I'm still stunned, and mostly speechless, about the election results. For the first time in my life, the candidate I voted for won.* Which is a good feeling, but it pales in comparison to the sense of having helped make history. Tomorrow I'll get back to fretting about the enormity of the job that President-Elect Obama (a phrase I'm really, really happy be able to type) has ahead of him. Tomorrow or the next day, maybe, I'll go back to being cynical about politics. Today? Not so much.
I want two things to happen next. First, I want the culture wars to end, or at least peter out and fade into insignificance. The stupid divisive rhetoric about who's a "real American" and who's a "traitor" or a "terrorist" or a "socialist" or an "atheist" (hello, Elizabeth Dole!) needs to stop.** We need to stop using people's worst fears and prejudices, the coldest and darkest corners of their psyches, just to drum up a vote. (And, while I'm dreaming, we need to stop demonizing educated people, and scientists, and people who can speak in coherent sentences. It would be nice to live in a country where politics didn't constantly give me flashbacks to being the unpopular nerdy kid in seventh grade. Also, I'd like a pony.)
The crazy thing is, I actually think that can happen. Maybe not all of it, or all at once, but I think it can happen. I think yesterday was a pretty big demonstration that there are things people value more than fear and hatred and divisiveness.***
And, second, I want the "responsibility" Obama called for in his speech to be more than a buzzword. I want to feel like there's more that I can do for my country than going shopping. I want the effort to dig ourselves out of the various messes we're in to be a collaborative one, and if it turns out we need some kind of 21st century WPA to fix things, well, sign me up. I'm feeling optimistic about the future for the first time in yonks. Long may it last.
* I was old enough to vote in 1996, but that year I was wrapped up in Personal Life Stuff and too apathetic to vote. I know: bad citizen! I blame youth and stupidity, and the fact that Clinton looked likely to coast to victory anyway.
** It amuses me that, in the estimation of people who fling around phrases like "real American," I'm a fake American. I mean, I was born in the city where they signed the Declaration of Independence, the home of the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin and Betsy Ross and the first American flag, for crying out loud. And I grew up not far from where Francis Scott Key wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner." I am not some kind of traitor because I'm a city dweller, or because I vote for Democrats, or because I've spent the majority of my life on the east coast. I'm an American too. It shouldn't matter who we vote for or where we live or who we love or what deity we believe (or don't believe) in. That's the point, and for once in my adult life, I'm actually hopeful that people get it.
*** Though the perennial popularity of homophobic ballot initiatives is as depressing as ever. I mean, I didn't expect Arkansas to become a bastion of sanity overnight. But California? What the hell happened to you? I used to think better of you, California.