Obama and My Achy Breaky Heart


Last week I was quoting the great poet Emily Dickinson to express my unease about the Obama campaign's swing to the right which is now erroneously called the middle. The radical right has been falsely claiming that ours is a conservative country -- forgetting that we were born in revolution and have thrived on revolutionary invention, innovation, the expansion of human rights and the use of talents that cross racial and class barriers. As a sign of how far the right wing has succeeded in creating a new reality, this past Sunday The New York Times Magazine in its cover story anointed Rush Limbaugh a genial voice of America, a good guy disguised as a snarling bully, just an entertainer at heart, a kind of genius rap artist, a seller of right wing political products with a heart of gold and a toilet seat to match. So much for the judgment of the Times and its editors, and the effectiveness of the past years of conservative propaganda.

I hate to join Limbaugh's knee jerk attacks on Obama but I've had some doubts lately, and though reluctant to express them, I've never had a doubt that I could hold back on. What Limbaugh mocks in Obama is what drew me to him, the idealism, and the possibility of his leading America with fresh insights and courageous decisions. I am one among many who saw in Obama a chance for America's moral and economic restoration, and like most folks who give their heart to someone, I don't take easy to disappointment. So I am abandoning Emily Dickinson and going hard core today, quoting the lyrics of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy Breaky Heart," a song that has survived the early nineties better than Bill Clinton's reputation as a great politician. Sorry Emily, I love you dearly, but sometimes there is nothing but country music to tell it like it is. I offer a few of its choice lyrics. It's a plea for Barack not to toy with my affections and to stay the Barack who won my heart.

"Oh, you can tell your friends just what a fool I've been

And laugh and joke about me on the phone...

But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart

I just don't think it'd understand...

You can tell your Ma I've moved to Arkansas

Or you can tell your dog to bite my leg...

But don't tell my heart, my achy breaky heart

I just don't think it'd understand...

Here are a few steps on the road to heartbreak. Obama fudging on FISA, fudging on the Court's gun control strike-down, the faith based charity funding -- no way that it doesn't compromise the separation of church and state. So far Obama seems to be testing the waters, seeing what will work for him in order to gain more independent voters, while still keeping his core beliefs intact. There's some fudging going on here but not yet the world-class flip-flopping such as George W. promising the electorate that he would have nothing to do with nation building.

Flip flopping as we know it today is the exclusive province of John McCain: once anti-torture, now pro torture, once a friend of judicial moderates now the would be appointer of more Roberts/Alito justices, enemy of evangelical bullies, now a man who never met a right wing evangelist he wouldn't hug. He's the undisputed champ of the flip-flop. I am expecting Obama to continue to speak out about the wrongs of torture, the obscenity of the oil profits, and the forlorn and forgotten American worker reeling under NAFTA. I expect him to stand fast on the Bill of Rights and see the Constitution as a living document, not as the Dead Sea Scrolls. I am looking over my left shoulder and I don't like some of what I see calling itself "moderation" because it looks like a losing strategy shaped by experts whose expertise is in knowing how to lose elections.

Of course over my right shoulder is John McCain, a gas bag who in the name of fuel economy has become a wind-bag. Give him presidential power and that arrogant political hack (Keating Five) disguised as a maverick will complete the wreckage of the country that George W. Bush set in motion. Right now the pussycat press seems content to live with its McCain delusions. He is their revered POW and affable guest on Saturday Night Live. So who cares if he has no plans for this economically distraught country? So what if he is clueless? How bad can he be? Plenty! He is more dangerous than Dick Cheney because he wears a smile over his sneer, tells jokes that cover his irrational explosiveness, and carries his ignorance with senatorial pride. He doesn't have a notion as to what he will do to extricate us from the myriad economic and global messes of his predecessors, other than appoint more repressive, right wing judges to the court. What will a McCain Presidency accomplish in its first hundred days? If he sweeps in some additional Republican Congressmen and Senators we will finally have that offshore and Alaskan drilling that will ultimately end up in millions of Chinese and Indian cars that will complete the polluting of a suffocating universe. And of course there will be more tax breaks to stimulate the economy at Cartier and Tiffany? Against such a man there is no choice for me. Obama with all his flaws and his threat to my achy breaky heart keeps my vote. I suppose I'm just a fool for love.


Contributing writer, Sherman Yellen, screenwriter, playwright, and lyricist, has won two Emmy Awards, first for his drama John Adams, Lawyer in the PBS series The Adams Chronicles, and later for An Early Frost, a groundbreaking drama about AIDS in America. His Beauty and the Beast was nominated for an Emmy and won the Christopher Award. Yellen was nominated for a Tony Award for his book for the Broadway musical, The Rothschilds. Yellen's other plays include Strangers, December Fools and Josephine Tonight! Sherman Yellen received a lifetime achievement award in Arts and Letters from Bard College.