Where were you when Barack Obama became the next president of the United States? The emotion of the election Tuesday night will remain in my memory, just as I remember where I was when John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The wound around the assassinations of my girlhood and young womanhood has been somehow opened for cleansing with this man from Illinois’s election. I’ve been crying on and off since Tuesday, when I see a photo of his shining smile, or read again one of his potent quotes, or see photos or videos of people’s happiness and amazement. Idealism again? Possibility again? Devotion to the higher ground again? John McCain’s concession speech was eloquent, truly gracious and even better, truly patriotic. In that moment I loved him, and when he called Obama “my president,” I started crying all over again and thought, you are indeed, at your best, a grand old man, all that is best in the word: warrior. Historical novels are built off the emotion and memories of moments like this past week.
I want to mention two lovely and deep memoirs out there, one by my agent Jean Naggar, called Sipping From the Nile. Jean writes of her life in a closely knit banking family in Egypt, their exile because of politics, and the remaking of a life in Europe and New York. The other memoir is by a spiritual mentor, Dunya Dianne MePherson. Called Skin of Glass, it is the story of her interior and exterior journey from gifted performer to Sufi mystic and gifted performer.
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Tagged "Barack Obama", "Bobby Kennedy", "Dunya Dianne McPherson, "Jean Naggar", "John Kennedy", "Martin Luther King", "Twin Towers", Add new tag, Challenger, history, Karleen Koen, memoir, Sufi
What a week. I run into a wall in my story, slam right into it, knock myself out, and lie on the ground feeling sorry for myself for several days. Why do I do this for a living? Why is it so hard at times? What am I going to do if I can’t come up with a solution?
I lose myself in the Democratic Convention: Will Hiliary acquiesce gracefully? (More than gracefully–magnificently–and I love the orange pantsuit and sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit.) Will Bill come through? (Not only does he come through, but he encapsulates the issues before the American people neatly and succinctly and into perfect sound bites.) Will Obama’s speech be all it has to be? (It’s more so. He’s the most inspiring orator I’ve heard since Martin Luther King or John Kennedy.) I overdose on research: rereading two entire biographies of Louis XIV and of his mother. Just so I don’t have to look at how painful it is to be stopped in my tracks by the story I’m writing.
Annie Dilliard says that when such happens there’s a crack in your story, and you have to go back and reexamine the structure. I do so, not willingly, but I see a possibility for finishing the story off, not the way I expected, but the way the story has shaped itself intrinsically, organically. There’s a writer’s idea of a story, and then there’s the story. I always forget that.
I pick myself back up only to find McCain has nominated a woman, and not only a woman, but a hell of a woman, a pistol packing mama-governor of five who is evangelical and a beauty queen and the mother of a Down’s Syndrome child. What drama. I can’t surpass real life. And Hurricane Gustav is out in the Gulf, at this moment ignoring my Gulf home city, but not New Orleans. So I’ll sit myself in the chair tomorrow thankful that the storm is bypassing me, but praying for the folks on the Louisiana coast and watching McCain behave gracefully under this pressure and seeing where this force of nature will decide to land itself and what will be destroyed as a result. It makes my 17th century politics look like nothing and puts my personal angst in true perspective in this big old world….nothing, just nothing.
This has been a lump in the throat week, first with Barack Obama winning the nomination and then with the remembrances of Robert Kennedy. Obama moves me when he speaks. I haven’t heard someone with his eloquence since John F. Kennedy. I can still remember Kennedy’s trip to Berlin and his famous I am a Berliner speech, the words said in German. Berlin had a wall, which was part of a division called the Iron Curtain, through its city’s heart, and his words electrified the crowd and electrified those watching him on TV, like me. Obama brings up a sense of hope in me; he calls upon the angels of our better natures, words another eloquent man, Abraham Lincoln, first used.
So there are always tears at the back of my eyes when Obama is at his best. And those tears slipped over this week watching the tributes to Robert Kennedy. Kennedy wasn’t as eloquent as his brother, but he was intense. You knew he cared. You knew he was stirred. And you knew he was a fighter. You knew that he represented something different, something the status quo had better be afraid of because the times were achanging, and he said it, felt it, lived it, campaigned it. I still remember waking up to my alarm going off, news radio shouting that Robert F. Kennedy had been assassinated. My lumbering up to run to a TV to find out more. It couldn’t be possible, I thought. Not after the blow that was Martin Luther King’s assassination. But it was possible. 1968 was a year of wrenching kills, as if men who dared reach out to the stars must be destroyed by our barbaric heart. It was the year we all grew cynical.
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Tagged "Barack Obama", "Martin Luther King", "Robert F. Kennedy", 1968, angels of our better natures, fall of Berlin Wall, I am a Berliner, Iron Curtain, John F. Kennedy, Karleen Koen, moved by a speech, politics