Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Musings

[I'll be back to books tomorrow, I promise. Indulge me one personal note, if you will.]

You'd have thought the Red Sox had won another World Series, or New Year's Eve had come early through some strange fluke of the calendar. At 11 p.m. last night, I opened my apartment's windows to take in the sounds of firecrackers, car horns, cheering and whistling from around the neighborhood. Local t.v. showed a crowd of people making their way into Copley Square and from there to Christian Science Plaza, where many jumped into the reflecting pool and splashed around. But the happy throngs weren't just celebrating in Boston. Similar spontaneous public demonstrations sprang up in cities and towns not just across the country, but around the world, at all times of day and night.

And they weren't just celebrating a sports win, or a calendrical anomaly. They were cheering an event that just a few short months ago seemed unlikely, if not impossible. Barack Obama's decisive win, cemented as it was by the votes of a remarkably broad and deep coalition of voters from every region of the country, was a victory not only for Obama and his supporters, but for all the people of the world who understand that America can be, once again, a source of inspiration and positive leadership.

Over the course of the day yesterday, as I read some of the anecdotes that people were posting about their voting experiences - like this one - as I finally allowed myself to think that the polls might actually be right (they were, on average, very accurate this time), I knew things were looking good. But I also remember all too well the dashed euphoria of the last two presidential election nights, and I wasn't about to give my exuberance free rein. I knew I'd be twitchy for a while longer.

Last night was simply amazing; it's hard to even put it into words. I clapped and jumped around a bit when Ohio was called, and then, knowing what that meant (that McCain's path to potential victory had narrowed to the point of nothingness), I sat and cried for a while as the impact of what we had been able to do began to sink in. There are moments in your life that even as you live them you know you'll remember forever. Most of them, unfortunately, are bad moments. Last night's was one of the rare good moments, and I will treasure it always.

But, as Obama likes to say, we have more work to do. In fact our work hasn't even started. We now - all of us, whether we supported Obama before yesterday or not - must stand with him to change the country and change the world. He's not going to be able to do it himself; he'll need every single one of us at his back. I hope that unlike our current president he will ask for our help, and ask for it in meaningful ways. The way forward is not smooth, or easy, or painless. But we can get there, together. For now, let us just enjoy the moment awhile longer. It's been a long time coming, and boy does it feel good.