I was incredibly proud of my hometown, and my native state, when I learned that Barack Obama drew an estimated 100,000+ spectators to his speech beneath the Gateway Arch at the St. Louis riverfront (at left, Jae C. Hong/Associated Press) and an estimated additional 75,000 people at his public rally later that day in Kansas City. For Obama to draw so many people (his largest rally to date, I think) in a traditionally conservative, bellwether state so close to the election augured well for his changes in Missouri. Even still, I think the election there will be very close. Curiously, I haven't seen many photos of the Kansas City rally, as if the images from the St. Louis gathering are supposed to serve, by the media's lights, as a metonym not only for both events, but for his current appeal, statistical lead, and likelihood of victory.
After belittling and spinning away the huge May rally in Portland, the immense crowd in Philadelphia, the 200,000 people who stood to hear Obama in Berlin, and Obama's stadium-filling Democratic National Convention acceptance speech in Denver, how will Republicans and their media lapdogs dismiss this unambiguous affirmation in their proverbial, beloved HEARTLAND? Everything I've seen shows that they've decided under the circumstances to pass over the rallies, if not the fundraising, with minimal comment. You can't wish that many people away no matter how hard you try.
One point that I may have missed others noting is a visual and historical one. In the photo below, the cupolaed building in the background is St. Louis's Old Courthouse (c. 1826-1862) The significance of this building in relation to Obama political run, his presence in Missouri and his potential victory can't be understated. As I like other St. Louis schoolchildren learned from my parents, enslaved people were sold on the courthouse's steps. In 1847 and 1850, two of the first trials in the Dred Scott case were held in its courtrooms, and Scott successfully sued for and temporarily gained his and his family's freedom, in 1850, within its walls. And in 1870, suffragette Virginia Minor's case for a woman's right to vote came to trial at the Old Courthouse as well. When I saw the Courthouse's dome rising above the vast see of people, I wondered if somewhere amidst those faces, descendants of Scott (some of whom still live in St. Louis) and Minor, along with their ghosts, weren't also cheering Obama on.
Alongside the news of Obama's $150 million September fundraising haul, the other big announcement for today is former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of State General Colin Powell's hearty endorsement of Barack Obama. It is huge news, and although I cannot ever forget his crucial roles in creating political difficulties for helping to sell the illegal and unwarranted Iraq War, I believe that he still has enough political capital that his critiques of the slanderous direction of John McCain's campaign, the McCarthyite ranting by Representative Michelle Bachmann, and the unanswered racist slurs against Arabs and Muslims will, along with his support of Obama, prove noteworthy. I still don't trust Powell, and am dismayed to learn that Obama is planning to offer him some sort of position--will he replace the now-invisible War Czar, or head the Department of Veteran Affairs?--but I get the politics of the return gesture. Now, when is the incompetent and totally disgraced Dr. Condoleezza Rice going to offer her endorsement of Obama? How many effigies must be hung, canvassers attacked, death threats be lodged vocally, reporters kicked to the ground, and so on before she finds herself so disgusted she has to take a public stand against McCain, Palin, and the politics so eagerly fostered by the man she once labeled her "husband"?
Among the many moving and heartening get-well notes, cards and encouraging gifts I received, for which I'm forever grateful, I want to show the following, but for reasons other than to do with my own health.
My former student Tai Little, one of the smartest and most talented and inventive writers I've worked with (her graduating class is still one I remember vividly and fondly), sent this CD of Chihei Hatakeyama's music. I wasn't familiar with Hatakeyama or this CD at all, but I've been playing it frequently on my drives around Chicago. I particularly appreciated the title (Tai flourished in the drudgery of my aesthetics theory class years ago), which playfully invokes a certain philosopher I greatly admire, but spares the listener of struggle through his prose. Not only did it help my convalescence, but it has a definitive calming and yet invigorating effect when I encounter Lake Shore Drive's sclerotic traffic on my drives south to my graduate class in Chicago.
This letter is from other than Ronaldo Wilson, of whom I've written on here before. I initially skimmed the letter with gratitude, which as you can see includes an artful insert, drawings, and RW's distinctive calligraphy. Then something told me to reread it, because I've come to realize that careful rereading always pays. And it did, because it was then that I learned that Mr. Wilson is now officially Dr. Wilson--so congratulations, Ronaldo Wilson, Ph.D.! Though as anyone who knows him will attest, he already possessed mastery of areas the rest of us have hardly envisioned.