Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Obama rally last Sunday was exactly the spectacle I was looking for. After a morning coffee at the Ace, several of us rode our bikes towards the waterfront, stopping briefly to gawk at Bill and Chelsea Clinton eating at Mother's Bistro. An appropriately surreal beginning. I was not expecting to run into 75,000 people, though, all with the same idea of how best to spend a gorgeous Sunday.

The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of bikes locked up to anything and everything. Thousands upon thousands. What if every day was like this? It really did look like Amsterdam for a few hours. Definitely inspiring; a peek into a very desirable future.

Theoretically, I'd like to see the political entity known as the US of A, with its massive federal bureaucracy, bloody history, and vast geographical scale, transcended by a social order that takes the best ideas implanted in the genetic code of our society and brings them down to a Jeffersonian scale, then mixes them with our contemporary understanding of ecological diversity and bioregional localism and networking. Voila: an independent Cascadia, my dream.
The rest of you can do whatever the hell you want.

In the meantime, I'm prepared to grapple with the world as it is, which includes being happy that our politics is rapidly being injected with the kind of talk we could only dream about as recently as 10 years ago. Who thought we'd have a new mayor in 2008 who is talking about peak oil? About the need to keep bloodsucking corporations like Wal-mart out of Portland? Of rejecting the autocentric social engineering of the past 50 years in favor of, among other things, re-building a streetcar network and investing boldly in space for bicyclists and walkers? And on and on.

Obama offers the promise of some of this sort of thinking bubbling up into the highest levels of power. His speech wasn't amazing or anything, but he did drop plenty of lines about living wages, renewable energy, bike lanes, and mass transit. I pumped my arm in the air and screamed once -- when he was praising Portland's land use and transportation policies. Mostly, it just felt good to be in the midst of such a rush of "historic" and optimistic energy.

My favorite part of the day was standing at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge and watching the crowds of people streaming back across the river on foot and bike. Seriously, only in charming, tolerant, quirkily cosmopolitan Portland.


Post a Comment

<< Home