where some of my friends lived in houses that were stopovers on the Underground Railroad. (Right now, I live, literally, down the street from Uncle Tom's Cabin.) Neither our educational system nor our popular culture in the 1970s did much to improve a New Jersey kid's understanding of southern culture and history.

Sure there are some people who fly the stars and bars as a sign of tradition, but that's not the case with everyone. I visit Richmond, Virginia periodically with the Sasquatch (who goes there to commune with other guys who like to make models of WWII armor.) One year, we decided to visit the Museum of the Confederacy (which is a gorgeous museum) - it's next door to Jefferson Davis' house, which is also a museum now. In the Museum of the Confederacy, Stonewall Jackson isn't described as "General Stonewall Jackson", but, rather, as "the martyr Stonewall Jackson." This leads visitors to see the war not in terms of a political or economic war, but a war with an almost religious fervor.

Maintaining slavery was about maintaining a way of life. Parts of the North were industrialized, certainly, but vast swaths of the North were - and still are - covered in verdant, rich farmland, and they were cultivated without slave labor.

I think debates about the Civil War and the emotional divide of North and South will continue for generations to come. As someone trained as a historian (albeit not an American historian), I find it fascinating.

Merujo said...

Oh, I realized I should note, my sister with the big 'fro? Not a mixed race kid, but she knows every product in the black hair care aisle!

Heather Meadows said...

I have not forgotten about this post! I have just been so busy lately I haven't had time to come back and see your response until now. And alas, I have no time to respond! But I will get back to you ;)

For now: I know you didn't mean any offense, of course. You were discussing your feelings, and somebody's feelings are nothing to get upset over. They're a product of who the person is and how they have lived--part of who they are. I'm certainly not sad that you are who you are! It just reminded me of the divide, which makes me sad in general, because I love things from both cultures and wish they could just get along, or at least tolerate each other ;)

Anonymous said...

Well, I read it as "the Big O." Most of us would prefer that over a "Big B.O." Yet, still not classy enough for B. Obama. I even pulled my daughter our of school to go see him speak in College Park. It's historical for any Presidential candidate to campaign in Md (albeit I'm reminded Wallace did in 1972, um, like I remember that? sorry he got shot, of course), and JFK did. Ah, he was President when I was born, so.... yeah, no one usually comes to Maryland. Did you know, B'more had the largest population of free blacks either during or right after the Civil War? My Georgia-born Grandmother had a relative who was a Civil War hero -- as a doctor (phew), and they were Quaker, but probably someone had slaves even if I cringe to think it. My Maine-born mother had a grand-something who was given a mountain for his leadership in the Civil War. I feel more northern than southern, and insisted as a kid that I was northern as I was born in D.C. Yet, our collective history makes us who we all are. May the hate be gone, even while I see bigoted and racist comments at times even today, may we move on and forward. I like Barack Obama's words that we're not a white America and a black America, and an Asian American, we're ONE America. Etc. This is history, our history now.