m-pyre has been around for a long time now. So long that I can refer back to a blog from the morning after the 2004 presidential election, the one in which Americans picked George W. Bush for a second term. On that morning, I was depressed and felt very much on the outside of power. Interestingly, while not depressed this morning, I find that I am still outside power. I like the company I’m keeping also.
I want to thank Mikaela for reminding us yesterday of Bush. I don’t view the choice we all made last night as a rejection of the current president, although that sentiment certainly helped. If it had been a different candidate, maybe I’d be saying last night was an indictment.
But Obama’s campaign transcended the immense displeasure with the Bush years. It reached deep into our collective psyche, challenging us to believe in our country, to embrace diversity and multiculturalism, and to become engaged.
Nice words. But not meaningless. Too many of us want to believe, but don't quite. We want to embrace diversity, but still gravitate to our clan. And to become engaged, to assume a share of the responsibility for our collective welfare, really does require belief and at least the willingness to step outside one's comfort zone of family and culture.
Many of us often say that most Americans actually share left of center values, which I’ll sum up with the simple maxim that we are our brother’s keeper. Yes, before Che there was Jesus. I will claim both to symbolize the two sides of our politics.
Who can forget the neglect we witnessed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? The impotent rage so many of us felt toward a government that let the poor--overwhelmingly African American--perish in New Orleans has been somewhat salved by this election.
The majority who deeply believe that we are our brothers and sisters keepers came out and voted last night. Obama has been delivered a mandate by the people outside the construct of power. It wasn’t just a landslide of those who always vote. They were joined by an enormous number of first-time voters, many of whom are well into their adult years.
Will this mandate, stemming from an unprecedented engagement among people long disempowered by the system, be squandered?
As I do periodically here, let me remind folks about something. Obama said last night that this election isn’t about him, it’s about us. He's right. He is a flesh and blood man who has a heavy burden. He can pick all the experts in the world to advise him, but none of it will be a magic bullet. If real change is to happen—universal health care, good education and nutrition for all the children in this country, decriminalization of the poor, a clean and healthy environment—it has to happen by the continued engagement of the people who delivered the mandate in the first place.
I never thought I'd say this in relation to presidential politics--because I rarely am inspired by anyone at that level and generally think the best politics are local--but I believe we have just entered into a "next phase." I promise to stay positive and to venture out into uncomfortable terrain, if you guys will.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008