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Mpls, MN, United States

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Barack Obama

Yesterday was one of the high points of my life.

For months, I had been encouraged by the polls and the palpable enthusiasm indicating increasing support for Obama, but had remained simultaneously terrified by the thought of alternative outcomes. One needn't have been a 2004 Ohio resident to fear both the Republican party's ability to steal an election and the potential for the American public to be hoodwinked and hobbled by divisive messages of fear and hatred (though, as one, I did feel particularly sensitive). Despite data consistently showing Obama ahead, I didn't feel confident.

This week, though, it was hard to hold down the welling excitement and the thrills I'd feel any time I thought about Obama actually being elected. Monday night, it was hard to sleep; it really did feel like Christmas Eve!

Tuesday morning, my neighbor and I headed to the polls later than I'd hoped to, but were still in line by about 7:20. The line was about a block and a half long, and it ended up taking us the better part of two anxious hours to make it in and vote (I had to be to school by 9:45, and she had to teach at 9:55). It was a beautiful morning, though, and we chatted and shared the blueberry muffins I'd brought.

Because my neighbor hadn't changed her voter registration to her(/our) current address, and because her student loan bill turned out not to be a qualifying document, I, as a voter registered in the precinct, got to sign an oath vouching for her. It was exciting and felt very democratic!

I proudly wore my sticker all day, and felt sort of like a member in some huge club as I noticed everyone else's. Membership also earned me a surprisingly good cookie and a surprisingly bad cup of Starbucks (I'd been wanting the Ben and Jerry's, but it was only between 5 and 8)!

I had school obligations until 6, but as soon as I was free I sped home to pick up the French onion soup simmering in the crockpot and a few other dinner supplies and then to a friend's house. We watched CNN's election coverage as we assembled dinner together in her kitchen--the aforementioned soup, pizza, and a beautiful salad. We were still cooking when my friend's partner shouted from the office that it was over and Obama had won; they'd called Pennsylvania. A few minutes later, they called Ohio and we both screamed and jumped up and down. It's been two and a half years since I lived there (and I was only there for two), but I still take Ohio rather personally.

We sat down to eat just as the Daily Show special came on at 9, and it was, naturally, brilliant. And then, then! After only an hour--just minutes after polls closed on the west coast--suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, Jon Stewart turned to the camera and said, "At eleven o'clock at night, Eastern Standard Time, the president of the United States is Barack Obama." Playing that again just now still gives me butterflies.

But it didn't make me cry.

There was shouting and rejoicing, and phone calls, and text messages. My inbox still makes me smile:
10:03 pm, from a friend: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
10:28 pm, from my brother: !
10:49 pm, from my neighbor: Omg!!
10:54 pm, from an Iranian colleague: I'm happy witnessing America saying NO to war, to occupation, & racism

It was McCain's concession speech, weirdly enough, that first made me cry. Maybe it was just the news sinking in, maybe it was the fact that it was the best speech of his campaign, or maybe it was the gracious tone, but it got me. I was angry at and embarrassed by the reaction of the small, bitter, and hopefully non-representative crowd, who clearly didn't even respect McCain enough to be polite, but I admired the speech--and the swiftness with which defeat was conceded.

It was Obama's speech, though, that loosed the floodgates. I've never wept that much at a political speech, nor at live TV, as far as I can remember. The immense relief at his win, the awesome awareness of the history being created and the scope of his achievement, and even pride for my country, seeped right out of my tear ducts and slid down my cheeks. His speech was eloquent, conciliatory, hopeful, but honest about the difficulties we're in.

The Associated Press has called his victory a landslide, but although he won far more electoral votes and a greater percentage of the popular vote than W's 2004 "mandate," Obama didn't gloat or even revel in such a commanding victory. Humbly, rather, and with a heavy awareness of the current state of the country whose leadership he will inherit, he spoke of unity: " those Americans whose support I have yet to earn--I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too. "

The country has spoken, affirming the desires of the great majority of our global neighbors. We have chosen to move beyond fear and to align ourselves with hope for a better world. We have chosen a president who is brilliant, articulate, thoughtful, and inspirational, one who believes in peace, diplomacy, and surrounding himself with counselors and advisers who are informed, honest, and willing to disagree with him.

I will repeat that I don't believe Obama is flawless, or a mythical savior who will be able to solve all of the very deep and serious problems in which the country finds itself. But I firmly believe he was the right choice for America, and am thoroughly optimistic about his first term. January 20, 2009!


The Churches said...

Despite voting for "the other guy" ;) I really hope Obama will do good things for America! There's no question that he is intelligent.

Curly Sue said...

I cried too, like a baby. And it wasn't even on live TV, since I was sick that night.

I was impressed by the fact that he pointed out that, as winners, the Democratic party was obligated to shoulder the responsibility *with humility*.

The "yes we can" section really made me cry.

Curly Sue said...

Hey, how do you make French onion in the crock pot? Can you share the recipe? I'm new to the crock pot.

I Hope So said...

what a great post. i can't believe i'm just now reading it!

it was a fantastic evening here on the west coast, too. and i will remember it forever. both mccain and obama's speeches were perfect. but i was also disappointed with the bitter mccain crowd. i think it must be hard, though, to realize that maybe, just maybe - "real" america isn't what you think it is. obama's crowd on the other hand, THAT looked like my kind of america!