Friday, October 17, 2008

What Would Gonzo Do?

Two and a half weeks from the election and we're about to set out on a savage burn across the country. 18 days and 7,000 miles of highly-caffinated journalism. But this journey did not start tonight as I mull over the sack of freshly cleansed clothes I picked up from the all night Bushwick Laundromat. A place where even at midnight on a Thursday more than one contemplative soul is watching cartoons as the suds rise and fall.

No, it goes back two years to when I spent several weeks traipsing around Queens with the candidates for state senate and state assembly as a devout cynic in the fall of 2006. As a political journalist, I followed a number of candidates ranging from a Chinese immigrant who had worked her way up through Flushing's political inner circle to an African-American anti-gun advocate who got bumped off the ballot, but continued to fight on.

As I studied these would-be public servants as they thanklessly marched from door to door asking for votes as I passively observed preparing my own easy 500 word horserace story, my lack of faith in the great American democratic experiment began to wane.

And here less than two years later, I am myself an elected official, cast in to office by a count of 13-to-7 in the September primary. I am deeply engaged in my community in Bushwick, an advocate for the system, I once so distrusted, because I've seen it work.

So why set out to seek the ideas of Americans at this historical moment. My choice to travel was inspired by two men who couldn't be more different in their stations in life, but who share a mastery of language, a savvy understanding of politics, and a deep love for the potential that this nation holds.

The first, Hunter S. Thompson, chose February 20, 2005 to fulfill his desire to end life on his own terms presumably because the 2004 election so shook his belief in the possibilties of America. Thompson has always been a hero of mine, not as an overblown drug-addled streotype, but for his tangential insights into the powerful forces that rule both our private and public lives. In 1972, Thompson crashed around America as an important election approached, I figured I'd do the same.

I can't help, but wonder what Thompson would have thought of this election that was originally pegged as a face-off between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani. Can you imagine his take on Obama's elongated defeat of Clinton or McCain's nomination after being all, but out of cash in mid-2007. And what would he say about Sarah Palin? Would he have the audacity to hope?

If only we knew, but alas we never will. But in 18 days we'll know who will be faced with the challenges of the next four years. It is with the unquanifiable anticipation that I set out on the trip with Graham tomorrow as the completion of my own journey from cynical observer to hopeful participant.


bcaldwell said...

Finally figured out how to both get into the blog and then how to post my entry...whew! Bon Voyage Chris and Graham!

Mom (Barbara)

Go Phillies

Anonymous said...

Godspeed, gentlemen. I shall stay tuned. - Joe W