Monday, November 10, 2008

Reflections on the election - a week out

Just the fact of this election is hard to fathom. There have been change elections before this one. Reagan. Lincoln. Kennedy. All come to mind. All were defining moments in American history.

And yet, for me, this particular election has some kind of special significance. It's not just that I'm here, I'm alive, and I'm witnessing this piece of history. It's not just that America has just shaken off the shackles of the last 8 years of a criminal regime and reclaimed the best of what our democracy represents. It's not just that America has shaken off more than 200 years of history and risen above the petty politics of race to elect the most passionate, intelligent leader we've seen in a long time. It's not just that the catharsis of seeing the vindication of the movement that Obama created is an emotionally overwhelming experience. Keith Olbermann compared this election to the moon landing. It's more than that, though. The historical importance of this election is akin to nothing that we've seen in a century.

I'm watching YouTube clips of the moment that Obama was declared the winner of this election. The national celebration of that moment is unlike anything I've ever seen in my admittedly short life. The Grant Park rally was a stunning vision of what is best about America - people young and old, black and white and yellow and brown, rich and poor, all coming together to believe that America is better than the criminal history of the last eight years.

It's been a damned long time since I've been this proud of America. I remember the election of 2000, and I remember graduating college right before 9/11. I remember the last 8 years. I felt ashamed of America. I felt ashamed that our leaders exploited our nation's goodwill to craft an agenda of military misadventure and the destruction of our civil liberties. I felt ashamed that our President seemed incapable of doing anything right, that our Vice President seemed to be in control of a Machiavellian agenda of torture, unilateralism, destruction, hate, and war.

But now, at the dawn of what is truly a new chapter of American history, I can feel proud of this country. I can feel proud of a nation that sees beyond race, beyond fear tactics, beyond the politics of division and distraction, to see that real progressive change is possible.

I have no doubt that President Barack Hussein Obama II will disappoint me at some point. I have no illusion that he's some kind of messiah. He's just a President.

And yet, I can't help but hope, after all of the horrible things that the Bush regime has done over the past 8 years to absolutely desecrate the meaning of America that President Obama will be able to really reignite the spirit of American democracy and create the change that we so desperately need.

For the first time in a long time, I believe in the promise of America, and I have President-Elect Obama to thank for that.

Yes we can.