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Hindsight blog

Muse on participatory democracy and the roles of all citizens including students, artists, the media, and of course, politicians. Presented by the Weisman Art Museum with the exhibition "Hindsight is Always 20/20".

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Plumbing the Possibilities

Today I’m pondering the historic nature of the 2008 election. If recent polling is any indication Senator Barack Obama is about to become the first African-American president-elect of the United States.

As the campaigning comes to an ugly end, Senator Obama is being called un-American. His patriotism and love of country are being called into question by many who oppose his election, including none other than Joe the Plumber. I mean really. Are there people out there who find JTP a credible resource for their voting information? And since when did we time travel back to the 1950’s with all this talk about who is and who’s not un-American? It’s interesting to note that just as the country is poised to take a giant leap forward there are those who’d like to send it stumbling back to some pretty dark days.

So, to shake the dirt off on the morning of this groundbreaking election, I’d like to consider a couple of my favorite American upstarts, starting with Mark Twain.

How many of us were taught about Mark Twain’s anti-war activism? He spoke out when the U.S. went to war with Spain in 1898 and also against the Philippine-American War. Twain became one of the leading protesters against the war, and soon his patriotism was called into question. Sound familiar? But Twain had strong ideas about the true meaning of patriotism, writing in his novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, “You see my kind of loyalty was loyalty to one’s country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over and care for and be loyal to…? Twain felt no need to support Roosevelt and his wars; it was the United States and its people he felt loyal to.

The late Senator Paul Wellstone with my daughter, Jen, on the right.

Another who would certainly be subject to scathing scrutiny in this current McCarthy-fueled flashback is our own homegrown, odds-buster, Paul Wellstone. I think about Wellstone and his original long-shot candidacy a lot these days. How his victory made change seem possible. Last night I got out my copy of Wellstone’s book, Conscience of a Liberal, and started skimming through it, re-visiting the parts I’d underlined when I read it just after the Paul’s death. I came upon a story he recalled about meeting a student from the University of Michigan who told him, “Senator, I want to be able to dream again – about a better country and a better world. And politics today doesn’t give me a chance to dream.?

The candidacy of Barack Obama has changed American forever, and for the better. We’ve glimpsed the future – and wherever that former student is, I’ll be s/he is dreaming now.


it's a day of rejoicing in the strengths of our country and it's democracy (for a change!!!) i can barely wrap my head round it.... i love you madam cj gage and all you stand for! art, liberalism and freedom of speech. you da bomb baby!
oh ........ and so was mark twain!

Hiphip hooray...! Historic event
never will it be the same again..

who would ever though the day would come a African-American will be president of the United States of America

i was us who witnessed this event...

God bless America.

Until now it's hard to believe, we've never imagined but only dreamed of having an African- American president now the time has come and never thought this day would come Americans be one
black or white

America will be changed for ever


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