… by bringing us together and reminding us how much we share and how alike we really are.

In case you live in a cabin in the woods with out electricity, or maybe under a rock, Michelle Obama spoke on Monday night at the democratic national convention in Denver. She was the keynote speaker. I’ve got a bit of campaign direction for Obama, but that’s not why I’m here today. I am going to have to trust that Barack Obama can handle his own destiny, and start packing my things in case he doesn’t win the next presidential election. When Bush won the first time I looked at my (then) wife and said “Let’s get the fuck out of this country” and she agreed. But as the months passed, September 11th went down, and the towers of power shifted from a booming economy, and a prosperous life swiftly into a world where I was not allowed to fly with my equipment, people didn’t feel like dancing, record store’s closed their doors, and the kids got into punk rock (again) I felt like the only thing to do was to stay. I consciously decided not to leave this country for the refuge of a pension in Barcelona (or maybe Finn’s couch.) The decision was to stay and “fight.” What I meant by fight was continue to make an effort to make music, create environments, to be a part of the solution.

When Bush won the second time I was shell shocked, and bankrupt. I had no opportunity to leave the country. Life had gotten so hard, and so emotionally heavy that there was no possibility of picking up and leaving. Like many other people I know (or knew) and love (or loved) the only choice was to stay and trudge through the fallout of a movement which appeared to have passed, and the pains of divorce, fatherhood, separation, and economic collapse. It was not as hard on the people I know who work ordinary jobs, but it was equally as devastating for my friends and family who were creative, entrepreneurial and off the payroll. We scattered and scrambled to collect our thoughts, pay our rents, and for the most part to simply put the past behind us. Not an easy thing to do.

As the next election approaches, I find myself asking similar questions about destinations, escape routes, and watching the American people with my skeptical eyes, looking for the love I’ve always felt for even the loudest of cell phone addicted, self-centered, rude driving, profiteers. While the last 8 years have definitely dislodged my smugness, I can’t say they’ve done anything for the distance I thoughtfully place between myself and any mob which isn’t half dressed and dancing to my music on a beach somewhere.

Michelle Obama talked for a little while in her speech about how difficult it’s been to accept life and the world, America, as it is. I was touched at once by her sentiments. I haven’t heard it put that way, not in my language, ever before by anyone (that I can think of besides Silas,) but certainly it was completely unexpected coming from a politician. Life as it is. I should think that most people actually do a pretty good job of taking things at face value. Life is life… gotta go to work, gotta get a new cell phone, gotta fill up the tank… and as an antagonist, or a provocateur, I know that being the voice of irrational idealism, justice, and opposition even when times are good is a bad position to be in (even when you’re preaching to the choir.) We are sleeping, and we do not want to be disturbed. But remember, I snore, so it would appear to be in my nature to keep you awake.

Yes it’s been very hard to accept America as it is. And with the exception of my friends, my relationships, my devotion, and the occasional temporary refuge, there has been almost no shelter for my heart, or my mind from the twisting new racism, the growing economic canyons, the apathy for those in need, and many of the mutant forms of injustice in the modern world. You see? I am reluctant to spell it out… I might get sued, or the actual point of my essay lost in the fray of offense (if not in my expert run on sentences.)

Michelle Obama went on to say that she fell in love with her husband (Mr. Barack Obama — He’s running for president, have you heard?) because he dared to imagine how the world should be. I thought the use of the word “should” was interesting. It’s a word I have grown to hate very much. Should is a derivative of “Ought” which means “Debt.” Naturally in day to day life I am offended when someone says “You should…” because they are saying I owe them this thing they are asking me. It seems so selfish, so thoughtless. I also hate it when people hang up the telephone without saying goodbye, or say the horribly popular “No Problem.” I get even more irritated when they just type “np.” As if “My pleasure” or “You’re welcome” is out of the question. Why would we want a personal exchange… something including our heart’s contents, recognition of not only the gratitude of others, but also the fact that we have been of service? Better to keep it to fiscal slang, and suggest that our service was not a problem for us. The arrogance is revolting… but I suppose mine is too so what can you do?

So Michelle fell in love with the skinny guy from Hawaii with the funny name because he imagined the world as it out to be. But she married a man who had the ability, the will, and made the effort to hit the street and work for that change. I think it’s fair to say that however skinny Barack Obama is, and however funny his name is, that’s the man I fell in love with too.

I have learned over the last twenty – twenty five years or so that acceptance is the answer to all my problems (yes, that’s code) and that to fight, or to struggle is in many ways the cause of most of my problems. When I first heard this idea I thought that I was being told to stay down, to lay down and die. I would cringe when I heard it, and sometimes I would shout, or leave the room thinking that those cranberry colored robes looked cute on the Buddhists as they sat motionless in a field getting mowed down by tanks. The beauty of Gandhi’s words were one thing, but I was a man from the house of Shabazz, and ready to fight. Fuck the hell out of the idea of sitting down and dying as some poignant example for someone else. But when the fists are coming from myself, landing squarely upon my own torso, things are somehow different. As I came to see that my own thinking, my heart’s desire, was the cause of my suffering… wanting causes suffering… that my own post baby boomer tendency to transfer responsibility to others … someone ought to do something and it’s them… was making them Gods and me a slave.

The first thing to do was to accept this. To see it in action. To prove it. Once I could see how I am, then the next thing to do was cope with the feelings which came from the horror of seeing how there was no them that there is only us. Next the only action is to begin to become the change I ache for — to become the love I long for — and to accept and admit that this places me nowhere on any vertical scale. Yes, because I believe that there is no vertical scale… we live on a horizontal plane… but mostly because I am human. I have faults, flaws, weakness, and can be stubborn, impossible, idealistic, childish, every bit as easily as I can be elegant, noble, beautiful and wise. So I’m going to fuck up. Just like you are.

In this process I become not only happy, and much much lighter, but I become an agent of revolution. I dare to imagine the world without racist bias… any bias based on race … or gender bias … be uncomfortable, you have a good reason to be uncomfortable … where needing help is nothing shameful or degrading, where education is offered, opportunity is here and now, and we not only raise our hands up to whatever we find in the heavens above us, but reach our hands out toward one another with compassion, kindness, fairness and love.

So is the difference between this man who dares to imagine the world as it should be and the president who’s economic, defense, and social policy has crushed my life — made it so difficult, and painful like no other political administration before in my life time — that I agree with the other, and not the current? Is it that Obama is so blank that I can simply fill him up with my hopes and dreams? No. Barack Obama speaks for me. Not everything the man says is easy to digest. Not everything the man wants is awesome. But I think it’s time we got together and made some honest effort to retract our fingers, close our mouths, and get our hands dirty. Are you ready you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them? However you dare to imagine this world… whatever you feel it should be… the time is now.

Read the transcript of Michelle Obama’s speech as delivered
Or scroll to the bottom of the page to watch it