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 reƫlection, 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.


  1. Your feelings were mine as well. Today there was exhaustion as if we had all run a marathon - which I suppose we have. Not since McGovern ran have I wanted a candidate to win so much.

    It is going to be a slog. First to extricate ourselves from all the messes Bush has left, then to find a way to make people see that government can help us to do those things together that we cannot do alone. I want to live in a stable society, and that is one with a healthy, well-educated populace.

    Can we get to the point where people are willing to pay more taxes (and I'm talking a graduated tax that does not impact the poor) in order to build this stable society? Do they realize how much crime, addiction, untreated chronic disease, and hopelessness cost?

  2. We made it, Sid! Now the real work begins. :)

    I hope President Obama keeps the grassroots website going, because Americans need a little bit of direction. If we knew what we could do to help America regain pride & prosperity, just had a task list, it would be done. It can be done. :) It is a great day for the world. Today I am a very proud American.

  3. ...and the world cheers too.

  4. Don't Worry about Proposition 8 Sid, with both houses of Congress and a Charismatic President, a Gay Marriage Constitutional Ammendment should be a Slam Dunk!!

  5. Frank: take a little time to read the Constitution.

  6. lenapegirl: I think the hardest job he'll have may well be to get the country onboard, and to get the Republicans not to demagogue the idea that there's an enormous price to pay for the wreckage left behind. We can't balance the budget without everyone feeling it a bit. It's going to test the "country first" attitudes of people. I think that in addition to taxation, it'll require addressing entitlements in ways that those on the left won't like; ie, indexing benefits somewhat. And maybe the most dangerous politically: finding appropriate ways to cut defense spending. The point is that we've been fed a line of crap for eight years; that we could run up debt without pain, that leaving it perpetually to someone else is perfect policy. If Obama can get people really to understand what's happened, and to be willing to bear some of the burden foisted on us all by the deception and dishonesty of the last eight years, he'll have accomplished a near miracle.

  7. Sid: I don't get it, are you sayin we have to multiply Barak's votes by 3/5?? By the way, that was the Yankee States Idea, the South wanted them counted as full citizens, in order to get more representation in Congress. This is the best time y'all have to get a Gay Marriage Ammendment. You could wait till some Supreme Court justices die, but they all seem to live to be 98.

  8. Frankenstein:

    1. Read the 14th Amendment.
    2. Then read it again.
    3. Repeat 1 & 2 until you understand it.


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