As I boarded the F-Train last night at 34th street around 2am, bleary-eyed and worn, a heavy-set man plastered in Cynthia McKinney pins and stickers, poked me in the chest, right on the Obama button affixed to my coat.
"Hold him accountable. Stop the war." He said and dashed out of the car and up the stairs. I nodded in his general direction and thought "Yes, of course. Now is the time to hold Obama accountable. He's made a lot of promises, so let's make sure he keeps them."
A few stops later, his voice ringing in my head, I became a bit peeved. It was in the way he said it. Not "Let's hold him accountable," just "Hold him accountable." As if his work was done. His candidate didn't make the cut, so that's it. Maybe I'm reading a bit too much into my brief encounter but it sure sounds familiar.
When we managed to put Dubya back in the White House, many liberals cried "Not my president!" And, as much as I wanted to say and feel the same thing, I knew I couldn't. America, unfortunately, had spoken. John Kerry ran a weak campaign and paid dearly for it. We were now stuck. The division that resulted, and the new brand of "Patriotism," that was co-opted by the conservative base was crippling to this country. It somehow became lame for liberal folk to say they loved America. Some progressives fought and made noise. Yet, many sat by, complained and excused themselves from any responsibility by saying "Well, I didn't vote for him." To me, this is a weak justification for sitting around and doing nothing.
This is, of course, not to say we should all blindly follow. We should indeed hold Barack
Obama and all of our leaders accountable. He has promised to withdraw our troops from Iraq in 16-18 months. Let's yell and scream about it until he does. He's promised tax cuts and a better healthcare system. Let's march and write letters and be active about it until he makes good. And let's all do this together.
The last thing we need is another fierce division. Yes, it is true the Dems now hold a majority in both the Senate and Congress. This does not mean we all have to sit idly by as they ram through policy that we may or may not agree with.
We have a choice as Democrats, Republicans, Green Party Members, Constitution Party Members, Libertarians and yes, even you, Prohibition Party Members. (Ok, and you too, Boston Tea Party). We can decide to fall back and sit on the sidelines and complain and say "Well, I didn't vote for him." Or, we can stand up and unite and understand that, however imperfect our system may be (and it is certainly severely flawed), America has spoken. In a big way. This is an historic moment. Let us embrace it and continue our activism. Let us stop the passive complaints and continue the active questioning. If we all do want this change to come, we need to affect it somehow. At the end of the day, despite our differences, we are all fighting for something similar, aren't we? Why not try to help quash the partisanship that has had a strangle-hold on us for the past eight years or so?
In his speech last night, Obama said, "...we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree."
Hold him to it, America.
And, if you decide not to, just don't complain about it to me, ok?