Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's a new day!

I can't say it any better than Michael Moore said it in his morning e-mail: “Who among us is not at a loss for words? Tears pour out. Tears of joy. Tears of relief. A stunning, whopping landslide of hope in a time of deep despair. "

I've been so nervous for so long. Florida's "hanging chad" in 2000 and Ohio's computer glitches and/or snitches in 2004 had caused me to lose faith in an electoral system I had never doubted before. How, I wondered, would the Republicans find a way to turn the tides this time. Were those electronic voting machines going to give us a fairly accurate vote this time? Could we trust them?

Then we waited for the October surprise? The 24 hour news cycle reminded us hourly of the Rovian threat, and they surely tried the weekend before the election with the Kenyan aunt living in this country illegally and with Sarah Palin revving up her vitriol in every stump speech in an every more passionate voice. John McCain's certainty the last week that he was going to win - a certainty that caused my anxiety to rise in spite of Obama's calm and steady demeanor. So tension built...thus tears of relief last night, as well as joy!

Michael Moore went on in his letter this morning: “In a nation that was founded on genocide and then built on the backs of slaves, it was an unexpected moment, shocking in its simplicity: Barack Obama, a good man, a black man, said he would bring change to Washington, and the majority of the country liked that idea. The racists were present throughout the campaign and in the voting booth. But they are no longer the majority, and we will see their flame of hate fizzle out in our lifetime.”

Someone said this morning on TV, "Yes, we know there are racists - in every neighborhood, sometimes subtle." And he related them to mosquitoes..."they're there, we know they're there." While I'm not sure they will ever be totally eradicated - mosquitoes or racists - I believe with each generation removed from that earlier time, with each victory won, however small, "the flame of hate" grows dimmer.

Thomas Friedman in his Op-Ed column, “Finishing Our Work”, in this morning’s New York Times wrote: “This moment was necessary, for despite a century of civil rights legislation, judicial interventions and social activism — despite Brown v. Board of Education, Martin Luther King’s I-have-a-dream crusade and the 1964 Civil Rights Act — the Civil War could never truly be said to have ended until America’s white majority actually elected an African-American as president.” He concluded his column with: “…Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.”None of this will be easy. But my gut tells me that of all the changes that will be ushered in by an Obama presidency, breaking with our racial past may turn out to be the least of them. There is just so much work to be done. The Civil War is over. Let reconstruction begin. “

We moved to New Orleans in the late 60's when the administrator of Touro Infirmary recruited my husband to be his associate with the express purpose of integrating the hospital. At that time, Touro treated black patients as out patients, but if they needed to be hospitalized, they were transferred to Charity Hospital across town. A black patient had never shared a room with a white patient at Touro Infirmary. There was much to be done. In the process, we encountered a lot of racism. Much more annoying and even deadly than the mosquito, although just as common. Our children were labeled "nigger lovers", ugly graffiti was painted on our front door by neighborhood children, our church was fire bombed. We were moved to march in protest when James Reeb was murdered.

Today is a big day - but not just because Barack Obama is a black man. It's a bit of that, true. But it is much more. I'll admit, frankly, that I am a political junkie. I Tivo Charlie Rose and watch it every morning without fail. I watch Bill Moyer's Journal and Fareed Zakaria. I read every book recommended by any of their guests. When I heard the now famous speech Obama made at John Kerry's nomination convention, I said to my husband, "That man should be President one day." I was inspired to tears at his words. He spoke of the country I wanted this country to be; not the one I feared we were destined to have if George Bush were to be reelected. (My derisive and prophetic political coffee mug said, "George Bush in 2004 'cause it takes 8 years to ruin a country!"}

And then I read his first book...and his second, the Audacity of Hope. I listened to interviews where he promoted his book. And I began to hope. "Run, Obama, Run!" Even David Brooks, a conservative New York Times columnist wrote an article with that title. Black friends questioned his running - I think they dared not hope. They feared for his safety, as do we all...

Last night before he walked out on stage, he wrote an e-mail to his supporters - a letter of thanks, of course, but more than that. He said he'd be sending more of those, asking for more of our help. He's a community organizer. I believe that is in his DNA. I have the audacity to hope that he will ask the American people to help him get this country back to its standing...standing not only in the eyes of other countries, but in our own eyes. It's a new day! Let the reconstruction begin!

Joan