It has been just over one week since a new president was elected and history in the making won the plaudits of pundits. The campaigns of both parties, the voting, and the election returns were, as always, a very exciting and empowering time for me. I was dismayed by the mud-slinging and low-brow commentary, but ultimately, I was pleased with the outcome, and dare I say it…? I am filled with hope for a number of reasons.
I realize that we all had our reasons for supporting our candidates of choice. This election was so filled with hot button topics that I would not be surprised if the candidates lined their clothes with asbestos. Let’s face it, this is a strange time in America and finances are running low while emotions are running high, making what can at best be called a toxic combination. At the very least, the election has been decided and we can get past the business of campaigning, early voting, and baby kissing and get back to the business of repairing and unifying the nation. For me, it has already started.
I went to vote on November 4, and as soon as Jerry and I got to the poll, I started crying. It was so amazing to me, and such a wonderful moment that I could hardly believe I was part of it. Jerry immediately let several people cut in line ahead of him so it wouldn’t look like he was with the crazy broad who was sobbing. Then, I raced through the rest of my day and rushed home to watch the returns. I also let Jenda stay up, even though it was far past her bedtime. We talked about voting, and that fact that voting is both a right and a responsibility. We talked about both of the candidates and what this election would mean for all of us. Of course with my horrible sense of timing, I got up to go get a glass of KJ and JUST THAT QUICK, it was over and the election was won. America had a new president. Kendall and I of course missed the update, but unlike the time I missed the ending to the X Files movie, I know how this one turned out. And it hit me at that moment that nothing would ever be the same again.
I looked at Jenda and thought about her and some of her friends in the four to five year old set. Specifically, I thought of Omari, and Avery, and Steven. I feel reasonably certain that at some point in their young lives, they have been told that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, much the same as I have told Jenda. Of course when you are four years old, the world is your oyster, but at some point, it’s going to occur to you if you are African American, or female, or Hispanic, or otherwise perceived to be 'different', that none of the presidents in the history books is like you. So on some level, you grow up appreciating the sentiment, but recognizing that it is probably meaningless. It’s so amazing to me now that when Steven gets older, he will look at pictures in a history book, or he will take a tour of the White House and realize that there’s a president who looks like him. And that means that someday, Jenda will see pictures of a female president. Someday, there will be a gay president. And as we come into our own as a nation, we will see that this election predicates a wonderful change in our collective thinking.
We tend to forget the fact that America is a melting pot of men, women and children. We are made up of all colors, races, religions, sexual orientations, and life experiences. I am reminded of something that my parents taught me, and that is that every American can boast a king and a slave in their ancestry. I can’t look at this election, or any other election, in terms of the race or age of the candidates. I remember things that my grandparents taught me, and at their advanced age, they were still some of the best leaders I ever knew. I also remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Daniels. She was African American. I still feel the impact of her guidance and her presence more than thirty years after I sat in her classroom. When I sink back into my younger days, I remember many teachers, friends, and leaders who positively impacted my life. Some were black, some white. Some were women, and some were men, some were gay and some were straight. Some were young, and some were old.
(Actually, when I was a kid, they were probably the age that I am now, and I thought they were old. Damn!)
So here we are, a people, a country in dire straits. Banks are failing, foreclosures are up, and spirits are down. And there is talk of stimulus packages, bailouts, and tax cuts. That is all well and good. But more than anything for me, the recent election has given me hope. And after the stimulus check is cashed and the bailout money is spent, hope endures. So while I don’t revel in my newly found genteel poverty, I am not ashamed. I am hopeful, as we all should be. I am not afraid, even though in many ways, I am hanging by a thread. It’s become stylish to be stone broke, and I am reminded that no one of us is any better than anyone else. Many of us, black, white, young, old, gay, straight, male, female, Christian or otherwise…we’re all hanging by a thread. But in our upcoming administration of hope and change, we will bring those threads together. And we will create, together, the fabric of a nation.