Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

I've been debating writing this post. I have so many feelings running through me and I want to get them out. And usually, for me, writing helps with that. So, I hope you'll indulge me a little bit. The only thing that has been holding me back has been the possibility of partisan bickering or eye rolling comments. Please, on this one, if you don't have anything nice to say, just don't comment. I'm not into censorship, so I won't delete any comments. That's not my thing. But please humor me. I would like to see this one stay positive and carry on the momentum of what I've been feeling. I feel so many good things and, at the same time, a little bit of post-election let down, but mostly I feel humbled and inspired and emotionally drained.

I have been moved to tears. Yes, I support President-Elect Obama. Yes, I voted for him. Yes, we even donated a small amount of money to his campaign both because we believe in him and because we wanted to own a little bit of history (and boy, does it feel good!). Yes, we've volunteered as part of a grass-roots effort. Yes, I've been cheering him on for a long time. But that's only a part of it.

Regardless of whether or not I had championed Barack Obama, I cannot deny the joy and awe that fills me at the election of our first Black president. My eyes have been wet with tears at what this means for our nation, for our world, for people who, for the first time in their lives, have a president that, as they say, "looks like me." If that doesn't stop you in your tracks, I don't know what could. It's so huge, it's beyond all of us.

When I was a little girl, I didn't see color. I was friends with a little black girl and when extended family members mocked me for it, I was confused. I didn't see what was funny or what was different. All I saw was my friend Nora, who played with me and made me laugh.

When I was in high school and my best friend was darker skinned and wore dreadlocks, I didn't know why some would think my friendship with him odd. All I saw was a dear friend who I loved to talk with and enjoyed being with.

When, as a I child, I would hear people I loved make racist remarks about people who looked different than us, a rage would well up in me at the bigotry and hatefulness that I couldn't believe existed in such good people.

When I learned about slavery and Harriet Tubman, I wanted to scream and cry and run and hit and yell to try to make sense of how one race of people could do that to another. It's NEVER made sense to me--how anyone could think less of another human being just because of the color of his or her skin. It just isn't logical to me. Not in the least. Nor has it ever been. I cheered on every slave I read about who risked their lives to use the underground railroad in order to have freedom, freedom that so easily comes my way, just because I'm white.

See, this is where the Democrat in me comes out--the one that, until several years ago, I didn't even know existed. (And please know that I'm not trying to generalize or stereotype, but am speaking of my own personal politics and feelings, not those of others. This has been part of my own, rather recent, switch in political parties and ideologies--though I don't think I perfectly align with either of them). I recognize that in my former days as a more conservative voter, I am ashamed to say that I looked down on people who were down on their luck, people who were financially struggling, people who were on welfare. I felt badly for them, yes, but all I saw with my critical eye was their cell phones and cigarettes, their unwed pregnancies and their drug habits. I kept thinking that if they'd just work hard and go to college like I did, they'd do better for themselves. I didn't see how arrogant and self-righteous I was in my judgments. I didn't see then, like I hope I do now, that not everyone has been blessed or lucky enough to be born to the "right" family or the "right" circumstances or the "right" opportunities . . . or the "right" skin color. I don't see things like I used to anymore. And I'd like to think that I see humanity more clearly. I see people. I don't see color, I don't see difference. I see people. People in different circumstances. People who, however they look, however they live, have feelings just like everyone else does. People who cry, hurt, love, laugh, mourn, rejoice. People who fear, struggle, conquer, kiss, and embrace. I see people. And in this country that celebrates that "all men (and women) are created equal," isn't it about time we start living accordingly?

I didn't vote for Barack Obama because he's black. I voted for him because, despite the fact that I don't agree with all his policies and issues, I believe in him and am inspired by him and fully trust him to lead our nation in this turbulent world. I marvel at what he has done and continues to do to galvanize this nation and the world, to get people excited about politics again and involved in the political process, to remind us that Washington D.C. isn't just about "suits" and some far off place you read about in the news, but about all of us and how much we can all play a part in something so magnificent.

But I cannot deny how utterly amazing, awe-inspiring, electric it is to not only see history in the making, but be a part of it, too. I've met so many people who, for the first time, registered to vote. Who, for the first time, voted. Who, for the first time, switched parties. Who, for the first time, volunteered to help with a political campaign, because they were inspired. It's so exciting!

We strive to teach our children love, peace, understanding, appreciation, and tolerance for all as people. If there is one thing we're careful to instill in our children, it's understanding that it is NOT okay to think we're better than anyone else. Before attending our election/victory party yesterday, we lined out a few ground rules--rules about behavior, manners, and sportsmanship. We told them that regardless of the outcome, we would not disparage whoever did not win.

I was proud to be a part of a group of 18 people (17 of whom were supporting Obama--and the lone one who didn't was quite gracious to host us all in his home just the same and on the day before his birthday no less . . . I hope he's having a great day) who all watched together in a living room as John McCain gave one of the best speeches of his career and who, together and without planning or discussion, applauded him for his gracious, inspiring, sincere words. That was, by far, one of the best, if not THE best, concession speech I have ever heard. And I'm so glad that he'll continue as a Senator working together as part of the process. I think that he hasn't been truly himself for the past 2 years--he's had to lean farther right than is his nature and I think that when anyone goes against their natural inclination, it ceases to be genuine. John McCain is a moderate and works best when he is himself. And now he can get back to work as himself. Like Mark says, I believe that Senator McCain sincerely does what he does out of love of country. And that is something to admire and respect.

Three years ago, we took our young children down to Washington, D.C. to pay our respects to a woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus. We waited in a very long line in the cold, autumn air surrounded by strangers who were there to do the very same thing. There was such an incredible feeling of unity and solidarity and community. We stood on the street while her bus drove by, full of her loving family and friends. They yelled out the windows to us, "Thank you!!" And through our own tears, we waved and quietly whispered, our voices cracking, "Thank you, Rosa Parks."

And now we watch as the first black president takes his place in history and we consider going down to DC again to watch as he stands on the Capitol steps and officially becomes our next president. Come what may, this is monumental and deserves great recognition and attention. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Obama and the way he handled himself and his campaign and I find it noteworthy that he didn't make the main issue of his campaign all about race. In fact, aside from his one great speech on race in America, he really rarely brought it up. But now that he has won, it's time to recognize just how amazing it is that our nation . . . a nation that used to own slaves, a nation that used to segregate blacks and whites, a nation that denied black people the right to vote now swears in and supports a black president. It's time to mention race. It's time to not hide our tears from our children to show them just how far we've come. It's time to keep on making this kind of history. Godspeed President Barack Obama.

14 comments:

bythelbs said...

I attended a small forum where Rosa Parks was the keynote speaker while a student at BYU. I actually have my original notes from that sitting right here by my computer. Her story is very inspiring.

While I also do not agree with all of President Elect Obama's policies and stances on certain issues, I do find the idea of his presidency and its potential to bring greater unity to our nation heartening. Only time will tell, but why not hope for the best?

I do feel the need to take issue with one thing you said (and maybe you didn't mean it to sound like a generalization)---but the idea that being a Conservative Republican means you look down on people with struggles is unfair, I think. I have been a registered Democrat and a registered Republican, but I have a hard time identifying myself with either party because of the inevitable generalizations party-affiliation seems to put on people's characters. I wish it were possible to get beyond labels.

I'm glad that you found such joy and satisfaction in participating in the political process this year. Wouldn't it be great if we all felt like that every election season?

Boquinha said...

Yeah, lbs, I totally agree with you on that point. I wasn't sure how to phrase it so it wouldn't sting when reading it--I was hoping words like "in me" and "my" would show that this is how it was for me, but that I'm not generalizing for everyone, but apparently that didn't come off as I'd hoped. I may go in and edit it because I didn't even like that line when I wrote it--I'm not expressing it the way it makes sense in my head.

That's neat you got to see Rosa Parks and hear from her. What an amazing opportunity!

Dr. Mark said...

Well said and expressed. There are few experiences in life that transcend the "usual" and "routine." Those who really paid attention to what was happening last night (and in the months leading up to last night), and chose to view these events in a greater historical context rather than focus on immediate and fleeting joy or disappointment were in a position to have one of those experiences.

Thank you for the post.

emily said...

I honestly can't help but smile. I think it's great that we have a black president. I've been watching the news today and to be honest, I didn't think it would be that big of a deal to have a black president. Apparently it is. And I'm glad that everyone is so happy about it.

I've been surprised since living in Utah at how people look down on the hispanic population here. I grew up in New Mexico, and honestly, white was a minority, at least where I went to school. I never even thought about it. My high school crush was hispanic. My first boyfriend was hispanic. Most of my friends in school were hispanic. But that didn't even cross my mind then. Interesting.

My dad served a mission for the LDS church in Florida in the early 60s. They had segregated bathrooms, water fountains, entrances, all kinds of things. He grew up in Idaho and had never seen a black person until his mission and didn't understand why they couldn't use the same things he could. I'm glad he raised me to not see a difference.

J Fo said...

I was listening to an interview this morning of a 100 year old black woman. How amazing is it to think that in one person's lifetime she could see 2 world wars, segregation, women getting the right to vote, the Berlin Wall coming down, the Civil Rights Movement and now the first black president?! It really makes you stop and think doesn't it? We do live in a time where there is so much darkness and so many bad things; it's nice to stop and think of the wonderful things that are happening all around us, too.

Thank you for your sincere and sensitive words, Stacy.

Dad said...

I too voted for Obama, although I don't agree with all of the policies he proferred during his campaign. I do feel, as you do, the hope he gives America. I sincerely believe he has the "right stuff" to lead us in these extremely difficult and trying times. It will take all of us, all of us Americans, pulling together to get this country back on track.

I too was raised in a time of conflicts as far as race relations go. I was confused during my youth. I saw no problem with Martin Luther King and what he was striving for while others I loved deeply branded him a communist. I didn't understand why people in Selma and Mississippi hated blacks so much. Over the years I have been able to rise above the hate and prejudice and see it was just fear, for the most part.

I'm proud to see our nation rise above this and that we can elect a person to the highest office in the land without consideration of race or any other subjective measuring stick.

God bless America and God bless our President-elect.

Oh yes. I also agree with you on John McCain's speech last night. I do believe it was his finest hour and I too look forward to his work in the Senate in helping to bring this country together.

kristenhcubed said...

Great post, Stacy. My post this morning was much shorter than yours but addressed at least one topic in common. It is a remarkable thing that our nation has elected Barak Obama. Regardless of party affiliations or personal preferences, that is truly a monumental thing. I sincerely hope that this election will signal the beginning of the end of hatred and bigotry (and whining about being oppressed, sorry, I had to say it) in America and from here on out we will not worry about whether candidates are white or black, or pink or blue or purple. (And that every person will make and appreciate their own opportunities and recognize their own blessings and potential.)

Shawn said...

While I was originally told that a group was getting together at our house to watch the election returns come in, I've now come to understand that what was really in the works was a secret Obama victory rally! See, I was the 1 in 18 who did not vote for Obama. Nevertheless, and despite the different opinions I have regarding the direction Obama will take this country, I too can sincerly appreciate the historical impact of the night.

I believe there was a reason that a quarter of a milllion people gathered together on a cold night in Chicago to celebrate the evening. I believe the night was more than a celebration of one candidate's victory overy another; it was the celebration of the dream on which this country was founded: That ALL people are created equal and if you can dream it, in this country, you can do it. Imagine the tears of joy of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr, Jackie Robinson and the countless others who fought, played and even died to see this day.

I may have voted for the other guy, but even a conservatve can appreciate this moment in history.

emily said...

me too shawn! i should've waited to comment after you and just said "ditto".

Lena said...

I also appreciate seeing history in the making! I, like you, never even considered race as I was growing up and I didn't really know anyone who did so I didn't even know it was still a problem for a long time. I tell you I have evidence of the old school way of thinking right here in my house with my 95 year old Great Grandmother. While she loves all people and doesn't seem to care about race- I get to be the one to see her in rare moments where it is very telling that she was born in 1913. Her comment the night of the election was "Well, I guess it's like Grandpa said, if you educate a black man, I guess you can live with him." Yikes!! I had a few things to say to her but I knew then that this country has come a LONG, LONG way in a relatively short amount of time.

Great post Stacy, you should always feel comfortable posting on your own blog!

Jill O said...

What a great post and once again, you echo my thoughts exactly. I truly believe this is a great day. I am an Obama supporter as well, although I do tend to favor the Republican sides in general. I believe in his power for change. I believe he has what it takes to lead our nation and get us back on a good track.
It saddens me to see so many negative and down right scary reactions to our new president. We live in a VERY conservitive state,change is not always welcomed. But I have seen him called the Anti-Christ that will bring the demise of our nation. He has been compared to Hitler, saying the next Holocast is on hand. I am truly apalled at the total lack of faith in a government that I believe in. I am frightened how quickly people are ready to throw in the towel instead of standing up for what they believe and fighting for what is right.
Do I think Obama is perfect? Of course not, no one is. I don't agree with all of his ideas either. But I welcome the change he brings. I have loved being a part of this election.

The Rat Life said...

I do have everything nice to say...
I agree with you...
You said this well...

:)

HappyWifeHappyLife said...

Stacy,
This was very well said.
I found myself nodding, repeatedly, as I read your words.

Let's all pray for our new President that God may protect him and guide him (and guide all our elected leaders), and that God may continue to favor our nation, as we move FORWARD and away from the wounds of the past.

Boquinha said...

Thanks, everyone, for the comments. And for respecting my intent and purpose of this thread. I love that wherever we are, we can share in this together through blogging.