November 5, 2008
Every once in a while, a politician ignites his following and convinces them that if he is elected it will signal a new day in America. I've heard it said many ways, and the fact that there are people who buy the whole package and cling to it all their lives, remembering "it was different then," says as much about our need to hope, remember, and dream as it does about the actual time, place and candidate.
I don't think any American today is without some of that feeling now that we are going to have to get used to saying "President Obama" after last night. There will be some who regret his victory, but I expect them to be hoping right along with the rest of us. We were at such a low point, there was really no place to go but up.
And the vast majority of us are more than up, we are way up. I tried to say as little about my political leanings as possible, on the blog or anywhere, with an almost-superstitious fervor based on the knowledge that few of the candidates who had won my heart in the past ever won enough others to get elected. It looked to me, after seeing the crowds flocking to hear him every time he spoke--even overseas on his brief visit there--that it was going to be an Obama landslide. Others told me that the people going to hear him speak weren't voters, which made no sense to me. You'd get dressed and go out at night to park in a crowded parking lot and hear a politician speak for an hour but not bother to go cast a vote for him?
Those eloquent speeches, with his lilting cadence and that occasional upward inflection ending his crystalline sentences, were worth the nagging worry that there might somehow be a madman with a gun in the crowd, as in the movies or in the memories of those of us who lived through less-controlled times. Again, I tried not to talk about it. At times I did talk about it some in order to warn the evil spirits that we were onto them.
It's been a tense 21 months at best, from the beginning when he looked like a simple dreamer, an upstart who didn't understand the political process, to night before last when he looked wise, as brilliant as ever, but seasoned and Presidential, still crafting his speeches, still delivering them with the illusion of the first time.
And then there was yesterday, the glorious day when it all came to a head. Long lines at the polls, smiling people on the street, and a late night when we watched the returns holding our breath. The grace in his acceptance speech, and his theme that he expects something of us, individually and together now, and that he will take care of the big stuff while expecting us to take care of the small. I feel as if I'm awaiting orders from a superb commanding officer. What will he ask of me? Shall I write something for him? Shall I put on a play? Would he like a little more money?
This morning there was an email from him on my computer. He wrote it last night before he left for Grant Park. He thanked me and assured me that it was I who won this thing, and he wanted me to know that he knew that.
Wasn't that nice of him? I'm not the one who went out there day after day for 21 months, endured the outrageous slings and arrows of lesser mortals, had my name dragged out constantly by the chattering classes on television, second-guessing my every move and utterance. He was. ("Why doesn't he get down and dirty? Why doesn't he fight back? Why does he always look so cool?") I'm not the one who was able to ignore this and show my true self, calm and considerate, using my mind to process the chaos around and simply move toward a goal. He was. I'm not the one who organized millions of people, young and old, to work in whatever way they could with a promise of little more than "change." He wa. I'm not the one who made the run for the Presidency meaningful to a cynical and discouraged country. He was. I'd like to think I helped, but it was damned little compared to what he did.
And I can't wait for his new day to start. It's looking better already.