Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yes, We Did

I am so proud of my country tonight. Ben had to work the newspaper's election coverage, so I had to stay home watching the returns come in by myself. I was tapping away at my computer, trying to convince myself I was calmly following the election results, taking nothing for granted, keeping my emotions in check, Obama-style. Then from across the cacophony on the TV a phrase broke through: "Barack Obama has won the presidency. He will be the next President of the United States," and that was that. I became a bawling, shaking, flooding ball of unmitigated joy. 

Then the scenes that followed on the TV: shot after shot of people hearing the news, breaking down like I just had, young people cheering, old people crying, black people doubled over in euphoria and disbelief at the historic moment. This is history, I thought. This is one of those defining moments in the history of the world and I'm experiencing it, I'm part of it. It was as intense as 9/11, but with joy and hope replacing that day's fear and despair. 

I've been an Obama supporter from the beginning, and by that I mean from about two seconds after I first heard him speak, the day after the 2004 Democratic Convention, when the morning NPR show was all abuzz with this amazing new keynote speaker. They played clips, and I was enchanted. That morning, I thought, "This man has greatness about him (with some people, you can just feel it). He could be President someday." The thought gave me chills. 

The more I heard about him over the next couple of years, the more excited I got. He was everything I wanted in a candidate--smart, articulate, thoughtful, respectful, self-made, engaging, inspirational and on the right side (mine) on almost every issue. Plus, his personal story and his melting pot genetics seemed to me just the thing the country needed to bring us back together and make some big changes. Other than giving him a sex change and making him an avowed Academy Awards buff, it would be hard to design a candidate I'd like more. 

Curious about digging a little deeper into what this guy was about, Ben and I listened to his audiobook of The Audacity of Hope a few months before he announced his candidacy. We were wowed by his writing, his positions, his ideas about what this country could do and how we both needed to and could bring everyone together to effect real change, not further divide us. I was officially hooked, in for the long haul.

So of course, feeling this passionate about a first-term senator I'd never met from another state, I was also convinced he was too good to ever be elected, ever do more than be a "what if?" It would never happen. When he announced his candidacy, I couldn't decide how I felt. I was excited, but he was such a longshot, it seemed rash. America needed him, but wouldn't recognize that yet. As much as I wanted him in the White House today, I didn't trust the American people to put him there. They're the ones who twice elected George W. Bush, after all. 

But they did recognize that greatness about him. Over and over, people chose to believe in Obama, just as I had, despite the relentless smears and overt bigotry that dominated too much of the campaign. Tonight, enough people chose him to make him the 44th President of the United States, the first African-American ever elected to the nation's highest office. 

Over the past two years, I've become an incorrigible political junkie. I live online and have followed this election with the intensity of a bloodhound tracking a leaky meat truck. It's been an intense experience, this roller coaster of an election that brought new twists, new highs, new crises and world developments, new outrages, and new encouragements every day. It's changed me, I'm sure, though I'm still figuring out how. As disheartened and sick as I was over the past eight years, as cynical as I was becoming about the political process, I am sure it was and is and will remain change that I, at least, need to experience in myself. 

Tonight, though, I am just proud to be an American, tired, euphoric, overcome. Here, now, in this moment of profound grace and beauty, it's an amazing time to be alive. 

1 comment:

Melissa said...


I was screaming and jumping up and down like I was the next contestant on the Price is Right.

I'm not even going to lie.