Sobbing Southbound

Sometimes, and more, recently, I cry on the train while reading the New York Times and heading into the office. Like the other day when I read Maureen Dowd recounting a conversation with Colin Powell in “Moved by a Crescent”:

But what sent him over the edge and made him realize he had to speak out was when he opened his New Yorker three weeks ago and saw a picture of a mother pressing her head against the gravestone of her son, a 20-year-old soldier who had been killed in Iraq. On the headstone were engraved his name, Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, his awards — the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star — and a crescent and a star to denote his Islamic faith.

“I stared at it for an hour,” he told me. “Who could debate that this kid lying in Arlington with Christian and Jewish and nondenominational buddies was not a fine American?”

A man with that name, that religion, that youth, who died in the service of his country. A general — a great man — an architect of enormous violence, staring dumbly, powerless, at the picture of a soldier’s grave for an hour.

My knees buckled and my face went flush. Hot, quick tears rushed around my eyeballs. I laid the folded-up paper across my nose, hiding and composing myself.

And I want to know why I cried. What combination of those words and my mind made that physical reaction. On Election Night 2004, we had a chance to stop this useless war and we didn’t. And this grave is a consequence. And normally we keep ourselves so far from seeing it. We stuff ourselves with silliness and money. And this General couldn’t take his eyes off it, and I loved him for it, and I cried.

This morning, I read of Joe Biden’s really moving life story, and the strength of his father that drives him deeply:

“My dad always said, ‘Champ, the measure of a man is not how often he is knocked down, but how quickly he gets up,’ ” Senator Biden said of his father, who died in 2002 at age 86.

This is the recurring theme of his speeches as running mate to Senator Barack Obama and the coda to many of Mr. Biden’s appearances on the stump.

“I’ve never seen a time in my career when so many Americans have been knocked down,” Mr. Biden said last week at a campaign appearance in Rochester, N.H., his voice rising, his face reddening beneath a thin crown of white hair. “As my father used to say, when you get knocked down, GET UP!”

He is almost screaming now, and the crowd is on its feet. “So GET UP! Get up and win in New Hampshire! Bring back the promise of this country!”

And that was enough to choke up, but I kept it together. I was so proud of him, so glad someone spoke like this. I always say that to my kids, but in a more practical sense. I say if you fall down or spill something or screw something up, fix it as a fast as you can. Act. And they do — I’ve seen it — and I love it. I moved on to a blurb about campaign party planning:

Mr. Obama – who kicked off his campaign at a chilly rally in Springfield, Ill., and delivered an al fresco convention speech in Denver – will hold his election night event in Grant Park on Hutchinson Field, an open-air venue used for concerts and sporting events.

And that was enough to actually set off a crying jag right there.

Because the enormity of where we are, and how precious it is. And my own personal fear and biography. We just might elect a black President on a Tuesday night in November in Chicago, IL. In the spot where I’ve seen Chicago Bulls victory celebrations, in the city of Harold Washington and the state of Abraham Lincoln. And then, like these things tend to go, it flashed in my mind that my father was actually a bum, a fucking bum, and I don’t want to be that. And then synapse-style I knew I had to bring my sons to that spot, we had to see this together. And I just want it all, and I’m scared and excited and proud and exhausted. And I sobbed with shoulder-jerk heaving as softly as I could, grateful for the Blue Line speed and clamor beneath the river.

I really do love the New York Times.

2 Replies to “Sobbing Southbound”

  1. Wow. I usually read your blog to satisfy my geeky side, so it’s exciting to see such a moving personal post about something I, too, care deeply about. We really are on the verge of something historical here.
    But, and will say this until I am blue in the face, this is our campaign, and we haven’t won it yet. I hope you’re out there working as hard as I am to make sure that this dream becomes a reality.
    Yes, we can? Yes, we will!

  2. Thanks for reading & commenting, Dustin. We’ve won absolutely nothing, you’re right. That’s why I’m scared shitless. And yes, I’m doing what I can to help (calls to Indiana and talking to friends in Missouri and Pennsylvania). Let’s do it!

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