Wednesday, November 5, 2008
A Moment, For A Moment...
Watching the celebrations, seeing the tears on the faces, hearing John Lewis say, when asked if he'd ever imagined this in his lifetime, "all we were trying for was to let black people sit at lunch counters, and ride a bus," this song was in my head, and I let it play, ignoring for a while the certainty that it's not really true. Indeed, to be alive when such a thing has happened is a gift of circumstance for which I'll be forever grateful, about which I'll be forever amazed. No matter what happens.
I have no words, I have a million words. We're not there yet. The problems are daunting. Reaction from some -- certainty that Barack Obama is in league with terrorists, that he will destroy the Constitution (as opposed to RESTORE IT!) -- saddens and worries me. Despite his restorative speech, John McCain -- and Sarah Palin even more -- deserves blame for much of it, for making the required work harder.
I thought Barack Obama's speech was near perfect. I'm as certain as I can be that that is who he really is: inclusive, not ideological; hopeful but practical; inspirational but serious. I think he'll do his best to run a centrist (center-left) government, to reach out and listen to those who disagree. If I'm wrong, I'll be disappointed. And surprised.
Nor will he have much room to work: wars, deficits, economic lock-down will constrain him. He'll have to speak truth both to the far right and the far left; as I read somewhere recently (spoken by whom I don't recall), it'll take an entire first term to "unwind" the disasters of the Bush administration. If he's able to make sufficient headway to earn reëlection, in a second term he might be able to lead the sorts of reforms he's talked about: health care, education... So there's reality with which to contend.
But last night, I just let it wash over me: the moment, the hope that things might change for the better, the witnessing of the best version of America, a sense of retaking the higher ground in the eyes of the world. I felt relief that the hatred spewing from the right didn't take hold -- at least not enough, for now, to turn the election. Was it a rejection of that kind of politics? Might we not see it again? I'm not that starry-eyed.
And yet, for that night, it was real: like a red-peach sunrise, a scene to drink in for its own sake, to bathe in and let it wash over oneself, simply for the pleasure of it. A gift of time suspended, an instant of immersion in sensations, all good, letting it go, a weight lifted, wiping away in a single scene the disappointments of the last eight years. Pure escape, for a while. I liked it. The tears on the faces I saw were mine as well: I shared them even as I could barely understand.
This morning, while I still can conjure it, the feeling is increasingly tempered by the reality that hasn't changed. Nearly half the country is disappointed; unknown numbers of those are angry and filled with fear and hatred. In all three states where they ran, initiatives passed banning gay marriage. Why? Why? Who is harmed?
We have a long way to go.
But it's a hell of a start.