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I wish I’d been with Dylan on election night

I could have sworn the place to be on the momentous night of November 4, 2008 was Grant Park in Chicago. But I’ve only just found out that a joyous crowd of Bob Dylan fans were celebrating change at the University of Minnesota, in a sell-out concert by the man with the big white hat, the sunken cheeks, the ruined growl and the visionary grasp of the tumultous American story.

If you’ve ever seen Dylan perform, you know he’s not one for chit-chat. With him, it’s all about the songs. But on election night, as news broke that Barack Obama had won, Mr. Cool could barely contain his excitement. According to a story at Gimme Noise, a Twin Cities entertainment website, Dylan “danced around like a marionette doll, waving his pointer fingers in the air like guns.” He also broke his habitual silence to say, with palpable emotion, “I was born in 1941. That was the year they bombed Pearl Harbor. I’ve been living in darkness ever since. It looks like things are going to change now.”

There are moments in the life of a people or a person when a second chance presents itself, shining with possibility. As I wrote in a previous post, Obama’s victory is America’s chance to become, in the most profound sense, the land of the free and the home of the brave. The country was returning to its roots and so was Dylan, who briefly alighted at the University of Minnesota, doing more singing than studying, before going off to seek his fortune in New York.

Why do I find this so poignant? I think it’s because my generation—the people who made Dylan our reluctant prophet—is also looking back at our young idealistic selves, hoping it’s not too late to recapture what so many of us lost in our quest for BMWs, faux chateaus, multi-thousand-dollar “it” bags and all the other baubles that, increasingly, we can’t afford in these post-crash times. Now we don’t talk so loud or seem so proud. If we’re not actually scrounging for our next meal, perhaps we can summon a more active sympathy for the multitudes who are.

Back in the day Dylan said, “Don’t follow leaders.” The new leader of the free world, who already wears the mantle of our fervent, overheated expectations, is bound to stumble, as even the most able and assured leaders do. Change will come in fits and starts, and we’ll inevitably wish we could send back some of what we get. But that’s okay. The point is not to follow the leader, but to align the best in ourselves with the best in the person we have chosen.

Click here to read about my life as a Dylan fan. Click here for a taste of what you missed at his election night concert.


Posted by Rona

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