Yes, We Did

Those who know me know that it is a rare thing, indeed, when I am rendered speechless.

But tonight, I am as close to that state as has ever happened.  Today is a Very Good Day in America, and, to coin a phrase, tomorrow will bring a new morning, a brighter morning than the one before, because tonight, the American people saw fit to give a young man, a young black man, born to a Kenyan immigrant and raised in Hawaii, Indonesia, and Kansas, the opportunity to lead it into the second decade of the 21st century.

And I am not ashamed to say that I am prouder of my country tonight, proud that it saw fit to name Barack Hussein Obama to be the 44th man to hold the office of President of the United States.

There are too many things to say, too many thoughts boiling through my head, to try and get them all out here.  A few brief ones, though.

This election means many things, but one thing, I hope, is that it served as a real and sincere repudiation of the politics of fear.  Ezra put it better than I ever could:

Barack Hussein Obama was, arguably, the country’s most unlikely candidate for highest office. He embodied, or at least invoked, much of what America feared. His color recalled our racist past. His name was a reminder of our anxious present. His spiritual mentor displayed a streak of radical Afro-nationalism. He knew domestic terrorists and had lived in predominantly Muslim countries. There was hardly a specter lurking in the American subconscious that he did not call forth.

And that was his great strength. He robbed fear of its ability to work through quiet insinuation. He forced America to confront its own subconscious. Obama actually is black. His middle name actually is “Hussein.” He actually does know William Ayers. He actually was married by Jeremiah Wright. He actually had lived in Indonesia. These were not smears, though they were often used as such. They were facts. And this election was fundamentally about what happened when fear collided with fact.

Although McCain’s concession speech was truly weird, especially the opening portion dealing with the history of the civil rights movement, it was also a graceful and respectful call to action, a call for his supporters to lend their support, in kind, to President Obama.  It showed, at long last, the respect and honor for the American political process that the John McCain of 2000 was well known for.  However, the fact remains that it wasn’t until the final minutes of the campaign that this version of John McCain really shone through, and for the majority of the last 4 months, Senator McCain was wallowing in the basest political acts, playing off the fear, anger, and jealousy of America’s darker side.

And he was running against a candidate, a black man, with an exotic name, who spent time as a child in a Muslim country, who should have been the ideal victim of these nefarious, subversive implications.  Only, it didn’t work.  There are many reasons for that, ranging from Obama’s preternatural calm demeanor, to his campaign’s dominant ground game, to the sheer luck of the circumstances in which he was able to run.  But, still, the fact remains – it didn’t work.

Now, I’m not going to say it never will again – of course it will.  Something bad will happen, and people will get afraid, and some will choose to vote that fear.  But, at least for today, America was a better country than that, a real step out of the darkness of the immediate post-9/11 era.

Something else that is in my head is how good, how right, this campaign was for this moment in time.  I cannot think of a clearer and better repudiation of everything that is wrong and foul about the George W. Bush administration, surely a long and comprehensive list if ever there was one, than to elect Barack Obama to the office of President of the United States.  I can’t get over how great that sounds…President Obama.  Damn.  But I digress.

In 2000, Bush ran on resentment, the reverse-elitism of Everyman mocking the pinheaded professor for his inability to understand the real world.  In 2004, the issue was rank, irrational fear, and the hyperaggresive militarism of a country wounded, angry, afraid, and wanting to hit back at something, anything, to try and ensure that it could never happen again.

On November 4th, 2008, we elected an intellectual professor, a man of uncertain past, who does not look like the median American, whose story is more Toni Morrison than Tom Clancy.  If you believe, as I do, that one of the largest harms rendered us by the current administration is the drastic reduction of America’s standing in the world community, then you cannot hope but believe that an Obama administration will, at the very least, have the credibility to go to the world and say “here we are, born anew, ready to lead on to tomorrow, if only you will follow.”

Which is not to say that he will succeed.  As Obama said tonight, this is only the first step of a very long journey, and the real, hard work of changing the country’s path begins tomorrow.

And I’ll have plenty more to say on the subject then.  For now, I say only, God Bless America.  Good night.

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