Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Just Words: The World Holds its Breath

O My Prophetic Soul  Hamlet: Prince of Denmark, Scene 5, Act I

Words are all I have. As a British citizen I cannot vote in this election. I cannot phone canvass. I cannot donate. All I have are words. But  after this amazing  campaign and all the words we’ve all expended, I just want to release two more crucial words into the blogosphere: thank you.

Thank you for the flames and mojos, criticisms and kudos: thank you for the fail pictures and the poll analysis, for the LOLZ cats and live blogging threads. But above all thank you for your tolerating me here. As a foreigner in these virtual forums I’ve experienced the best of American hospitality, just as my son has experienced it during the last few days in Pennsylvania, organising, canvassing, getting out the vote.

Thank you. These are just words.  But I cannot vote or donate. Words are all I have.

Words were all I had four years ago when I first became actively engaged in your debates. I had my reasons for being so caught up in the last election, but I was mainly a lurker. But nearly exactly four years ago, on November the fourth 2004, just after the savage and dispiriting defeat, I wrote my first ever diary on a blog to thank Democrats, even in defeat, for providing such inspiration and passion and hard work.

On that terrible day in November 4th 2004, I also tried to write some words of consolation. I don’t know how much they helped. I drew analogies from the Labour Party’s three successive defeats and 18 years in the wilderness, to encourage you all to rebuild and regroup.

A few days ago I took a look at that diary for the first time in four years and I was stunned to find this:

Just Words – Faith, Hope and Charity

I’m not an American, so this isn’t really my role to help formulate these declarations, but I am a writer, and I suspect that you are struggling to find a new language to defeat the faith based rhetoric of Bush…

The Democrats will never win Utah, but they must find a way of (genuinely) engaging heart and head. This doesn’t mean cute photo opportunities or last minute appeals to the Catholic base, it has to do with believing that complex issues CAN be explained in clear language, and also not being afraid of passion in politics. Both Kennedy and Roosevelt managed to achieve this sense of engagement and moral clarity (without invoking religion). Barack Obama did it too with his great conference speech. He spoke about faith and God in an inclusive way. Like it or not America is a faith based society, and someone needs to take this on board, and use its missionary instincts for more democratic ends, rather than relinquishing moral values to the Christian Taliban.

Just words. Despite the Shakespeare quotation, I don’t claim to be prophetic. Many others were moved by Obama’s Convention Speech in 2004. Since then he’s said thousands maybe millions more words, and only a few have been awkward or disjointed. Only a few have been erroneous or not full of dignity, weight, policy and poise. America is a remarkable country for creating such a person. And more remarkable still for supporting him in such vast numbers.  

American politics is sometimes vitiated by religion – especially in the last eight years – but some of your best leaders have appealed to faith and hope and love, our spiritual instincts. With Lincoln, Roosevelt, the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King you have created a kind of politics that transcends demographic calculations or policy prescription. These leaders were reasonable, but they also went beyond reason, to the irrational and inexplicable sense of hope and optimism and struggle and redemption. That power to move beyond partisan politics was the underlying subject of my first ever diary in 2004. And I feel now that, whatever happens when the ballots are counted, Obama is another leader of that tradition, and that he has already fulfilled some of my dream.

I’m not a believer myself, but my mother was, and her faith drove her to become a social worker, and to fight poverty, inequality and distress…

It seems to me this is the battle you’re engaged with, to recover this language of values and faith for the defence of freedom and social justice. You have to engage the republican right on its own ground, prove how venal, selfish, divisive – in other words – how unchristian it is!

So I have faith in the man, and more importantly faith in your faith in him and ability to do things because of it. And I am not alone.

At the End of the Red Earth Road

Millions around the globe are watching you now. They sense the same hope – that things can be different, that good people can succeed, that the world can be kinder, safer, fairer. It’s almost a childish hope. I really didn’t think I’d feel it again in my lifetime.

Now millions are watching you cast your votes. And I’m sure you don’t me to tell you the result if the world could vote.

Why do we care so much? Of course it’s the politics, the impact it will have on our lives when the world’s remaining superpower makes such a momentous decision. But it’s deeper than that. Roger Cohen, an expatriate Brit and wonderful journalist who covered Bosnia brilliantly for the New York Times, wrote one of the best editorials about this sense of faith and hope and love that isn’t bounded by any particular religion.

Nowhere else could a 47-year-old man, born, as he has written, of a father “black as pitch” and a mother “white as milk,” a generation distant from the mud shacks of western Kenya, raised for a time as Barry Soetoro (his stepfather’s family name) in Muslim Indonesia, then entrusted to his grandparents in Hawaii – nowhere else could this Barack Hussein Obama rise so far and so fast.

It’s for this sense of possibility, and not for grim-faced dread, that people look to America, which is why the Obama campaign has stirred such global passions.

Cohen, as a foreigner, articulates how the American Story is still so powerful, and how despite eight years of being buried, still has this chance to be reborn. That’s why the world is hanging in this election. With God or without god, we still have hope. We still have faith.

Cohen also talked about meeting Obama’s half sister Auma down the end of reddish earth road in western Kenya, and recounted what she’d said about the democratic nominee.

“He can be trusted to be in dialogue with the world.”

I know those red earth roads well. My sister in law is Kenyan and with help from my family and others she runs a orphanage for girls there. I know they are waiting for good news too.

Of all the leaders I’ve known in my lifetime, Obama has the capacity to reach out to people across classes, ethnicities and nations and inspire them, encourage them, make them believe again. From the far end of the earth, from Africa to Indonesia, from Hawaii to the Brandenburg Gate, we are watching, hoping, not quite able to believe the impossible is happening, and the dream of America could be reborn.

The world holds its breath.

In the meantime all I have is this words. Words of thanks. Words of encouragement. Words of praise. This is not a goodbye cruel world diary. I hope it will soon be an “O what a wonderful morning diary”.

But whatever happens, I hope to be in dialogue about these historic few days for years ahead.  


  1. I add my thanks to you for caring so eloquently all year, and before.  It is the effort of being willing to be bothered discussing the issues of the world, and of my country’s place in it, that has both led us to where we are today and will be the toolbox and brow-sweat that allows us all to realize our possibilities.

    This has been an amazing race.  It has opened my eyes and opened my mind and opened my mouth.  It has brought this disenchanted liberal – not back to the fold with all that means – moreover back to the vantage of the middle where I have ever only briefly paused before, but from where I can see both sides again clearly for all of their wonderful strengths and faults. As has been borne out by our flowing exchange of words here and in the Senator’s own statements and approach, what we have evolving before us is not simply the winner-takes-all championship of “us” over “them”, but much more importantly the championship of Us over “us-vs-them”.

    I, too, look forward to continuing this dialogue into the future.  Among all of Us.

  2. fogiv

    Because you’ve been in the trenches with us so long, it has become easy to forget your unique perspcetive as a Brit.  Many thanks in return, not only for caring about our nation as it affects your own, but about its citizens.

    Very well said, my friend.  

    The poet weeps his words tied in knots,

    Suddenly saddened by the size of this thoughts.


    We Americans want to be citizens of the world again too.  I hope the world will forgive us the last eight years…can we have a Mulligan, please?

  4. dtox

    Thank you for articulating what many of us foreigners feel. I wish I could have said it this well.

    I have been experiencing this country for a little over a month now. I’ve not ventured too far from a little corner of it, but what I have seen and felt has only confirmed what I knew about the promise of the country and its people.

  5. brianross

    Grab yourself an account at Set it up.  You can go to and set up an account there.  If they want a US Address to put you in a US Zone, use:

    2900 Clint Moore Road

    Boca Raton, FL. 33496

    That will put you in our battleground state (Or choose an address in Ohio or somwhere where it counts).

    Hit the MAKE CALLS button. You will be given 50 names to go call. Use Skype international (cheap) to make the calls.

    We have lots of expat Brits here, so no one would think twice about the accent 😀

    You CAN help get out the vote, world. The Internet makes this possible. There is nothing illegal about persuasive speaking by telephone. Share your passion with us.  We need everyone’s help to convince American voters to show up and support Barack Obama.

  6. NavyBlueWife

    When she said that she was proud of her country for the first time in her life, I understood what she meant.  I have never thought of her as anything less than one patriotic and amazing woman.  I have been part of 3 presidential cycles, not including this one (only because it ain’t over yet), and most of the time, I have felt like an apologist for my country that I love so much.  In fact, I have apologized many times to foreigners, and always, they have been understanding of how a great many Americans were sad at what their country had become.

    I have understood for a long time what great power America holds in the world, and I have seen that power abused.  I also have understood how insular I am as an American by not understanding more of world politics, even the politics of the U.K.

    We have seen the awesome and scary power of words in this campaign.  Obama has used his eloquence and amazing oratory skills to inspire a nation to take back our country.  McCain and Palin have used their words to inspire fear and hate.  Brit, your words are more powerful than you give credit to, and you have chosen to do GOOD with those words.  I, like many here at the Moose, am inspired by all that you do for America, your American friends, and for the world with your words.

    Thank you, my true friend.

  7. Hollede

    I know how many in the world have felt about the States. I find it remarkable that so many used to look to us for inspiration and hope. We have lost something my friends, and to really, truly think about that loss makes me weep. Our country and our world is worse off, because of one man and one party that has shit on everything that was good about the US. I love my country, but I want to be proud to be an American again.  

  8. Kysen

    I ‘read’ you on MYDD long before getting to ‘know’ you during the creation of The Moose. It has been a pleasure ‘working’ with you and I am proud to call you a friend. You have toiled tirelessly….both for Obama and this blog (and Mydd before it). It matters not to me (nor to most anyone else, I’d suspect) that you are a bloody limey. 😉

    Your sis-n-law sounds to be a spectacular woman….your brother is a lucky man. I agree that this year, this election, unlike any other in recent history…has the eyes of the world trained upon us. I am ever hopeful that we (finally) do the right thing (both for the good of our nation and for the good of our global family).

    As for your ‘words’…they are much all their forms. Thank you for all you have done and all that you do.

    Good on ya!

  9. nrafter530

    handsomegent is back over at MyDD. I’ve dealt with some fun arguments over there with Clinton supporters, but that guy is just one of the most hateful disgusting vile people.

    I had forgotten about him until I saw his handle pop up over there.

    Try ignoring him, let him know his views are not shared in this blogsphere.  

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