WE ARE THE WHEAT
The images rolled forth with sober and simple beauty: a tinge of gold swaying on endless Plains; a hint of brown. . .and billows of grain. They focused on acres of wheat, then to vast swaths of farmland that seamlessly merged with a sea of hands — then faces, then flags.
The video whispered, “We are the wheat; the strength; the Hope; the sustenance of America.”
Thus began the poetry of Sen. Barack Obama’s paid advertisement in the most expensive real estate on television: prime time. It was meant to be his sonnet for America, his closing argument, a reminder to his countrymen about the immensity of our promise and the peril of our current reality.
It was, quite possibly, the finest half hour of television possible in a world of 300 TV channels. It was emotional and empathetic to the working class, and fully centered on the kind of personal stories that have been lost in this season of pettiness and mean-spirited debate. It was the antithesis of Joe the Plumber, the phony air-filled carnival prop who is now, by published reports, seeking everything from book deals to a country music recording contract to a seat in Congress.
The adage “don’t quit your day job, Joe” might be applied here.
If Joe the Prop really wanted the kind of change he espouses, then he should have voted for Ron Paul — not John McCain, who despised everything the good Congressman from Texas represented. Rep. Paul was the candidate for change in the Republican Party — not McCain.
With five days remaining, Obama’s long form ad will certainly be under attack until November 4th. But did he connect to the American people? Only time will tell.
As a filmmaker, and as an American, I saw very little to disagree with in Obama’s presentation — and even less to criticize. As one who has devoted his professional life to sharing the stories of common people, I was particularly touched by Obama talking about his mother, who died after a violent struggle with ovarian cancer. I identified with Rebecca Johnston of North Kansas City, Missouri who spoke about how her family is part of a new class of the working poor, despite two working salaries. I was moved by the humble elderly man in his 70s who had his pension reduced from $1500 a month to $379 a month — after his employer squandered $19 million of pension money and went bankrupt.
These are the stories of America — this is indeed “how the other half lives,” although I suspect that today, it is far greater than merely “half.”
I have stated many times in this blog that I am a registered Independent voter, and have been since 1990. I first interviewed — and then voted for John McCain in the primaries of 2000. But that ship sailed out of sight long ago. He has taken the honor so many Independents hoisted upon him in 2000 and squandered it — invoking the work of Karl Rove by suggesting Obama is really Karl Marx. He has replaced his genuine populist past with the nonsense of Joe the unlicensed Plumber. He has forgotten the pain of unemployed factory workers and hardworking Americans who are drowning in a sea of debt — and who once supported him.
This is the tragic truth of John McCain.
I have read that Sen. Obama paid millions of dollars for his prime time pitch. It was worth every penny. With a simple but moving narrative, with a tinge of gold swaying on endless Plains, and billows of grain, he reminded us all that “We are the wheat; the strength; the Hope; the sustenance of America.”