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.
GOD BLESS AMERICA