Wednesday, November 05, 2008

44

















I have come full circle. More than a year ago, at a small (they were smaller then) gathering in Brooklyn, New York, I shook the hand of the man who, last night, was lauded as this country’s 44th President of the United States.

I hope Ronald Regan will forgive me for appropriating his line for a Democratic presidential victory, but for me and millions like me, it finally feels like “morning in America.”

I am proud to be an American today. While I know it upsets some people to hear this, I haven’t been proud of my country for a long while now. But I still love it. I always have. You can still love something you’re not proud of.

Throughout this protracted campaign, Obama inspired Americans to believe in themselves and their corporate greatness again. It was something I feared we might have lost forever. The President-elect is the embodiment of this country’s palpable yearning for thoughtful, conscientious leadership. But more than that, Obama inspires all who look up to him to be equally buoyant, confident and magnanimous. He has bent “the arc of history…toward the hope of a better day.”

It turns out the American Dream isn’t dead after all.

* * *

Yesterday was one of America’s preeminent defining moments. What we witnessed was, in the words of one pundit, nothing less than, politically speaking, man stepping foot on the moon.

Next January, an African American will move into a mansion built primarily with the calloused hands of black slaves, just blocks from where cages constructed to hold human beings once stood. He will share the residence with the ghosts of the presidents past — Lincoln, who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and Teddy Roosevelt who, in 1901, was the first to entertain an African American dinner guest in the White House. He will be the Commander and Chief of an armed forces that was integrated only 60 years ago. It has been only 54 years since Brown vs. the Board of Education integrated the nation’s schools and only 45 years since Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stood on Washington’s National Mall and pricked the conscience of an entire nation. Regardless of your political ideology, Obama’s accomplishment should be a source of deep and abiding pride for all Americans. Obama’s victory was the zenith of two centuries of suffering and struggle.

America’s tragic history of slavery and racism is dreadful and far from resolved, but Obama is progress wrapped in flesh and blood. He is not the change, but rather the thing that appears validating the change that has already taken place. We do not yet live in a post-racial America. However, this monumental election mercifully calls into question all the old ways in which America used to think about race. Americans, no matter their geography or skin color, can now begin to see themselves differently. And what they do with that fruit of knowledge will alter this country in ways we cannot yet fathom. We should, all of us, applaud the fact that we were alive to witness such a historic moment. We should congratulate ourselves for throwing our backs behind martyrs such as Dr. King and all those who gave their lives for civil rights — the true inheritors of his victory. Some helped make it happen, but all will benefit from it.

America is every bit as much an idea as it is an identity. Yesterday, despite all our national baggage, this country succeeded, in the words of Dr. King, to judge Barack Obama by the content of his character and not the color of his skin. We pushed back against the complicit and implicit sins of our past and showed the world and ourselves that we are better than the shadowy patches of our history. If Americans corporately were victorious yesterday, African Americans specifically can embrace the triumph — their gain is the greatest of all. At last, they became full-blooded children of the American experiment in a way never before possible. Is anything impossible in America?

And if Obama, who shares a bi-racial parentage, embodies anything, it is the power and promise of what happens when black and white come together with a common vision and destiny. Even if he had lost, Obama has already made this a better country. Last night, standing on that stage in Chicago, Barack Obama found himself on the threshold of Dr. King’s oft invoked but never seen Promised Land.

* * *

For this movie guy, the past few weeks of the campaign reminded me of the end of the original Matrix, after Neo has come to understand fully the height of his powers. The malevolent agents attack him, punching furiously, but Neo is utterly unfazed. He is so much faster than those attacking him that he seems to move in slow motion, parrying their every strike. Likewise, McCain, in the final days, attacked furiously, from all different directions, but Obama was essentially nonplused, deflecting his rival’s aggression with something akin to ease and indifference.

Barack Obama ran perhaps the most technically flawless campaign in American history. His formidable supporters were as modern as his campaign’s 21st century mindset. Obama found victory in a multiracial coalition powered by the new face of America — disproportionately young ethnicities, “red and yellow, black and white,” hailing from cities and suburbs, who came out in impossibly large droves, bucking apathy, and linking arms across all incomes, ideologies and party loyalties. He swept into Republican enclaves of the Northeast Corridor, winning all regions of the country except the Deep South. He made deep inroads into New South states, invaded the country’s industrial and agricultural heartland, and spun the Rocky Mountain West on its head.

I watched the evening progress with a bounty of friends packed into my modestly-sized apartment. By the time it was over, most of us (we weren’t all hoping for a Democratic win) were beside ourselves with euphoria. When the results were called, we leapt jubilantly to our feet, screaming at the top of our lungs. We danced. We wept. We popped champagne. We raced through the hallways embracing everyone with whom we came in contact. Outside, a chorus of adulation joined ours. Horns honked for hours. Fireworks began to erupt. On the TV, hundreds of young people gathered outside the White House, just a mile or so from where we sat, chanting Obama’s name.

Two friends with me last night were residents of Great Britain, employees of the British Embassy. They may not have had a vote in yesterday’s election, but they still had a massive stake in the outcome, to say nothing of a fierce emotional investment. When the dust was settled, they too burst into boisterous, rowdy applause. Facebook comments this morning completed the story: “I am proud to be an American,” said an Australian, just one example among many similarly themed proclamations from my friends overseas. For a moment, it seemed like America immediately following the horrors of 9/11. Obama’s victory continues to resonate around the world today, stirring emotions and hope from Europe to Africa and back again. (For an excellent — and excellently written — observation about the election from Germany’s Spiegel, click here).

In the coming months and years, we will see if Obama truly has what it takes to change the world. As President, he must invigorate a troubled nation despised in much of the world, wrestle with two wars, and energize a disintegrating economy. I truly believe he has what it takes to transform this nation, despite the mountain of windmills against which he is now aligned. But today is not a day to concern ourselves with the almost limitless difficulties, the pregnant promises and the almost certain exaggerated expectations. All these things will still be there tomorrow. Today is a day of savoring.

I confess I am one of those weird souls that will very much miss this race and the entire political season in general. A rabid politico, I eat, breathe and sleep this stuff. Now what will I do? Now how will I spend my free time? Now what will I write about?

The truth is, Barack Obama shames me. I am, by nature, a thrower of rocks. While I try to lob only erudite and high-minded stones, I confess that I sometimes dredge them up from amongst the bottom-feeders. And so it was, with tears of joy streaming down my face, that I listened to President-elect Obama’s exalted-harmonious-conciliatory-respectful-inclusive-zealous victory speech and conceded that the ideals he inspires are woefully lacking in me.

I have spent far too much time on this blog attacking others instead of lifting them up. I have spent far too much time defending that which didn’t require my defense. I have spent far too much time reproaching the dark rather than extolling the light. Obama’s message is one of harmony and concord, of unity and fidelity; but I have often imperiled the message because of the messenger’s lack of austerity. I like being a literary pit-pull (perhaps too much, in fact), but a change, at least for a while, may be in order.

As everything in national politics shifts into a much more luxuriously pace, I think I too will take a break from blogging. While I adore doing it, a holiday always seems to allow one to come back refreshed, reenergized and, in my case, a little more introspective.

Thanks for perusing my tangled thoughts, even when they breathed fire instead of applying balm. I’ll be back. I promise. There will be plenty to talk about again very soon. Until then, thank you, and remember, Yes We Can!

17 Comments:

Blogger ray said...

I woke up heart sick for America this morning. This world as we have all known and loved will be over in about 2 years from now. Obama has another motive and it will be known soon. I feel sorry for us all. Talk about taxes being raised. You have not seen nothing yet. God Bless America, we are in trouble. The young and blind have been fooled.

5:15 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Ray, I trust in two years or so you'll be more than willing to pop back on here and account for your prophecy, one way or the other.

5:17 PM  
Blogger ray said...

I hope I'll be able to pop on anywhere in about 2 years from now. My boss is already planning to take his company overseas. Brandon you really have no idea what this country is in for, none of do. But the bigger of the 2 evils won and we and you included will pay for it. This America is over.

5:22 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Thank God I have someone like you in my life who has the inside skinny on all the will befall us! Be sure to share! If we're not all in some sort of prison for Christians, flayed alive by Muslims feeding on our flesh, or incorperated under the central authority of the U.N., please do be sure to stop by again and follow up.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Now see, Ray, there I go again. After promising to be kinder and gentler, you've gone and made me all snarky again!

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Andy said...

Brandon,
1) This is indeed a momentous day in America. The founding fathers laid a foundation (though in their generation it wasn't completely realized) of a country where transfer of power can be applied to any citizen, regardless of race or creed. ANd now we are seeing more of that dream come to fruition.
2) I sincerely hope that Obama will be all of those things. A uniter, a healer, a post racial and post partisan leader. I will pray to for that and for wisdom from above for him. I have serious doubts that it is more than just rhetoric, but I honestly hope that I am wrong.
3) We have just elected a man that we really don't know which way he will lead. Who is the real Obama? I know who you think he is and who I hope he is. But neither of us really knows. In this case, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. It is always somewhat like that, but with Obama is it more so. I say this because we have his past voting records and his latest speeches, which are not entirely consistent.
4) One ray of hope that you are right is that, as I understand it, the conservatives who were with him at the Harvard Law, whatever he was in charge of, state that he did keep his promises to them, respected them, and they had a real voice.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who hows followers like he is Christ. Has flags flying with your picture on like Saddam or Hitler is something to be scared of. I agree with the Ray poster. I pray that God helps Obama ot go through with his evilness and for you Brandon and who ever voted for him to take back our country.

7:40 PM  
Anonymous Chaz said...

I was sent thi email today I thought this was right on:

Messages and Statements
Messages from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson

November 5, 2008

Presiding Bishop’s Statement on 2008 Presidential Election

Americans have chosen a new president in an historic election. I congratulate Senator Obama on his election to our nation’s highest office, and express gratitude to Senator McCain for his continuing commitment to public service. I commend both for participating in our nation’s democratic process, which serves our venerable tradition of the peaceful transfer of power.

We look to the future as a nation troubled by economic crisis and continuing wars. Such complex realities call for both humility and ingenuity. In the midst of these challenges, we as Lutherans also look to the future as a community of faith and a people of hope. We bring to the public square a longstanding and effective commitment to serve our neighbors and a conviction that government is instrumental in God’s purpose for humanity when public officials work for justice, peace, order and the common good.

Scripture is clear about what should matter to us as Christians in public life: hospitality to strangers, concern for people in poverty, peacemaking and care for creation. From these core biblical values, I appeal to President-elect Obama to establish the following priorities for his administration:

a response to the current economic crisis with special focus on low-income people
a robust diplomatic effort to restore U.S. credibility abroad
a fulfillment of the promised U.S. funding share of the Millennium Development Goals
strong support for alternative energy research to end our dependence on oil and establish a new green economy
fair and humane immigration reform
serious re-engagement with a peace process for Palestinians and Israelis
I call on all members of this church to join me in committing to work with this new administration across the broad spectrum of our Lutheran partnerships and networks. Remain active in public service, be in conversation with each other and within your communities on these issues, and engage members of Congress and this administration through this church’s advocacy ministry. Pray for President-elect Obama, Vice President-elect Biden, and their families, and for their work and service on behalf of our country.

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brandon,
Did you drink the Kool-Aid? How sad a smart man as yourselves is a follower. I am SHOCKED.

7:54 PM  
Blogger Nell Minow said...

McCain's concession speech was, sadly, the only point in the past three months where he was his best self. I wish we had seen more of that man in the campaign. Instead we saw the impetuous temperamental guy whose most important decision -- his running mate -- was a stunt.

I believe we did see the real Barack Obama through the past 18 months, a man of vision who can inspire, a man who listens and builds consensus instead of perpetuating partisan turf wars, and a man who understands the importance of being able to deliver programs that work.

I notice that the commenters with all the dire warnings have no solid facts or logical arguments to back them up. This is exactly the kind of thinking that Obama was able to transcend and it was that as much as anything that led to the extraordinary levels of broad-based support.

It's always the people who talk about how much they love this country who complain about having to pay for it. I feel about taxes the way I feel about my mortgage and my kids' tuition; I swallow hard at the numbers but I am know I get more than my money's worth. And I have a rule with people who whine about taxes. No one is allowed to complain to me about taxes until they sit down with the budget and show me exactly where the cuts are coming from, noting that the discretionary programs and the expense of the government agencies that run them are a tiny fraction -- most of the budget expenditures go to defense, social security/medicare, and the interest on the debt. Unless you show me how you're going to make cuts there, shut up about taxes.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Jon C. Fibbs said...

Okay, I would make cuts in these areas by eleminating the DoD, Social Security and Meidcare. As far as our national debt, I would tell the Fed to Stuff it-your not getting that money back, then I would eliminate them as well. Okay then. Taxes lowered. What's next?

10:43 PM  
Blogger Jon C. Fibbs said...

Oh yeah, then I would get rid of the DoE, DoT, the IRS, of course the HLS, TSA, CIA, FBI, DIA, NIA, NRO. The DoI, FDA, FEMA, ATF...Hmmm, I'm sure more will come to me. Dang! Taxes are getting low! This feels good!

10:58 PM  
Blogger Jon C. Fibbs said...

almost forgot, the DoL. Who's left...?

11:01 PM  
Blogger CNEIL said...

This is a beautiful essay!

I may be too white to correctly evaluate, but I think (at least hope) that your analysis of the integrity of Obama's campaign and his racial legacy is right on.

As for the nitty-gritty political side of things, I imagine that the policies that Obama will enact will be similar to what a President John Kerry, Howard Dean, or Al Gore would have implemented.

The policies won't be that bad, but consservatives won't find them that good either.

4:36 AM  
Blogger nathan said...

Wonderful piece, Brandon, though I knew it would bring out the nutjobs like ray. I fully support ray if he chooses to seek safe harbor outside the country. (I wil help him pack!) ;-)

11:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

"For this movie guy, the past few weeks of the campaign reminded me of the end of the original Matrix, after Neo has come to understand fully the height of his powers. The malevolent agents attack him, punching furiously, but Neo is utterly unfazed. He is so much faster than those attacking him that he seems to move in slow motion, parrying their every strike. Likewise, McCain, in the final days, attacked furiously, from all different directions, but Obama was essentially nonplused, deflecting his rival’s aggression with something akin to ease and indifference."

Considering that I am another person that also loved the Matrix movies, I think that your comparison is borderline Blasphemy...

And I have a question, despite many people believing in the hoax of global warming. What is wrong with using the billions of gallons of oil that are in this country in North Dakota and Alaska and off of our coasts??

I agree that we should stop buying it from the middle east and we should have at least a higher percentage of our overall energy consumption be in the form of "alternative energy", if for no other reason to have competition that brings down the cost of oil/ gas.

I just don't understand or agree with trying to fully do away with the use of oil/ coal within 10 years and then do what with all of it that's in our country... I was raised to believe that diversity of resources/ products in this country was one of it's greatest strengths, is that not still true?

When did tree-hugging w/o knowing the facts become a religion?

12:09 AM  
Blogger Brandon said...

Wow, Matt, that's not off topic is it?!

7:11 AM  

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