Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Day After.

This morning I woke up feeling a bit under the weather and sleep-deprived. Then a growing consciousness slipped through, and I realized that I was awakening to a new America. It's difficult to find the appropriate words to convey the importance of what happened last night. No doubt pundits will attempt to do so for weeks. The coverage on MSNBC was as effusive as one might expect, and Maddow, Matthews, Gregory, Olbermann, Todd, Jakes, Lewis, et al. tried gamely to encompass the meaning of the moment. But there were no words sufficient to express what the nation has experienced. Instead, unadorned footage of the celebrating crowds provided the dominant imagery that came closest to describing the importance of this election.

As I drove to work today along my regular route, I glanced up at an electronic billboard that I routinely try to ignore, and big letters flashed the incredible message- "OBAMA WINS!" I'll admit to tearing up at the sight. In fact, I tried to collect myself enough so that I wouldn't be embarrassed when I stopped for my morning coffee drink. It's hard to describe exactly why such a beautiful event elicits tears. No doubt I have repressed a substantial amount of emotion over the last eight years. There's a surreal quality to the day after that I haven't ever felt before. Two years ago I experienced satisfaction that Congress had flipped in favor of the Democrats. But this is another thing altogether. The rules have changed forever.

It's difficult to isolate the individual changes that have led to this point in history. It's too easy to slip into melodrama. Yet I'm hard-pressed to determine how one can overstate the significance of these times. As someone who has been trained by the last decade to be cynical of all things on the national level, the embrace of "hope" has not come without effort. Part of me resists the idea as propaganda. And that's an indicator of just how much damage so many of us have suffered as a collective. Allow me to suggest that we have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The pangs of feeling have been shoved aside as just too painful. Still, true healing may lie within our grasp. We have realized the depth of our vulnerability.

What are the risks of "transformation"? To invest so much into a single leader is problematic on several levels. What Barack Obama represents is eminently valuable, but it is not confined to his person. He is an example of a man imbued with qualities that can benefit us all in these troubling times- perseverance, temperance, optimism, responsibility, nuance, and commitment. Just as the others before him who have come along to remind us of our possibilities, he is a finite being. His appearance on the national political scene is tremendously fortuitous, and we should be grateful to God, Fate, and/or Random Chance that we have been so blessed. But let's not forget that our new President is not the sole source of strength for this age.

There will no doubt be a lot asked of us in the coming years. The challenges we face as US and World citizens are formidable. The stakes have never been higher. The work is just beginning. We have to overcome division, polarization, suspicion, paranoia, and extremity. We can't do that with the "Us vs. Them" mentality that has been intensified since 9-11. We're all going to have to work together to transcend humanity's basest nature. There is no road map we can follow. There are only the hints and clues that reside in the best parts of ourselves. We are all connected to the world's problems and opportunities. Avoidance is not an option. Let's try to find the solutions by learning to listen to each other.

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Anonymous Steve said...

And we're off to a great start...


After 8 years of being blamed for everything, it's kind of cathartic to know that it's our turn to sit back and do nothing but point fingers.

I can't wait unti Bush hands over the keys to the Magic Weather Machine and Obama sends his first hurricane into the Gulf Coast.

Damn, this is fun.

11:28 PM  

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