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Winter
2009

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A Small Prayer
Victor D. Infante, Editor In Chief
artwork by Robert Bohm

All right. I’m secure enough to admit it: I cried during Barack Obama’s acceptance speech. Twice. It’s a rare moment when you see the world shift even a little bit, and after eight years of George W. Bush and his nearly cataclysmic presidency, it felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, that finally, for the first time in a long, long while, there was a slim chance that things might get better.

“Hope” got a bit too much airplay this past year, but never underestimate its power. You let go of hope, and no amount of philosophy or activism can survive. Hope’s the thing that keeps you throwing yourself at the empire’s machine over and over again, trying to shift its gears, and underneath that hope lies a steadfast belief: that ultimately, we are more than numbers in a political campaign, grunt labor or a dollar amount figured into the GNP. That we are more than our gender, skin color, religion, sexuality or ethnicity. There is belief that each speck of flesh beneath the all-encompassing sky is relevant.

So … will Obama heal the world now? Eh. I doubt it. Mostly, I’m hoping for competent stewardship, an understanding that the most important thing he can do from that great height is to make sure people can live their lives free from needless suffering, that the infrastructure that holds the country together functions correctly, and that everyone remains free to live their lives the way they wish, so long as they harm no one. That’s my small prayer to the gods of politics.

Me? I’m not one to underrate small prayers. There’s a magic that happens when you speak need and truth into the darkness: Call it magic, religion, poetry. You can feel it when it happens: tiny lightning, arcing across your chest, sparking from one person’s lips to another’s ears, and then repeated. The small prayers travel well.

Perhaps it seems odd to ask little of a president, and maybe that’s just a reaction to nearly a decade with one who gave so little, but honestly? I don’t think the president’s that important. A bad one can be disastrous, certainly, but it takes a lot more than a good one to enact any change that’s meaningful. No, that has to come from outside, from you, me, the people we pass on the street, the drunks at the bar, the old ladies at the church social. All of us.

What we do out here in the real world is reflected in our leaders, and vice versa. The president puts an emphasis on, say, developing a high tech economy, as Clinton did, and lo and behold, the market begins to move that way.. But it works both ways: If we out here begin to take a serious interest in, say, civil rights, as we did in the ’60s, even a mediocre president like Johnson begins to sway.

Surely, the planet’s a mess right now. The United States is facing an economic crisis, on top of two wars. But much of the path that’s led us here has come from giving in to the basest of emotions: We’ve allowed ourselves to be afraid, whether it’s of foreign boogiemen in the dark or the simple act of two or men or two women being in love.

But here’s the thing: You can’t build from a position of fear. You can’t build if you’re constantly in conflict. This is the simple truth that needs to be whispered into the dark.