I just got home at 1:30 in the morning from the “Deadheads for Obama” concert in San Francisco on the eve (first hour) of the presidential primary election in California. I fancy myself a Deadhead and I went at the invitation of my friend Katie more to listen to a rare performance of the closest thing to a resurrection of the Grateful Dead since Jerry García's death than as support of Obama.
I have already voted by absentee ballot for John Edwards, the candidate (besides Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson) who speaks most clearly to my concerns and values. I don't quite trust Hillary Clinton (her opposition to the war on Iraq has come quite late and not quite lukewarm, her health-plan seems designed in collusion with the “managed healthcare” insurance companies.)
Barack Obama, I am suspicious of. He is too green in the senate (as in 'inexperienced' as opposed to 'environmentally committed') and I don't like the company he keeps (Joe Lieberman who supposedly mentored him in the senate and Zbigniew Brzezinski who is said to be his chief foreign policy advisor; neither of whom share my values and whom I cannot distinguish from the fascist opposition.) The record of his short time in the senate is not impressive and though he speaks change, he seems to have no concrete plan I am aware of on how to bring it about and toward what ends.
But he speaks well, charismatically even. He is young, good-looking, and he has a style that owes not a little to that of Martin Luther King Jr. There is a not little hint of the preacher in his delivery. And he has the words of faith: “unity,” “change,” “hope.” He uses them with a preacher's flare — and they move one. Especially the idealistic young.
I wriggled my butt deliciously to the music so fraught with memories and of a wholeness, kindness, joy that make me feel good. Everyone felt good — joyful even — and most of the 2,400 people who filled the Fox Warfield Theater to capacity were young. Of the deadheads there, I was one of the few veterans, elders (having attended my first Grateful Dead concert in '67), but the vast majority were young.
It is hard to know how many were there, like me, primarily to listen to Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, Phil Lesh and friends reunited (for Obama) for the first time since 2004, how many there to make Obama win. The majority, I suspect, for both. The veteran band members of the Grateful Dead support Obama and so do a great many of the young, not only those in the Warfield tonight but most of the young men and women in my life — most of whom are for the first time taking an active part in politics.
They are of the best of our young. They are idealistic, of good values and good heart (the same thing, I guess), and obviously, on this night, full of hope. And tonight I think they swayed me to Obama's camp. It was a matter of the heart, a leap of hope.
It goes like this: OK, Barack, if you get the nomination for the Democrat candidate for the presidency of the United States of America on the trust and vote of the young, promising them “unity,” “change,” “peace,” “hope,” they will expect you to fulfill your promise — or fail in a heroic effort to fulfill it. The farm-workers' slogan ¡Sí se puede!, in the English translation, of course, “Yes we can!” that you sang to them, your guarantee.
You do not play with our youths' hope frivolously, falsely. And if you falter, I trust and expect that they will demand that you be true — with their just anger, even if the laws are in place to criminalize dissent, even if the concentration camps are already built and the rail cars already equipped to take them there.
Had I not already cast my vote and Edwards not withdrawn, I would probably cast it for you today— but let us be clear: my trust would be in and my vote for the hope of youth.