For the first time in my adult life, I am really, really , really really proud of my country
Terrorist this, bitchez.
Eight years ago, the man who lost this election last night lost his party’s nomination in South Carolina because the man he wanted so desperately to succeed this year ran a campaign in a southern state that accused his adopted Bangladeshi daughter of being the product of a liaison with a black prostitute. Twelve years ago, Harvey Gantt lost a Senate race in North Carolina because his opponent, Jesse Helms ran a last-minute ad showing white hands crumpling a piece of paper and a voiceover saying “You really needed that job, but you didn’t get it because they had to hire a minority.” Twenty years ago Michael Dukakis, the last nominee with a funny name, was knocked out of the race by a man named Willie Horton, exploited by the father of the current president. This year, John McCain’s media people ran ads with subtexts like “How dare this black man be so disrespectful of a white woman” and with the word “black” subliminally highlighted.
This is a country where Sikhs are still being attacked and harassed in parts of the country that ought to know better because their turbans and dark skin make idiots think they are somehow aligned with Osama bin Laden.
This is a country that for eight years has been governed by the double-headed hydra of Fear and Loathing. We have tolerated the worst kind of atrocities by our leadership in our enslavement to that fear and loathing. And last night we elected a man who is the son of a black Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas, and who is named Barack Hussein Obama, to lead us out of the mess left us by a white son of privilege from Kennebunkport and Yale. We chose a man who understands struggle. We chose a man who rose above the kind of background that would have turned a lesser man into just another street kid with a chip on his shoulder. We chose a man who appealed to our better natures. We chose a man who is so relentlessly calm in the face of crisis that he makes us believe that he can go down to the engine room of this Titanic of a country and fix the breaches in all five watertight compartments using nothing but a butter knife and a pack of Bazooka bubblegum. All by himself. Wearing a tuxedo.
Whoever put this together knew far more about this man than I did:
We chose this man resoundingly. WE did. Americans did. And yes, I do believe that “he’s got this.”
I am under no illusions that Barack Obama is going to be able to work miracles. I am under no illusions that he’s going to be able to, as Marc Maron talks about in his stand-up act, take us on the bus to the magic hopeful place at which he always seems to be looking, there off in the distance, whenever he speaks. I am under no illusions that he is going to turn this country into some kind of progressive paradise. He is not “the most liberal member of the Senate,” and he is not a rabble-rouser. His nature is to compromise to get things done, rather than to be a rigid ideologue. And to some extent he IS Jackie Robinson, who now has to at least try to reach out to and reassure the woman who said she can’t trust him because he’s an Arab, and the guy quoted in the Bergen Record last week who said that he’s voting for his own kind. Because that is what a president does. A president realizes that he represents all Americans, not just the ones who elected him. And I’m confident that Barack Obama will do that. He will sometimes piss us bloggers off royally while he does, and we will call him on it, because it is our job as citizens and commentators to do so.
But this is not a man who’s going to look at a room full of “the haves and the have mores” and call them “my base.” This is not a man who’s going to say “We do not torture” while commanding our troops to inflict atrocities on war prisoners. This is not a man who’s going to ignore a Presidential Daily Briefing that says we are about to be attacked because he’s on vacation. This is not a man who’s going to play a guitar and do photo-ops with a cake while an American city drowns and poor people scream for help in a sports stadium. And perhaps that is enough, though I don’t believe for one minute that this president will be satisfied with “good enough” because his entire adult life has shown that he has never for one minute been satisfied with “good enough.”
And now the campaigning is over. The speeches are over (and wasn’t it a masterful one, too). On January 20 we will have a new president. We will have a president who is smart and who understands the challenges we face. We will have a president with gravitas and dignity. We will have a president who can speak English coherently. We will have a president who perhaps better than most of those who have come before him in my lifetime, represents this best of this country; who represents the reason why there is such a thing as patriotism.
When you grow up at a time like the one in which I did, it’s easy to lose sight of just what this country is supposed to be. The formative events of my life and my early memory start with the Cold War and the assassination of a president. It went on to an unpopular war, the civil rights struggle that ultimately brought us to this day, and a presidential scandal. As a young person growing up then, it’s understandable that we would become cynical about our country. Of all the things I’m grateful for today, perhaps what I’m most grateful for today is that for millions of young people who became the foot soldiers of this campaign and this movement, their dreams and their goals have come true, and at least for now, they have been seized from the jaws of despair and cynicism, and energized for what lies ahead.
And I and so many others of my generation — and those of my parents’ who are still here — will be right there with them. Because this is a moment of history; a history that spans two hundred and thirty-eight years. And in that history we all march together.