Columns, Election 2008, Politics
Nov 03, 2008

Read it here:

NEW YORK – Here he was, driving through the intersection of history and culture, wearing a face brighter than a thousand, brilliant suns simply because he would be getting a chance to vote on Tuesday, his oldest son’s ninth birthday. His name is Francois “Frank” Pluviose, a 42-year-old New York City cabdriver who commutes to work each week from Reading, Pennsylvania — a two and a half hour bus ride — and he is totally immune to the disease of cynicism that has managed to infect so much of our politics for too many years.

“I come here from Haiti twenty years ago,” Pluviose said the other night. “First my father, he come. Then my mother, she come. Then they send for me. It is, America is, the greatest country on earth.”

Pluviose works five straight 15 hour days behind the wheel of a taxi he and a friend from the Bronx lease at a cost of $1700 a month. His wife Natasha and four children, James, 9 Tuesday, Laury Anne, 6, Victoria, 4 and Nathan, 2, remain in Reading while the father hammers out a living in the big city. At the end of his five day shift, he goes to the Port Authority terminal in mid-town Manhattan and boards a bus home.

“This week I go home early,” he said. “To vote and to celebrate my son’s birthday. I am very proud.”

The other evening, Pluviose listened intently to the radio as he headed across the Triboro Bridge toward Manhattan. His favorite station — 1190 AM — was playing a recording of Martin Luther King’s “We Shall Overcome” speech given in Washington 40 years ago.

“A great man,” Frank Pluviose said about King. “Like Obama.”

Here we have a guy who arrived in America in 1987 nearly giddy with excitement and anticipation over being able to vote Tuesday for another guy nearly unknown to the country and the larger world around us 24 months ago. It is a story — this feeling of pride and potential felt by so many people of color — that those of us who live largely in white America may have failed to record in true depth because we are so busy blogging and talking about the obvious that we ignored what eyesight tells you: the clamor among so many of the young along with huge numbers of minorities to look at Bush and other 20th Century politicians only in history’s rear view mirror.

This is because nobody living a normal life — paying taxes, raising a family, worrying about a future they now define by the month — could ever prosper or even survive if consumed with the kind of anger that seems to fuel so many on both the left and the right of our politics. It has gone on now for — what? — a decade? Two? And it is beyond nasty with too many running for office not content with defeating an opponent; they must demonize and destroy them as well to achieve true success.

So, quite naturally and very predictably, the arrival of this calm, confident Obama on the stage, a man capable of explaining both himself and his positions in clear English sentences filled with verbs that are not employed as buzzsaws, has been greeted with relief and expectation by so many who have spent the past years taping their eyelids open whenever a politician spoke. And he has managed to prod optimism out of millions who felt run down, run over or simply ignored by a politics that took many of their children to war and too much out of their paychecks that had nowhere to grow in the first place.

“I think McCain, he is a good man,” Frank Pluviose said. “But Obama, he makes me happy because he is the change. I look at him and I see my son and I think, in America you never know.”