America chooses a new direction.
The Obama Effect
I was at a local restaurant gathering to watch the election returns come in. There were no blacks in the place, just in case you wondered.
We waited for the West Coast polls to close, as the electoral college situation was looking quite good for Obama. Then, suddenly at poll closing the projection went out; Obama projected to win the presidency. The room, whose age averaged about 60, went up into a roar. You could also just manage to hear screams of joy from the neighboring bar. We noticed a woman right in front of us holding her head and crying.
Well. We were elated, and trying to comprehend what happened on the way home. When would reality sink in more? We thought a lot of what blacks and other minorities were likely thinking. A paradigm had shifted. What other impossibilities were now possible? We, who were conscious of history as it moved through our fellow Americans, were we really able to grasp the enormity of what for so long seemed impossible? Now this maybe someday had fallen in one moment.
I was unable to sleep election night. I was happy for our new history, for prejudice and bigotry being undone enough to allow such a public event to occur; a democratic group decision that chose a black man and his family to move into the White House that slaves built. We chose him over an American who was left in another counties dungeon in service to is country.
We decided that heroic sacrifice does not entitle one to sit in the White House. We decided, as democracies do, that at this moment, the content of this black mans character met the challenge of these times. We chose one whose skin color had not claimed our White House before, as if it were every citizens right to consider the nations top executive post as not denied them because of how they were born. Freedom had rung all the way through the Liberty Bell.
I found myself crying in bed, thinking over what joy many blacks must be having that night. It was like in a lucid dream, I told myself; I’m crying, feels like the emotion of crying, yet it was for joy. I had not known what tears of joy were in my life until election night, Nov 4 2008.
We had chosen hope over fear. That seemingly endless excuse train of reasoning, that avoids addressing national issues tearing the country apart, had no longer held sway. It may be that that extra push to the majority, came from younger citizens who did not know the struggles of the civil rights movements as many of their seniors did. They might not grasp that seemingly never-ending “reasoning” given; that the time is not right, or some other miracle need occur first.
Perhaps that miracle ended up being the eternal given; time itself. Time had passed racism, and possibly every other ugly offspring of it by. What subconscious privilege lets us feel fair, or that equality is a given, yet never intend fair to actually be obviously fair and equal to the physical demonstration of that abstraction? We had conquered a demon of tribalism that hounds the world to this day. The US had grabbed the lead in freedoms cause, in Liberty’s pursuit, perhaps without even knowing of the profound implications for the world.
I have since heard of more and more of those who cried that night. Around the world, people cried for the very same reasons I did, without even being Americans. An unspeakable, but obviously enduring weight had been lifted up. A thing denied up front, but often acknowledged in private intimacies, had a line drawn in the historical sand; You come no further. Prejudice, with your righteousness and constant search for self affirmation bordering, or centering, on ego or spiritually lacking contempt of others, was exorcised in the open. Shame, with its corrosive self depreciation, was told to be an answer to fears resolve no longer.
The USA lead the world again in the one area it was seemingly assumed to be lacking, true democracy. Democracy to the very core of the concept; where all are created equal, and no barrier of assumption of falsity, that seemed to produce a conveyor belt of cynicism toward our shores, was left to claim bold words always come with hollow centers. The core had returned. Liberty had lit its flame of possibility to any soul. The Revolutionary War was won again. The Civil War, won again. The Rights Of Man, signed again.
November fourth became a spiritual event. It was trumpeted in by our better angels. It’s light instantly struck the world, where those in shadows of neglect and cold abandonment could see the warmth emitting from the American electorate. What other never will be, because… was now a possibility? Which old dreams seemingly held behind anger and accusations barbed wire, were now newly liberated?
Our votes do not count? Each of our voices may have produced a cumulative priceless result, changing history’s trajectory on one day.
Look what can happen from listening to the history of sacrifice made in the name of democracy; We learned it is not enough to claim abstract words such as freedom and liberty. It is necessary to declare them by act. This looming reality has risen up like the sun over a new dawn of spring.
What seeds do we each bring?