Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History Made. Time to Make Progress

I heard the victorious cheers and shouts of students and neighbors from our windows last night and knew Obama had been elected. I had given up on following the returns online because every site was giving different numbers and I was nervous. I pretended to read a novel. But when the cheering began, we turned on the TV and heard McCain's and Obama's speeches. McCain was gracious and generous; he reminded me of the guy I'd always appreciated before he became a candidate and morphed into somebody else.

For at least a few years, we won't have to worry about Sarah Palin representing us anymore. That's worth a celebration with cupcakes all by itself.
I am proud to be American for the first time in eight years. It feels odd, but good. The next time we visit Europe or the Middle East, we'll have a little less to explain and apologize for — not that anyone we've met on our travels has ever held anything against individual Americans like us. People are smart enough to know that government and politics are one thing, while the beliefs and desires of the people are another. They also know that Americans who travel and talk to foreigners tend to have broader vision than Americans who always stay home. However, people overseas do tend to wonder aloud why America, which is able to choose so freely, had chosen so disastrously. Twice. But every political discussion we've had over there has revealed a degree of understanding that's far more sophisticated and encompassing than the myopic mental workings of the average Joe over here. 

People abroad have been watching us closely and most have wanted this outcome badly, because they realize that what happens here reverberates in their world. They would usually begin a conversation by quizzing us cautiously, discover we're kindred spirits and tell us their hopes and fears for America. While a typical American has zero interest in European elections, it seems like most Europeans wish they could cast a US ballot. Today we're getting jubilant email from foreign friends we haven't heard from in ages. Even the Berlin couple we met briefly at a Venetian B&B located our address. People care.

So, history was made yesterday, and politics and people were united on a new course that ought to generate solutions rather than just rhetoric. It was inspiring to see the mosaic of colors, ages, and ethnicities joined together in celebration. I was relieved to see blue spreading further across the map of the states. (I was also surprised to see that a million Massachusetts voters picked McCain. Whoa! Vermont tops us as the bluest state — those lovable old hippies.) 

The new president faces unprecedented problems of mind-boggling proportions, as he well knows. But if anyone can deal with the mess we're in, I think he can. He has brains, vision, staff resources, and diplomatic skills, which are all ostentatiously missing in the current administration. (When Clinton was elected, I remember thinking the same positive things, although I also worried that it would all end in tears somehow, no matter how much he was able to accomplish. This time I'm much less worried about personal foibles and Republican slime tactics.) 

I know I sound disgustingly starry-eyed, even for a Massachusetts liberal, but there is a time for everything, and today we have a reason to hope. I'll go back to being cynical tomorrow. Today, my brain is taking a rest from my jobless situation, tanking portfolio, and generalized worries for the economy, the world, and the future. 

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