Friday, August 29, 2008

Obama’s Speech: Enter the Coyote

By Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 8/29/08

When I first heard tapes of Obama’s speeches I started checking the Chicago papers. There was a funny and distracting story one day about a coyote. A corner grocer in Chicago went to work one morning and found a coyote in his store. No one knew how he got there or what he was doing there. He was sitting peacefully near the cooler section. They called the city’s animal removal people to remove him. How could something like that possibly happen in a place like the Windy City, when everyone was asleep and no one was paying attention to the quiet things in the night?

I felt the first change in tone last October when I pulled my kids out of school to go see him at a high school in Littleton, NH. I usually dread going to these things because I can’t stand the music. Someone – a consultant of some kind – usually advises them to play the most fascistic music they can find to get the crowd “fired up.” It also makes them evil-minded. But Obama’s team was playing the sweet and gently rolling Motown classics of Sam and Dave.

After his speech, a girl from the audience asked Obama his position on gay marriage. I’d heard Edwards asked this same thing on two different occasions just before and he froze up each time like a Tennessee Fainting Goat that had just heard a car backfire. What was significant about this event and about this man was that Obama recognized first that in this high school crowd in this tough, working class, mountainous region of northern New Hampshire, the girl was uncomfortable and out of sync with the rest of her class. She was brave to ask the question. Before he answered the question he talked to her for several minutes and playfully incorporated her into the group until she felt that she was one of them and one of us; no one here would be left behind.

I knew this would be different because my kids listened to what he had to say and it was the first time in their lives that they had listened to a politician. It was about the time when they started comparing Obama to John F. Kennedy and I remembered feeling as they did when I was brought by my parents to hear Senator Kennedy speak when I was 12 years old.

I am struck by the stealth and the ability; the orchestration of these events that led up to last night. When the blunt instrument of the Clinton team felt they had territorialized the situation, Coyote Trickster always had something of his own up his sleeve.

It seemed almost like a dance with Coyote Trickster always one step ahead, doing new moves that the older people had not seen before. Like when the Clintons managed to get the two preceding nights to speak, Obama arranged to have his speech at Mile High stadium. It was a soft and subtle touch; a design of mind, eye and imagination to make the point of transcending the Clintons without words, like a great film maker such as Kurosawa might do to establish his point of view in a film. Again, when Bill Clinton felt he had dominated the night and the arena on the night before, Coyote Trickster suddenly made a “surprise appearance” to top the bill. Headlines the next day: Obama makes a surprise appearance. Front page picture on The New York Times in the morning; Obama and Biden waving to the crowd. Where’s Bill? It was a tale told in a subtle turning, like that moment when cash flow began to dry up on Hillary last summer and someone filmed her buying a Philly cheese steak then finding that she had no money to pay. “Where’s my money,” she casually asked her army of people all around her. Then with rising anxiety: “Where are the people who have my money?”

My kids wanted to stay up to watch last night. Another first.

I told them it was important because in what I write about history is designed in four quadrants and each quadrant is a generation. I am from the second generation and they are from the fourth and final generation of the post-war period. The world ends and begins again with their generation. The generation is the public psychological package in which they will lead their lives. Each generation has its own goddesses and archetypes and heroes and warriors and tricksters. Coyote Trickster is the first level of encounter with the world. Coyote Trickster always leads the way.

Coyote is different from the others. He doesn’t fit in with them. He seems to skinny to be in a high position as JFK was, but then he somehow seems a better fit than the other people were. Coyote is joyful as JFK was. Coyote is fearless and makes the others unafraid as well. Coyote is supremely confident although he seems to have no peers and no lineage and is way younger than the others. Coyote is a thin white duke who comes from nowhere in the night and when he is finished everything is different and things will never the same again. Others follow with greater organization skills and gifts which they find within themselves but they only find them because Coyote led them to them.

Coyote says things like, “ . . . I felt a single troubadour all alone on the stage could change the world if he knew what he was doing,” as Bob Dylan once said about himself in reminiscence.

Each generation has a very specific moment when it awakens and when it dies and it always awakens with Coyote Trickster. My generation began when Bob Dylan changed from a wooden guitar to an electric one at a folk music concert in Newport, R.I. 40-some years ago.

My kids’ generation began last night with Obama’s speech.