We are sorry for the last eight years.
We* hope that this goes some small way towards making up for it – though that will be cold comfort to those who have already given their final all.
As our President-elect said last night, the road ahead will be long, our climb will be steep.
But, y’know, I think we can do it.
Yes we can.
“The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m going to wax a little poetic, here. I think, after the results of last night, that I’m entitled.
All day yesterday, hell, for most of my waking hours these past several weeks, I hoped and worried about the outcome. Even when the polls said that it was basically a done deal, I could not allow myself to take it for granted. Too many times have I seen something that seemed so promising and so fucking simple, taken away.
I have lived almost 44 years, and when I look back, there are very few moments I can remember being part of a joyous moment of nationwide – or worldwide – celebration. I barely remember the moon landings, I was so young at the time. And since then, for the most part, when Americans came together, it was either in grief and sorrow, or for reasons that seem trivial to me; oh, yay, a sports team has beaten another sports team, this year.
That’s nice and all, but, y’know, not all that important. They’ll play more games next year, starting all over.
But the grief? All too real.
Watergate hearings. The resignation of President Nixon. The troops coming home from Vietnam. The Iran hostage crisis. Wars, small and medium (no large ones, not yet). Attacks on our soil, and us attacking others. The Challenger shuttle exploding – that image burned into my mind’s eye, tragic loss. The impeachment of a popular president. The jetliners full of innocents taking down buildings full of innocents.
Yes, there have been more happy moments; the end of divided Berlin, for example. But that was in spite of the involvement of my fellow citizens. Not because of.
But last night, as I stood in the bar and drank and talked to my brothers and sisters of Portland and watched the results come in (those results seem so inevitable in hindsight) I realized that I own a piece of tonight.
I got involved. I didn’t simply vote. I gave time and money and, most of all, I gave attention and persuasion. When Obama said it was my victory, I felt the truth of it. My part was small, perhaps, compared to others. But I gave what I could. And now I need to give more. And I will do it, gladly, because the promise of renewing the Great Experiment of America is more than worth the sacrifice.
President Obama, I think, is a practical man. He has campaigned in a practical way, in a positive way, yes, a hopeful way, but still at his core is a man who has a firm grasp of the reality of things. He will make decisions I disagree with; he will make mistakes; he will see things differently than I do.
But I believe him when he says that he will listen. I believe this because he has, in fact, done this already. And he will explain his position clearly and he will treat us as adults, not children. Just as he has done already.
I do not see the Presidency as a king, ruling from his palace on the hill. I have far more faith in my citizens than that. I see the President as the one who enacts the will of America. We have let a small minority of citizens express that will; but I’m hopeful that that is coming to an end now. Enough of us are awake that we can communicate right back at our President, and our Congress, and make sure that all American’s needs, the young, the ill, the elderly, the minority, get their needs taken care of, so that they, too, can participate in the promise of freedom.
Elections come and go, and the reaction I’ve seen most often is a quick “hooray for our side!” and “drats for our side!” and then quickly our attention turns to whatever is on the other channels.
Not last night.
Last night I saw my fellow citizens happy, really happy, for the first time in my memory. The same folk who have marched in protest, now danced in joy. We had been given a chance to redeem ourselves.
Let us not wait too long before we get back to work, okay?
* “We” being, at current count, at least 63,909,365 of us.