Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

On Barack Obama and the art of the possible
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   07/10/2008)

Thought I'd find you here, said my friend in his weathered voice.

I didn't look around, just kept staring at the trickle of water the drought had made of my once singing brook, but he didn't take the hint, just stepped on into the shade of towering maples he'd helped plant 20 years before. He sat beside me on the wood and rusting metal bench. He'd neatly bundled his muscles and flab in black running shorts and t-shirt that read Camelot Redux in green.

Reaching into a pocket of his running shorts, he took out a crumpled pack of Winstons, kicked back and lit up.

So what do you want? I asked.

This ain't about me, buddy. He shook the pack at me, but I waved it away. You've been derelict.

How so?

No columns slamming Dubya lately, no blogs in days, no emails. He laughed and adopted a high-pitched tone. You don't write, you don't phone. What's with you?

You know as well as I do.

I guess I do. You hung it all out there for your latest hero, Barack Hussein Obama, writing how he's a man of peace and science and harmony and of utmost charisma—thought I'd throw up--about how he's going to lead us from the desert of despair and corporate politics and into the promised land the new millennium was supposed to be before it got hijacked by a crooked election and 9/11 and a really stupid war…. So how does Obama repay you? He does the utterly predictable thing and steps down off the pedestal you put him on, and now you feel all betrayed.

And you don't?

His snort sent a smoke ring sailing past yellow jewelweed where a hummingbird thrummed. Betrayed? For what? Supporting our troops on Fourth of July? Wearing a lapel pin? Trying to get a piece of the faith-based action? Making nice with Billary? In my book that's all utterly predictable, even commendable because it's effective. You'll see, come November.

Wish I could agree, I said. Barack's supposed to be different. Now he says he'll increase the god-blessed defense budget! One that's already as big as the rest of the world's defense budgets added together. He's come out in support of immunity for corporations that spied on us for Dubya, says he'll boost faith-based charities, weakening the line between church and state….

So what? He's still different. Or at least will be, after he's been the same ole same ole long enough to get elected.

Yeah right, I grumbled. I expected McCain to flip-flop on torture and so forth, he has to court hard-right Republicans, but I didn't expect this bait and switch deal from Obama, man, it brings me down.

My heart bleeds for you, man. Bleeds, I tell you. Just what species did you think you were dealing with? McCain and Obama are sleazy politicians. By which I mean, they're doing what they have to in order to get elected. By which I mean, they're honorable men. Was it Otto Von Bismarck who said 'Politics is the art of the possible?' If you don't get elected, you don't do diddly. To quote Kurt Vonnegut, no cat, no cat's cradle.

What's that supposed to mean?

He shrugged. Look on the bright side. Elect Obama or McCain either one and you wash all the old Bush muck right down the creek-bed of history.

Bush muck? Speak English please.

You know what I'm talking about. Water-boarding, attack dogs, ceiling cuffs, electrodes, burst ear drums, orgies at gunpoint at Abu Ghraib, cages at Guantanimo, lies about WMDs, cluster bombs, land mines, secret energy deals, global warming cover-ups, domestic spying, loss of civil liberties, executions of retarded people, emotionally deranged people, outright innocent people--

Obama can't end those.

He might if he appoints enough judges. And he just might lessen the number of kids killed by land mines and cluster bombs and aerial drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, maybe even stop the contamination of whole countries by cutting out depleted uranium ammo. Not to mention an end to bleeding ears in whales and dolphins caused by deep sonar off California of all friggin' places. I predict he'll end mountaintop removal and water pollution caused by blasting tops off ridges in our Cumberland Mountains.

You're an optimist, I said, but thunder in the distance stole my words.

You know what's wonderful about elections? He blew another smoke ring. They change the subject. We can stop wallowing in bad old news. It's like if a mighty deluge rushed down this creek bed washing away all the slime and algae and muck. Sure, it'll bring bad stuff in its wake, but for a while it'll change what we wade in, swim around in, even get baptized in if'n we want it. And that's no small blessing.