Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

334 electoral votes (at last count) later, this is no longer what you might call a victory. It’s now pretty much a blow out. What Obama did last night is called “winning decisively” or, alternately, “handing John McCain his ass.” McCain was gracious about it, accepting the failure as his own during his concession speech, and Obama, for his part, remained dignified and concentrated not on himself but on us. Which is why, I think, he was so galvanic.

I think few of his supporters believe he won last night.

I think we believe we won. He just happens to be our candidate, because he has risen up to become our voice. In him we see ourselves at our very best, and the hope to lead our country to its very best.

In him, I believe, we see the living embodiment of a dream:

That all men are created equal, and that we may live in a society in which we are judged by the content of our character and not the color of our skin. I’ve noticed that pretty much every media source in the country notes the historicity of his race, that he is the very first African American elected president, but I wonder if that does a disservice to what he has truly accomplished. Because he proved so decisively that what truly counts is the person, the candidate, and not the race or the creed or the gender. What matters is action and speech, thought and gesture, and I don’t believe Obama won despite that he is Black; I believe he won solely because, for once, people set color and race aside to focus on what truly matters.

And I think that’s beautiful.

***

403 years ago today (by my count, but remember of course how terrible I am at math), on 5 November, 1605, Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up Parliament was foiled.

In following years, Fawkes came to regarded more as a hero than as a terrorist. “Guy Fawkes was the only man ever to enter parliament with honest intentions” became a common saying, and in 2002, the BBC ranked him 30th among the 100 Greatest Britons of all time.

Later, Alan Moore used the Fawkes mask in V for Vendetta, which is an awesome movie:

Watching it always makes me tear up. Particularly this scene:

It fills me with a sense of joy and elation, a feeling of possiblity and hope.

The same feeling that filled me last night, first when I saw Barack Obama pull ahead in the polls, and then again when I saw ABC News projecting him as the winner. I didn’t want to believe it; I’ve witnessed two presidential debates that were hijacked within a few hours, or which called for greater deliberation that meant they couldn’t be decided for days or weeks.

But then I saw the rumor that McCain had called Obama to concede, which I found on the Associated Press site.

And then I watched the concession speech.

And that was when it finally started to sink in:

This might really be happening. This could be real.

Given the state of things, I remain cautiously optimistic. I will remain worried about waking up to find something awful has happened. Probably for a while.

But cautious optimism is optimism nonetheless, and of all the rare commodities lately in light of the financial crisis, hope might have been rarest of all.

Evey is right, in that clip up above. The pundits will say this was all about the economy, and partly about race, but I think it was about more than that. It was not just about hope but also ideas, and Evey is right that you cannot kiss an idea, nor touch it, nor hurt it. Ideas do not bleed, nor feel pain.

The same can be said for change. You cannot touch nor hold change.

You can only be it.

And now, we have our chance.

Yes we can.

Yes we did.

Yes we will.

***

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
The power and audicity of change.
I can think of no reason
In this autumn season
To doubt or question its range.

Barack, Barack, ’twas his intent
To defeat McCain for president.
Three hundred college votes select
Obama president elect.
By people’s choice he will now lead
A great country toward its greater dreams.
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let freedom ring.
Holloa boys, Holloa boys, let choirs sing.

17 thoughts on “Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

  1. Pingback: REMEMBER, REMEMBER THE FIFTH OF NOVEMBER VIDEO

  2. PQ NATION

    I STILL can’t believe it.

    My boss walked in this morning and one of the first things out of his mouth was “He needs to rent out the Pope mobile or never ever leave the White House”…because unfortunately, the assasination threat is real.

    Other than that?

    I am fucking elated. This was the first election I actually stayed up and watched since 2000. The first time I believed in change and making a difference. The fact of the matter is…Obama has a HUGE battle in front of him. Even if he was taking on the presidency under normal circumstances, he would be under scrutiny. Add an economic crisis on top of that and people will be watching his every move.

    But you know what?

    His speech last night was the first speech to make me tear up since the first time I heard Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech when I moved to the US.

    I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud of the American people than I was last night.

  3. WOVOKA

    Nicely done. Too many people out there are so angry and upset about this, but no matter what they feel, they need to accept one thing: Obama won. Big time.

  4. WILL ENTREKIN

    @Wovoka: big time is certainly an apt description.

    @Hawk: first, it’s not what he’s going to change; it’s what he already has, or at least that he’s a symbol of what has. His extraordinarily decisive win says a lot about how far this country has come in terms of race (though, yes, there is still farther to go).

    Otherwise: I know you don’t like the way of things, but unlike you, I don’t pretend the ability to predict the future. I don’t know what he’s going to change, nor how, nor even that he will. When I cast my vote for him, as he noted in his speech, I wasn’t voting for change but rather the chance for it (there is a subtle distinction there).

    For now, though: he won. Watch for a while, and most of all, just listen, okay?

  5. HAWK

    I do listen. I need to do more and sacrifice according to Obama. I need to, not the rich, because they are rich and it does not really affect them. So, the way I see it is the rich screwed it up, so I need to sacrifice and do more. I need to “Tighten my belt.” as Obama put it. I know I look forward to that.

    If you don’t believe Obama is for the rich, he supported the bail out.

  6. ALMA

    The night of the election, I was getting pretty pissed off because all these pundits were predicting a win by Obama when the polls hadn’t even closed in Hawaii or parts of the West. It reminded me a lot of the 2000 election in that way. The polls hadn’t even closed nation-wide, and they were claiming a winner before all the votes had even been cast–which meant that some votes probably were cast in certain directions because people want to vote for a winner.

    Honestly, the whole election process sickens me. It took me a while to say, “okay, maybe, Obama did it.” Ironically, it took McCain’s gracious speech and the realization that Holy SHIT–he’s not going to contest it. I’ve criticized McCain a lot since he sold out this election season, but for the first time since he announced, I saw a glimmer of the man he could have been…maybe the man he may yet turn out to be.

    I wrote a note on someone’s blog about Proposition 8 passing recently, and as I said there, Obama succeeded at making people forget he was African American. People voted for a man who happened to be African American rather than an African American candidate. Obama never made it an issue like Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. Maybe, that speaks to his ability to lead.

    People say this is such a monumental event, and maybe I agree. It certainly says a lot that a kid who subsisted on Food Stamps made it to the presidency. But it also says a lot that he had to downplay his identity to do so. Only now that he’s won is it okay to acknowledge that he is–you know–black.

    I’ve heard many people say how they’ll be praying for him…how they’ll pray he’ll do “God’s work.” I don’t usually pray for anyone. But I guess today I pray that people in this country will remember who they are and will be brave enough to stand in it. Because–seriously–how many of these supposed Christians live their lives like Jesus? They say they are scared. Why am I more scared of what they don’t know?

  7. WILL ENTREKIN

    @Hawk: you know, it’s funny; I’m a broke-ass grad student, mostly, but I still think I need to tighten my belt. Not necessarily make sacrifices, but certainly live both more frugally and more mindfully. I mean, the thing about we Americans’ tightening our belts is that it means, you know, maybe getting the cheaper SUV with the better gas mileage, or, say, skipping Starbucks. Isn’t the statistic that, like, 97% of all American households own a color television? I see tightening my belt as shedding the excess from my life (and yes, I think there’s a lot of it about).

    @Alma: totally agree. And yeah, it didn’t really sink in until McCain conceded. I think the most heartening thing right now is that the news is filled with stories about Obama selecting advisors and Bush readying for the transition, as opposed to stories about election fraud and such.

  8. HAWK

    Shedding excess? I don’t feel guilty because I can afford an HDTV and if I so choose go on vacation once a year. Does it not make you mad that you need to cut back on the simple things like Starbucks while the the rich just keep on being rich.

    I don’t ask for much and I should be able to afford going on vacation or coffee at Starbucks without feeling guilty about it.

    You are a broke college student. Does it not make you mad that you spent so much to go to college in the first place? College itself is a business. They don’t really care about you or making your life better.

  9. WILL ENTREKIN

    @Hawk: I wasn’t talking about guilt; I was talking about necessity.

    Few things make me actually mad.

    And yes, I would have liked to have seen $50 billion from that $700 billion bail-out go to forgiving student loans and credit card debt, but then again, I took both on myself. College may be about business and I don’t know if they care about me either way, but I know my teachers have because they’ve seen I cared about education.

  10. HAWK

    Yes, but why should the government bail out Wall Street for making bad loans? Did they take it upon them selves to do that? Why should the rich get helped while you as a broke student don’t get much of any help?

    I voted for Obama and I hope I’m wrong about him. I just don’t have as much trust in him as most people do.

  11. WILL ENTREKIN

    @Hawk: as I understand it, without that bail out, the economy would have probably collapsed completely. I don’t like that the banks got money while I got squat, and would never pretend I do, but on the other hand, handing me money isn’t going to maintain the economy.

  12. GOTHAMGIRL

    My parents didn’t vote for him for one simple reason. Taxes. They belive Obama will raise taxes to such a degree that we will face more econmic strife. I beleived that he would change things for the better so I voted for him. Many people in North Carolina agreed so he won North Carolina. Something a Democrat hasn’t done since 1976.

    I hope we’re right. I hope he’s as good and geniune as he seems. I hope he’ll go through the budget line by line like he said he would. I hope my dad is wrong and that this won’t be bad thing. I hope this is a good change.

  13. Pingback: PQ NATION » OBAMA’S HISTORIC ACCEPTANCE SPEECH


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