The Lion, the Child, and the Future

Wednesday, May 7, 2008:  It was real and it was surreal.  My wife, two children, and I are in safari country — on the boundary of Kruger National Preserve in South Africa.  We’re staying in rooms that are separated by many meters, so the adults split up, and each sleeps with a child.  My eleven year old son is in my room sleeping next to me.  Earlier that evening, we were on a safari drive looking for lions, and the trackers believed that the alpha male was heading toward the camp.

That night, though, much of my attention is not on African wildlife.  I’m thinking about the two states in America — North Carolina and Indiana — holding primaries today.  During the past fifteen months, I’ve committed a large amount of my time to Barack Obama’s campaign, and am convinced that the future of the world hinges on America’s getting this election “right.”  These two primaries are quite important, and the polls show Obama losing Indiana by a large margin, and potentially losing North Carolina.  If he drops both states, his nomination is in jeopardy.  Our world travels have reinforced my belief that Barack Obama is the one candidate who can effect real change, and put things back on track for our nation and the world.  So I’m keenly interested in that nights primary results.

Jabulani 404 As I lay in bed, I hear the continual roar of the approaching lion.  We’ve seen lions roar in the wild, so I now have a good appreciation of the exertion required for such ferocious roars.  And this roaring sounds like it’s coming from right outside our window.  I can feel the vibrations, yet I’m far from afraid.  The lion, along with the other wildlife we’ve seen here in Africa, represents all that’s great — or could be — in the world — the gift we’ve all been given.  And, fortunately, Africa is proving effective at preserving its gift.  I’m wishing I could say the same thing about the United States.

Jabulani 376 My eleven-year-old son sleeps soundly next to me.  I hear his regular breathing, punctuated from time to time by a soft moan or cry.  I have no idea what he’s dreaming of that causes the cry, or whether it’s his reaction to the lion’s roaring.  But I know how important his future is to me.  Not just his, but all children’s.  And I know what damage our country has done to these futures in recent years.   His innocent breathing reminds me of the obligation that we have to help preserve a great future for our next generation, an obligation too few of us seem to take seriously.

Even though we’re in the bush, my blackberry can pick up — sporadically — a cellphone signal from an adjacent town.  It’s stronger at night than during the day, although erratic at best.  Nevertheless, I can use my blackberry to occasionally get an update on the decisions made by the voters of North Carolina and Indiana.  South Africa is six hours ahead of the east coast of the United States, though, so the polls don’t close in the two primary states until the middle of the night here.

Picture 312 At a little after three, I awake, perhaps in response to the roar of the lion, perhaps in response to a soft noise made by my child.  I instinctively pick up my blackberry, which sits on my bedside table.  I’ve gotten a New York Times newsflash e-mail indicating that Barack Obama has won North Carolina.  I know this means he ran quite well there, because the election was called quite early.  Thankfully, I know the worst case outcome from these primaries has been averted, and I try to go back to sleep.

A little later, another noise awakens me, although I’m again hazy about the source — the wildlife outside me, or my son beside me.  I check my blackberry again.  This time, internet access has drifted in, and I can check some of my trusted news sites.  I learn little from CNN.com, as usual, other than Barack will win North Carolina decisively.  But www.dailykos.com tells me much more.  He’ll win NC by close to 15%, a decisive win in an important state.  And after trailing early in Indiana, he’s closing the gap, and the race remains too close to call hours after the polls have closed there.  My son remains in his trustful sleep, and the lion’s roar have now been joined by a leopard.

Botswana -- Stanley's 056 I’m up again around 5:00 a.m.  Still no e-mails from news sources reporting on the winner of Indiana – great news.  Barack Obama doesn’t have to win Indiana; Hillary Clinton has to win Indiana decisively.  No news is good news.  The lions and leopards are now joined by jackals and an occasional hyena.  The wildlife is beginning to resemble our political process :-) .

IMG_0620 At 6:30 a.m., my son awakens.  We talk about the calls of the wildlife.  We talk about his own noises through the night.  I report to him that the Red Sox won again, a great start to the day.  And I tell him that our country took a major step forward while he slept.  The nominating process is over, and Barack Obama is one step closer to helping to ensure a better future for my child and his cohorts.  And I realize how lucky I am, to have slept in the midst of a lion, a child, and a future I might just be able to believe in.

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