This is shaping up to be one of those memorable years—and I’m not just referring to how brilliantly the Lakers have been playing since the trade for Pau Gasol. What I’m referring to is the Barack Obama phenomenon, which is unlike anything in my experience since the decade of the Kennedys, Beatles, Dylan and Muhammad Ali; it’s enough to restore hope to a nation of hardened cynics.
That got me to thinking about the first individual I came across who was aglow with the Barack effect—Jeff Tweedy of Wilco. The following is an unpublished exchange from a phone conversation that took place in September of 2005:
We’re living in an age where it’s hard not to be cynical. It’s insane not to be cynical, actually.
I kind of disagree with that. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and it certainly does feel like it’s hard not to be cynical. But I think what we’re experiencing is the worst kind of fucking cynicism that there is. You could not have a more cynical philosophy than the people that are running this country. And what’s so cynical about it is they’re asking everybody to give up completely on the notion that the future could be better. And because of that, everybody is scared to death, trying to do everything they possibly can to hang on to the way things were. I just don’t think you can motivate people to do anything other than destroy when they’re terrified of the future. If there was a lack of cynicism; if you could combat that cynicism with something like… At one point, we were all kind of working towards helping feed the poor, for example. I know I’m sounding totally naïve, but this is a mass movement that we’re witnessing, and it’s a mass movement of people that are fucking scared to death about the future being worse than it is now. Other movements in our time have been based on thinking that the future could be fucking great, and generally those movements have done a lot more good, even though they could definitely use some perspective as well.
I’m sorry—I didn’t mean to start lecturing. But if people could find something that could give them some kind of hope that you could make it better, if you really ask people to start thinking in a really concerted way about conservation and [the idea] that the children’s future could actually be really bright, I think you’d have a lot more people willing to vote for people like…you know, Obama. I got to meet him not too long ago; he introduced us at Farm Aid. It’s pretty hard not to wanna hang on desperately to someone like that as a life raft. Please save us [laughs].
He definitely has a lot of character, and it comes across as impeccable.
He was great. He was really kind of normal and fun to hang out with, and at the same time very, very sharp.
We need somebody very sharp at this point.
Like a razor.