Election Day, November 4, 2008: It is almost an unbelievable feeling that awakened me this morning around 3:30 am. I could not believe how excited I was. We are all going through something today in this country that I never thought I would see. It is more than the possibility that a black man will be elected president and that in and of itself is reason to awaken early and happy. It is also that this eight-year national nightmare may soon be over.
Hope has become a new concept to me. I recognize that there are people today for whom hope is just an abstract idea. By that I mean for them the pain of life is so severe that there is no hope. For them I do feel sympathy. Be they those who are suffering from illness or the death of a loved one or for whom the entire fabric of their lives has been torn apart. On the other end of the spectrum, there are those in whom anger and rage have found a permanent home and they too are without hope but have also become deluded into thinking that they do not need it.
I feel fortunate to be able to say that I am not in either one of those situations but rather in some kind of cushioned middle zone where by luck I find myself happy and healthy and feeling love and loved. For that reason, today I am going to go out and vote of course but also take note of everyone I meet. We are all of us in this together. I am going to indulge myself today in the possibility of a continued hope: that we can repair, beginning tomorrow, the damages that eight years of fear, hatred, militarism and consumerism have done to the planet.
I do not absolve myself from guilt in all of this reckless living. I know that I too have been consumed by the fear and panic. That I have allowed myself to be ruled by the anxiety and need to own things that have no purpose in a reasonable person’s life, that I have indulged in the kinds of angry outbursts that this type of oppression brings out in us all, that I have let the national mood of exceptionalism override my own sense of humility and modesty. I have let pride replace dignity and resorted to oversimplification in my need to dictate what everyone’s better interests should be, meaning what I thought was best for us all.
We all need to shed these former habits of thinking and dealing with the world. None of them serve our purpose. None of them have brought us any peace or tranquility. They have only rankled inside us, causing damage to our hormonal systems along with the world’s web of dependencies, our natural state of interrelatedness.
What a blessing it will be if tomorrow morning when we awaken the world will be one step closer to finding that kind of peace. If we can say good bye to the nasty and degrading way we have not just talked about each other but have felt about ourselves for participating in an orgy of loathsome behavior towards other humans. When we finally close each and every one of those horrid prisons outside the borders of our country and close the ones within the borders that are here solely for profit, when we open our nation’s resources to those who are here and have been producing and toiling so that our lives might be a bit richer, when we acknowledge the rights and dignity of all people to love and be loved by those they choose regardless of their sexual orientation, when we work at making each other healthy and robust by providing not just universal health care but also alternatives that may not just promote a better human health but also a better planetary health, when we are able to educate the children into whose hands we want to place the same great fortune we are looking at now by giving them the real gifts of a first rate education—an appreciation of their own creativity and imagination along with the ability to reason and to think critically as well as know how to read and to understand math and science and the historical nature of human culture so that they can preserve it.
There is much more to list such as workers’ rights and liberties as well as the ability of all those who want an abortion to receive one without fear and the removal of the death penalty from our repressive form of justice. We do need to redistribute the wealth of this country as well as around the world. When we are the greedy hogs consuming more than our fair share of the planet’s resources, there is an injustice that must be corrected.
I think, though, that what thrills me most of all today as I breathe in the air of change and hopefulness is the sense that even if this hope falls to tatters and we do not change our government’s direction today, then I have had a few hours of reprieve from the horrors we have all witnessed. While it is amazing what humans can endure, this is not the kind of life I want to see perpetuated. It is a way of being in the world that needs to be fought now at every step of the way so that we never make these same mistakes again.
They have been too costly in terms of human lives, liberty and trust. Without those three, what do we have? I am crying today with a relief borne of hope and I continue to pray all day long that this new awareness of the possibility of a greater human dignity being restored to the world can happen. I wish I could be in Chicago tonight. I grew up there and was there in 1968 when not only did the Democratic Convention end in chaos but the south side of Chicago went up in flames after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. I marched for civil rights there and against the war. I loathed the Daley machine like any sensible person would. But tonight, when Obama goes to Grant Park for what we hope is a victory celebration, I will shed tears for a long time’s worth of memories that can now be set down and whose burden has diminished. The Land of Lincoln, as it says on Illinois license plates, will be lit up tonight with the hope he too gave all of us that we could live with each other and respect our differences while supporting the common good. I am truly enjoying feeling hopeful today.