I know I got very wrapped up in the election and discussing it. I hadn’t meant to. I hadn’t meant to avoid it, exactly, but I hadn’t realized I would become so focused on it. I think I got so wrapped up in it because McCain/Palin scared me so much, and because I thought there was so much at stake.
A lot of it was wrapped up in my feelings about September 11th. I realized that before, but watching Obama’s acceptance speech drove it home. I’m only 30 and ain’t been alive long, arguably, and missed some major cultural milestones. I may be mistaken, but I don’t think any man has walked on the moon so long as I have been alive. The sixties are full of a lot of cultural imagery that will only ever be grainy footage to me; JFK and RFK and MLK. I came in at the tail end of the seventies, and missed free love and freer sex. While I enjoy the Beatles music in some ways, I still don’t see what the big fuss was about, and by the time I came around, Elvis was gone, too. I enjoy few movies made before 1980, Star Wars being the most notable example.
Still, the other night, watching Obama accept the presidency, I thought of what I have seen. I saw a black man become president of the United States, and while I know that racism is in many ways still alive and perhaps too healthy in America, I think it’s the surest sign there’s hope.
I remember this, too:
Which was in 1987. Two years later, in August 1989, 28 years and one day after it was constructed, that wall came down:
I think a lot of us had that feeling first thing Wednesday morning, just after midnight.
The end of one era, and the beginning of a new one.
(I’ve just realized, too, that 28 years and three days after I was born, I left for USC. That’s kinda neat)
Because the other momentous thing I’ve seen during my lifetime is something that too often hurts too badly to talk about too much. A few weeks ago, I caught the premier for Life on Mars, a show by which I was singularly unimpressed save for a single moment:
I often feel like that day started a time of corruption and incompetence carried through 7 long years. Seven years during which America lost internationally most of what reputation it had, invaded countries it had no right to attack, ‘defending freedoms’ it had already taken away anyway.
I don’t know what Obama will do, nor what he will change. I don’t know that he will be a good president. But I think he has both dignity and integrity, two things the office of the presidency have been sorely lacking for a long, long time (and not just during this past administration. I like Clinton, but dignity and integrity are not words that come to mind when he does), and I feel comfortable enough with the next four years (at least) in his hands.
I don’t think much will change for a while; Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the Berlin Wall didn’t fall the day after Mr. Reagan challenged Mr. Gorbachev. Then again, September 12th, 2001 saw the sun rise on a world completely changed from the one that had existed just 24 hours before, so who knows?
I don’t. But here’s the thing:
While I don’t remember much about the morning of September 11th up to, say, 8:50 or so, it is because that day at that point in my life was unremarkable, which means it was a good morning. It was a morning on which I woke up a little later than I wanted, brushed my teeth, walked a block up to the PATH station at Journal Square. It was a morning I walked from Herald Square at 34th and 7th to my office at 40th and Madison, and if I don’t remember anything out of the ordinary during that several block trek, I will claim it was a good one, because those walks were, back then. They weren’t all sunshine and roses, of course (not many rosebushes on the streets of Manhattan), but after that morning, those walks were different, and they disappeared all together several weeks later.
I cried when I watched Obama’s acceptance speech, just like I cried when Hillary Clinton spoke at the DNC. I cried when I watched McCain concede. Not because I was so happy, though there was that, but because I was feeling something with which I had been unfamiliar for so long. I watched the polls and results with hope but also with caution, and even posted over at Making Light that I would believe it only when he took the oath of office.
Because the thing is, when you’re so scared, when you feel so beaten down, when you get so wound up and anxious, if you feel that way long enough, it can be hard to give it up. Watching Obama speak, I started to give it up. I started to let the sun shine in again. I started to feel myself open again, and that’s something I haven’t felt in a long, long time. Watching Obama speak, I started to realize that things might not always be so dark as I felt they were.
Then again, I also know that I may well be projecting my personal feelings onto those of the country as a whole. I took this election more personally than I took the one in 2004 because I’ve changed in the years since. In 2004, I was working as an assistant editor and living in my parents’ basement; this just a couple of years after I had graduated college with all the promise in the world and gotten a great gig at a prestigious advertising agency. In a way, I think I felt I was going backward if I ever felt much at all, because I know at times I was going just to go, doing just to do, coasting through to get by. This year was personal because I don’t feel that way. I’m working and living and doing. I’ve stopped waiting around for life to happen and started to make things happen, and I think I projected some of that feeling onto the election. I think I felt as though, since I was changing, the world should, too, somehow, in however small or large a way.
I think, too, I felt ready.
I don’t know what the future will hold. I don’t know what tomorrow will be.
But just the hope of it makes me smile at the possibility.
For now, that is something. For now, it is enough.
November 6, 2008 at 11:04 am
My reactions to this election have really surprised me. The first time I heard Obama speak was about four years ago when he gave that brilliant speech that stopped everyone–Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike. For the first time in my life, I looked at a man and saw a leader. He reminded me of men who have died for this country–the Lincolns and Kennedys and MLKs. And I remember thinking, “wouldn’t it be nice if this country could see the man and not his color or his age?” And, then, I remember that they have–with Lincoln and Kennedy. And part of me was a little glad Obama didn’t stand a chance. Because I wanted him to stay.
I’ll admit, when he first started running, I thought he was crazy. Why would you do this? Why put yourself in this position? I didn’t necessarily agree with his policies. HRC spoke to me more in that way. But I was always impressed by who he was. HRC never impressed me (until this year’s DNC speech). This says a lot because I was pretty cynical about politics and politicians–especially after 2000/2004. I’d changed parties, even.
But there was something about Obama that I identified with–that made me trust him. He grew up like I did–with a single mom and no money…an absent father. I admired how he went from that to a prestigious school. I admired how he went to the inner city and tried to empower others. Since he started running, I’ve heard so many stories about the man and his integrity.
I believe in Obama and his ability to lead–to be his brand of human and to inspire others to be more like him. Because he is like Lincoln and Kennedy and MLK.
I didn’t cry until the end of his speech, and I cried mostly for those men who died. I cried that they couldn’t do what they tried to do so many years ago. I don’t know that we are different or that we are ready. And I am terrified that Obama will be another man we mourn. But, for now, I look forward to seeing what happens.
November 6, 2008 at 11:32 am
I adore the way you write and express yourself.
The fact of the matter is, the things that I have been patriotic about in the US are only now starting to catch up to the way I’ve been involved in the history of my home country. That’s just the natural way of things when my life is split evenly down the middle between two places.
When 9/11 happened, I was mostly in shock. It was one of the major reasons I decided to go into International Affairs before going for my law degree. The harsh truth that I am not ashamed to admit is that there was a point in time during this election when I was GLAD I’m not a citizen yet because I didn’t see much hope. I didn’t believe that the US could come together and go for change so I didn’t want to get my hopes up.
I do believe in Obama. My faith in the future for this country was restored for the first time since the 2000 election when I heard him speak and yes, I did cry. Fact of the matter is, we still have a long way to go…a VERY long way to go because while the country moved forward with the presidential choice, we took 2 steps back with Prop 8.
So yeah. I think it’s OK to smile and have a little hope for our future.
November 6, 2008 at 5:19 pm
It’s interesting. I remember when Bush was re-elected, and thought to myself, oh no. But at that time in my life I was in the midst of a crying baby, feeding fourteen times a day. The only television on in the house was Baby Einstein – in fact I think I’d given birth, a month before four years became the present eight. I wasn’t in tune with the happenings as much. (Although my time frame may be skewed, so much has happened in my life in the past four years.)
My favourite thing about Obama’s speech was when he spoke of his daughters and how they deserve their new puppy. How his wife was the rock. At that point, I turned and looked at my husband with teary eyes and said, “How can this man be so real? So genuine, so bloody charming?” He said, “Because it’s time for a change.”
Change. It’s both frightening and liberating all at once. Change is how we adapt to the new and the now, how we improve and make things more efficient. Change is how we grow.
Hope. When we moved here four years ago, I left what seemed to be everything. My family, my friends, the big city – my big dreams. And it wasn’t until I’d been here (my new small town), for a couple of years I’d realized, my life was no longer about me. It was “us” “we” – the dream was bigger, and the “us” and the “we” drove me. Obama emphasized “us” and “we” – and I got that. I was able to relate to the fact that my life is more than just me – it’s “us” and it’s now – it’s everyone.
In four years we went from having a futon as a bed, to giving birth, taking over a business, marrying, buying our first home (and putting a nice down payment on it), to now, venturing into academics part time (full time in the future).
I still have big dreams, only they’ve evolved and changed with the times.
I never let go of hope, because sometimes it seems, when things are crazy… it’s the one thing *we* can truly count on.
November 6, 2008 at 5:27 pm
Oh, and p.s. The Beatles? Those dudes knew how to perform live. That was rock in it’s birth.
Just my opinion:)