04 November 2008

This Moment

I am always wary of making political statements here, and do it only occasionally, because I recognize that many of us differ in our perspectives and ideologies, and this is not primarily a political blog. I feel privileged to have friends and family members of very different political feelings, because they help me discover what I most cherish and believe.

I would regret staying silent at this moment in my country's history, because regardless of our personal political convictions, how could we not spend a moment to savor the fact that this country will now be led by a person of Barack Obama's background and heritage?

I do not believe this is a moment that will change the oppressions inherent in so much of this country's fabric. This is no revolution. As a politician, Obama is a moderate, and even if he weren't, there are limits to what a president can achieve (despite the attempts of the Bush administration to turn the government into even more of an oligarchy). I don't have a lot of hope that we'll be seeing great changes in our country's various policies -- economic, environmental, foreign, health -- but we may see some minor improvements, as well as new problems.

There are times, though, when a president can accomplish a lot simply through tone and tenor, and that's Obama's great strength. (And I don't just mean that it will be a relief to have a president who is capable of speaking in complete and coherent sentences.) The symbolic power of a man like Barack Obama becoming the President of the United States ... that power, tonight, leaves me speechless.

The thing we think of as "The United States" is, beyond its political and geographic reality, often a myth. The ideals that, from our first days in school and even earlier, we are taught are central to our nation are ideals that, as often as not, get violated by the actions of our leaders and our citizenry. But that's part of what makes them ideals, and I'm glad we teach them to kids, just as I'm glad we teach them about the times in our history when we have violated those ideals, because so long as the anger at that history doesn't calcify into cynicism, it helps fuel our desire to become better people in a better world.

And now we move away from the grotesque government of our past eight years. We bring a biracial man who grew up in a working class family into our presidency. His supporters project their hopes and dreams onto him while his detractors project their paranoias and prejudices and nightmares, but the supporters won this time, and they won decisively. Their dreams and hopes are not all the same, and some are likely as delusional as the worst delusions of the detractors, but we are daring to dream again of the myth of America, despite how ragged that myth has become, and we might -- we might -- now be able to harness some of the excitement of daring to dream again and use it to bring ourselves a few inches closer to the beautiful world our ideals point us toward.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this essay. It's eloquent, as usual.
    Right now, in Washington, DC, I am trying to fall asleep while cars zoom up and down my street, honking for joy...

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  2. Beautifully written, sir.

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