Friday, November 7, 2008

Yes We Did

Fair warning: Late Blooming Mom is happy about the election, and though this isn't generally a site for politics or partisanship, tonight I'm making an exception.

Here's how election night 2008 went down around here.

We set up the kids with the MARY POPPINS DVD in the living room, because they just couldn't get interested in election night returns. Much as I wanted them to be witnesses to history, I had to recognize that they're not quite four years old, and CNN coverage, even with its new-fangled holograms, couldn't hold their attention for long.

So in the family room, where the other TV is located, we camped out on the couch, riveted, leaving them to their jolly holiday with Mary.

We could see where the night was going, but after so many years of disappointment, the still-vivid memories of the 2000 recount and the 2004 map swinging from Kerry to Bush over the course of the evening, we didn't let ourselves believe it ...

But then, at 8pm Pacific Time, they called it. And something happened I don't think either of us expected.

We burst into tears.

It was at once the fulfillment of the dreamed-of America we'd been brought up to believe in, but had long become cynical about, and the cathartic release of the eight-year rule of a horrid administration that combined incompetence with arrogance and sometimes doses of downright evil (I'm paging you, Dick Cheney).

But the best was yet to come. Thing 1 had somehow found our Fourth-of-July American flags. In his bright blue snow men pajamas, he walked into the family room waving one of the flags, smiling, and saying, "It's election night!" Then he pointed to a photo on the laptop open on the table in front of the TV, where we'd also been checking updates, and said, "It's Barack Obama!" He was gleefully proud of himself for knowing this, and giddy with his flag-waving cheer.

Later I wound up kissing both kids -- so did daddy. And daddy added, "Barack's going to help us."

We remained in a happy daze of disbelief all night -- calling family and friends around the country, no matter how late in their time zones, and exchanging updates on Facebook. One dear friend, another late blooming mom, said it best: "Our friends are all beside themselves with joy."

A lot of my friends are members of one minority group or another -- Asian-American, Jewish, Latino, African-American, gay, etc. It can't even been put into words how incredible we all feel that a member of a minority has been chosen by the majority to lead us all. We grew up seeing mostly white guys rule, with the occasional woman getting a shot at power, but not at the biggest, most powerful job. We were told time and time again that you can be anything you want to be in America if you work hard at it, but on some level, we never quite fully believed.

Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech has always been political church to me, a religious experience every time I see or hear it, even though I'm too young to have seen it when it was originally delivered. To me there are like 3 great speeches: FDR's inaugural "Nothing to fear but fear itself," Lincoln's Gettysburg address, and King's. But Barack's 2004 Democratic Convention speech, and his speech on race this year, come pretty close. And with his election, I really do believe King's vision has been realized. It's not that this is the end of racism in America. But it shows that in today's America, more of us judge people on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

It also shows that democracy still works. After years of dirty tricks by Lee Atwater, Karl Rove and their ilk, I was really getting demoralized, thinking there was no way people could hear the truth unfiltered, and act on it, discounting the lies and distortions, or at least deciding an election for reasons that really matter, not fake wedge issues or personal attacks that weren't relevant to fixing the country. People took the power of the ballot in their hands and changed power, peacefully, and they did it despite the negativity and distortions. That's the way America is supposed to work.

But perhaps the best development of what happened election night is this: the first president my kids are going to be conscious of, the one they're going to spend a good deal of time growing up with, is a man of mixed race. Their image of who a president is will be shaped as much by his picture as the pictures they'll see in school of George Washington, Lincoln, FDR.

Only in America.

And when they're learning their country's history, they'll know they were around when this amazing thing happened.

Maybe it took the worst economy since the Depression to make this happen. That's one way of looking at it. But I prefer to see it this way: this time, at last, we voted for Hope.


Alex said...

I love that your kids get to grow up in a country where it's not just theoretically possible for a Black man to be elected President.

And I look forward to both of them being amazed when they get older that there ever was a time in America when Blacks (or women, or gays, or any other minority) were considered unelectable.

Anonymous said...

Reading your post brought me right back to that night. I get goose bumps just thinking about it.
Susan in NY