BARACK OBAMA APPROACHES MLK/MANDELA STATUS
Some random Election Day 2008 observations.
The Standard Refrain: Egregiously long lines awaiting the civic-minded. If I thought I was going to get a jump on folks by showing up at the polls earlier than any other time in my voting life, it turns out that by showing up at 7:15 am., I was just in time to be late. The line, maneuvering along at a decidedly un-snail-like pace, was the longest I'd seen at this location since Bush/Kerry -- and I've been voting there since Bush/Dukakis.
Hope: The level of sheer, undiluted energy that persisted at my polling spot, a public school, also seemed evident around every polling location I happened upon as I made my way to work after voting. It was quite distinctive and in flagrant contrast to the dour aura that seemed to define the high-turnout Election Day in 2004 between Bush and Kerry. There is clearly a palpable difference in spirit when millions of people gather to vote for a candidate -- in this case Barack Obama -- rather than against someone which seemed to be the force that drove Kerry voters to the polls in 2004.
Witnesses to History: A group of middle school students, both black and white, clearly awestruck by the sheer volume of voters and the easily discernible energy we produced are sneaking peeks at the crowd from a classroom window above. After briefly disappearing for a few moments they re-emerged with a hastily-written "Obama" sign fashioned out of notebook paper.
The Act: A mother, accompanied by her pre-teen daughter, proceeds from the polls with arms wrapped around one another's waist. Their glowing, black faces both exhibited Publisher’s Clearinghouse winner-type smiles, seemingly out of satisfaction, pride, accomplishment, and hopefully, from a clear understanding of the historic nature of the act they'd just carried out. Shortly after that scene, a similar one was noted as an older cane-wielding African-American woman slowly exited held ever steadier by the additional assistance of her adult son. They both carried the same look of satisfaction, glory and accomplishment exhibited by the mother/daughter duo. Meanwhile, a very young mother, perhaps scarcely out of her teens and pushing a stroller, quietly awaited her turn while occasionally fidgeting with her infant daughter. She was later overheard saying this was her first time voting.
Some observers might suggest that these otherwise routinely innocuous events extend, on this occasion, beyond the realm of the noteworthy in the minds of many African-Americans and other minorities. They would be right. Taken in a certain context, they seem to illustrate the uniquely historical nature of a paradoxically subliminal, yet overt coming of full circle. Examined further, they reveal a reinvigorated and more clearly-defined generational/historical lineage that was strengthened, if not rediscovered through the participation of millions of African-Americans in an endeavor that many had come to accept as audaciously unthinkable regardless of the generation from which we came of age: a bona fide opportunity to consider a compellingly pertinent African-American from among other presumably similarly-qualified candidates for the highest office in the land.
As we all now know, these evident Obama supporters awoke the following morning to the maximal satisfaction of knowing that because of their November 4, 2008 endeavor, the audacious was no longer unthinkable. With their help in addition to that of millions of other African-American voters nationwide, Obama had won in an electoral landslide. Black President!
But it needs to be pointed out that Obama won, not in large part because of blind support from a solid, but politically unsophisticated voting bloc of hyper-partisan, race-conscious African-Americans who, in deciding which candidate to choose, placed Obama's race over both the content of his character and what the other side argued was a lack of experience.