Hope Wins


Where to begin?  I was up and at the polls before they opened and there were 20 people there waiting at 5:45 am.  By the time they opened the polls in Woodside, where I vote (at 6:08, don’t get me started), there were 100 people there.  Excitement lit up the foggy pre-dawn darkness.

The machines were cranky as they started and the people in the 47th district had to wait until the most experienced blue-haired old lady came and jiggled a lever on the back just so to get the machine back into order.  I was seventh in the 47th district, 007.  You’ve seen the picture.

Teaching and grading papers all day there was a strange air of camaraderie and hope.  Spike’s dad put it into words as we watched our kids practice soccer last night before the results were in: “It’s like Nine-One-One, everyone has feeling of secret connection.”

Indeed, as the kids played soccer at McCarren Park two Hasidic men came up with their gloves and joined the Latino guys who were playing softball in the warm November evening.  Only in New York do you see Orthodox Jews shagging fly balls with strangers.

As Mason and I drove back to Queens NPR called Pennsylvania for Obama, and one of the wags said: “I can’t imagine a path to the Whitehouse for McCain that doesn’t include Pennsylvania.”  Before we got over the Greenpoint Bridge they were calling Florida for Obama, and Mason took my cell and excitedly texted Linda that news (and Dole’s SC Defeat).  I came home and ate with supreme hope.

During the day I got an email on my phone from a friend from the 70s who had lived with me in Boston and known me in my messenger days.  We had been through a fair amount together and he contacted me out of the blue as a way –I assume– to reach out of his white New England life and celebrate with a dear old friend (of color).  I had similar calls and emails from Australia, Ireland and Northern California.

This impulse, this digital coming together is, for us progressives, like coming out after a storm.  The last 8 years have been hard.  Personally, I have felt “occupied” like I did as a young non-white man in Boston in the 70s.

So these contacts made because of the HOPE of the Obama campaign feel especially good.  To be reminded of the good and decent whites who were my dear friends during the horror of bussing in Boston in the 1970s, the people who reminded me that I was a man, a friend, a  person of value “un-adjectivized” (not a black man) has begun the thawing.

Before Mr. Obama’s election I was still in my shell.  I was a bit jaded and cynical about friends from the “way-back-machine” contacting me and asking me to drink the Kool-Aid.  I didn’t want to HOPE because I didn’t want to be disappointed.  I have been stand-offish.  But their naïve enthusiasm was touching.  It reminded me of going to anti war marches and Pete Seger concerts with my parents in the 60s.  I don’t think that the 60s, in light of the Republican avarice we’ve lived through from 80 onward, were all that great.

SO last night, and all day yesterday I felt like we had finally become a nation again.  I felt the possibility of Human Companionship.  On September 11th, 2001 we all receded to our livingrooms to watch our lives and country on television.  We got the “Dulce et Decorum Est” romantic version of America.  All of those grand Ken Burns PBS documentaries seemed more real than playing baseball or listening to jazz.  I feel like our nation slipped into a massive communal state of DuBoisian double consciousness, alienated from ourselves by our image of ourselves as something else.

When Spain was attacked on March 11, 2004 the nation came outside together.  After 9-11 we went into our living rooms and isolated.  They re-established their humanity in the most basic way.  I have been jealous of that European land for these four years.  Yesterday we came out.  We came out in the millions.  We got a 9-11 mulligan and we chose to participate instead of isolate.  The contacts from Europe, Australia, California and Vermont are contacts from our higher place.  America can stop fearing.  We can HOPE again.

One of my colleagues has called this the moment that America becomes Post-Colonial.  We have stepped (a little bit) beyond the colonial and imperial traditions we’ve inherited and begun to live up to our constitution.  The whole world is breathing a sigh of relief because we can choose someone who has a vision of a greater America that doesn’t have the 1945 and 1992 unipolar American power in mind.  “We don’t have to subjugate/ in order to be great.”

America has returned to the dream by electing Mr. Obama.  From Dakar to Dushembe, from the steppes of Mongolia to the factories of Viet Nam there are people who are seeing the America of FDR, JFK (neither of whom were angels), the America of hope and individual opportunity, the America of the Great Society, the America of freedom to be (not to earn), for the first time.



14 responses to “Hope Wins

  1. God bless America? No, no, no–God DAMN America!

  2. I see that some people are determined to hold onto their old prejudices.

  3. John was working a night shift last night and I was home with our Wheaten terrier, Gromit, on the couch glued to the TV, having put in four days of footwork around Thomaston, identifying, registering and talking with potential Obama voters, and then getting them out to vote, or bringing people who couldn’t get to the polls absentee ballots and taking the ballots back to the polls, plus hustling late voters to the polls.

    Recently, I read that Maine is the MOST white state in the union. There wasn’t any work up our way to draw in many “ethnic” laborers. We’re also a mix of economic capacities, from really poor folks, to retired folks getting by, to some very well-off retried folks, and a few old-family rich, and probably a smaller middle class than most states.

    As I traveled around our town, some of my own prejudices snuck out, as in the time when I approached a house to speak with a specific voter, found a man working in the yard, of indeterminate middle age, one who looked really hard-scrabble, and when I spoke to him, clearly had never had dental care, missing most of his teeth, complexion ruddy from too much alcohol. I asked him if the man I was looking for was in, and he said no. I asked him if I could leave my door hanger on the door. He said he would give it to the man, so I handed it to him, a bit afraid of what he might say. When he looked at the brochure and Obama’s photo, his face lit up transforming him into a beautiful person and he said with overflowing passion, “Oh, Obama! He’s awesome!”

    Here and there I found others whom surprised me with their enthusiasm, especially many of the older white women, and even one young mom (also missing teeth, which is a real problem in Maine and yet another reason for single payer health care that includes dental services!), in a small public subsidized apartment with three babies crying and TV soap opera on. She lit up when she saw Obama’s picture on the flyer and said, “Oh, I hope he wins!” Another woman, one I helped get an absentee ballot, and brought it back to the polls for her, who ran a day care program out of her house and couldn’t get out to vote, was memorable. With little toddlers running all about, she took the time to carefully look over her ballot and vote thoughtfully. I always try to give people absolute privacy when they do this, but she asked for some help on one ballot item and I saw she had voted for Obama, which I had assumed she would, but was relieved to see she had.

    Well, I hope the results of our mid-coast Maine towns come out below in the matrix I snitched off the internet. Thomaston is a small town of around 4000 with 1700 registered voters and about 1505 voted, which means about 88% turnout. Looks like about 59% for Obama. Camden, a more upscale community gave Obama 72%. Look at the 51 voters on Isle Au Haut. 43 for Obama! I’d like to visit that place!

    Seeing Jessie Jackson in the crowd in Chicago, tears flowing, was a beautiful sight. And, Obama himself, couldn’t you just feel the bittersweet moment which he would have loved to share with his Mother and Grandmother, and probably his genetic father and his Indonesian step father, who, from reading Dreams of My Father, played an important role in his life. And Reverend Wright, who probably deserves some credit as well. When I reached both Ben and Matt in SF last night both were in some wonderful emotional state of jubilation and tears. I called them just as the minute hand hit the top of the hour and the networks immediately turned Calif, Oregon and Washington blue putting Obama over 270!

    Well, thanks for checking in with me (and others.) One of the women I brought an absentee ballot to–again, not one I suspected would have such deep feelings on the topic–said, “If McCain wins, I’ll know the election was rigged!” I agreed with her completely. I know we’ve all been deeply burned in the past; I was ready to take to the streets this time, as were many. But, how much more wonderful to take Gromit for a victory lap around the neighborhood this morning and then go with John to our local cafe for Mimosas and breakfast.

    No atheists in a fox hole! God bless America. What a joy to be part of tapping the remarkable diversity of America for the good of the country and world rather than apologizing for the sins of our leaders. Yeah, I know we’ll be disagreeing with this and that as time goes on, but it’s a new day!

    Much love,


  4. This week I am all about seeing the America that has been hidden from us. This week I am all about BEING an American.

  5. By replacing Bush with Obama, the United States has achieved the greatest turn around since the 2007/2008 Celtics.

  6. Yep, amazing. I spent yesterday at a polling place in Nevada protecting people’s right to vote. And helped turn Nevada blue. Truly an incredible day in this nation’s history and our lifetime.

    What’s the old saying? Good things come to those who wait? Well, we waited eight years for this and this outcome couldn’t have been better


  8. Thanks for the blog. As I told Christina on election night after I got home from poll-monitoring, “heck, I’ll say it – for the first time in my adult life I’m proud of my country.” And I am. After the disillusionment and disenchantment of the last eight years I’m finally feeling hopeful.

    And that’s great because Christina and I are expecting a baby boy in mid to late April. During the financial meltdown I thought, “what the heck are we doing bringing a kid into this world?” Now, I’m not nearly so concerned although I’m certain we have a tough road ahead.

  9. I convinced my boyfriend of three years to sit down at 6pm and begin watching the election results with me. He had been wanting to go to a movie until after 8pm, to avoid disappointment. In the days leading up to the election, when I expressed my excitement (having logged many volunteer hours for the campaign, especially calling voters in battle ground states, somewhere between 800-900 of them), other African-American friends and co-workers also expressed fear of some Republican trick and/or polling place disaster.

    When Obama was announced as a winner, I jumped up off the couch, screaming, singing and dancing, but my boyfriend remained seated and still. I hugged him and we kissed, and later he broke out the bottle of Martinelli’s he had purchased for the occasion. But for about 20 minutes, it seemed that John was in shock and/or disbelief. What made it real for him is the long-distance telephone call to his 90-year-old father, to whom he mostly listened, with one comment: “What a moment.” As he listened I studied his face, and saw an expression I’d never seen before…a mixture of astonished and thrilled and…something I will probably never be able to understand, being a WASP woman. Nonetheless, I wept. And I was happy to be in his arms that night, instead of in a noisy crowd.

  10. 65 more days. 65 more days ::back flip::

  11. I’m counting the minutes!

  12. I hoped he would win. I thought he would win. i knew he would win. But when he won, I could not believe it. There were no words. Still are none. Every time I see his face on the telly, I smile. Still kinda not believing. Maybe I’ll believe in 4 years.

  13. Stafford,

    I was at an election night party and got a phone call from a life-long friend of our family, Sigi, a German woman with grown biracial daughters–don’t remember if you ever met them–it was 5:00 am there, but she wanted to call me to say congratulations, and to say that with Obama’s election, she may come to the U.S. again to visit.


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