Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Here Endeth the Lesson (Or What I Learned from Election '08)

What a wild ride. So much has happened since my January 8th post in which I first wrote:
Barack Obama is our next president.

This is true not because it is inevitable but because it has to be true. Because at certain junctures in time symbols matter as much as substance. Which is not to say Obama is not a candidate of substance. However, I also like the other democratic candidates. I like John Edwards and Hillary Clinton. I'm in general agreement with the direction each of these candidates would take our nation.

But Barack Obama . . . .

Barack Obama is our future. He is because he has to be, because we need him, because the world needs a U.S. President who makes Americans feel good about being Americans again. We need to be able to say, "it is good to be an American." Not as a negation, not to say, "it is bad to be a non-American," and not to say, "it is better to be an American than it is to be something else," but as an affirmation, as a proclamation that "American" is not equal to the worst in human nature.
Oh what a young, idealistic fool! What disappointment I would come to know! What dashed hopes! Malarkey!

Today is a joyous one for me, but the journey has not been without its bumps and bruises, every one a treasured lesson learned.

Here's what the 2008 election cycle has taught me:
  1. "In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope." The most important lesson learned. I'm pessimistic by nature, so hope comes slowly to me. I'd rather predict the worst than expect the best. This once I chose to bet on hope, and the payoff was huge. It did come at a cost. There is no shortage of cynicism waiting to stamp out hope. "We were young and idealistic once too," was a common refrain. Many pundits and conservatives mocked the hope Obama inspired. "Will my car run on hope?" They'd ask. Perhaps not, but last night I saw a young African-American family hailed as the next First-Family. Hope may not fuel an internal combustion engine, but it's more powerful than all the nuclear powerplants in France.
  2. Decisions are made by those who show up . . . and vote, and call, and knock, and contribute, and hold signs, and write letters, and . . . I am amused at the despair on display by many of my conservative friends and family members. Many of them truly believe this is the end of the greatness of our nation (how anyone can see it as anything but the renewal of that greatness is beyond me, but moving along). Some are even suspicious that Barack Obama might be the biblical Antichrist. It is not their despair that amuses me so much as the fact that, despite their rather extreme opinions on this race, most of them did not work as hard as I did for the candidate of their choice. How anyone could care about this election's outcome and not do everything possible to ensure their preferred outcome simply boggles the mind. Talking is not enough. Even voting is not enough. Obama created a massive grassroots movement, and I was part of that. If we want to repeat this success, we will have to stay involved and passionate about our cause.
  3. Big or small, the government is ours if we make it ours. A lot of the anger and fear coming from the right is the result of this simple, undeniable fact: a huge portion of this nation just woke from its slumber and demanded their seat at the table. For eight years the U.S. government has worked tirelessly for the benefit of the few. In the past, those tossed to the wayside have simply accepted this outcome as the forgone conclusion. Governments leave people behind. That's just what they do. To this dark convention truth, we the people have stood up and said, "NO." If that scares the Christian right, the wealthy white, or anyone else whose stranglehold on our leadership is slipping, GOOD. Change is coming, and our government will be accountable to all its citizens.

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