We did it. It's such a huge moment and was such a life changing night that I still haven't processed everything. I sat on the couch and bawled through Obama's entire acceptance speech. And not the delicate, movie tears either... real, hearty crying. I think B summed it up best when he was looking at the television, glassy eyed, at nearly 1am after watching returns for a solid seven hours and said "This is life changing. This is a day I'm going to tell our children about."
God, I'm getting teary now just thinking about it. And it's not because, as so many of the naysayers have said, that I think Obama is a messiah, and it's not because of blind idealism, and it's not because he's a rock star, and it's not because I think he has every perfect answer. He said himself last night that there will inevitably be mistakes and missteps. But as they say, if you aren't outraged, then you aren't paying attention. And I've been paying attention, probably more than most.
There hasn't been a day in the last four years where I've gotten into the car and not turned on talk radio, and there has rarely been a night when we sat on the couch after dinner and didn't watch MSNBC, and it's rare that someone tells us about an independent political website that we didn't already know about - we've been paying attention. I've watched in stunned horror and disbelief as this administration invented rules for themselves to follow and then broke even those - as they sent young men and women my brother's age off to fight and die in a senseless war that had nothing to do with 9.11 - I've watched the heart of our country be stolen.
And the truth is, I've never considered myself a "patriotic" person. I don't own a flag, I don't feel that America is the best and most dominant country in the world, and I never ate Freedom Fries. But last night on the couch I felt like the reason I had never felt that way is because in the last eight years I've never had a President I could trust or believe in. I wasn't proud of America's face in the this world and I was never asked or expected to participate the way I am now. Chris Matthews said last night that the Bush administration wanted the aristocrats to be in charge and wanted the citizens to remain distracted. And it worked, that's how I've felt about patriotism - distracted and disenfranchised.
I think the main reason Barack Obama won is because he put politics back in the hands of the American public. He has truly acted as someone who's goal is to bring people together, to make people feel that we're not that different from one another. And the neo-con bent that the Republican party has taken is about nothing but division - the division of religions, the divisions of gays and straights, the division of rich and poor, and on and on, and I think it has finally failed. We're sick of feeling divisive and separate and distrustful; we were desperate for a sea change, and now there is the possibility of one.
In talking about McCain's loss last night Republican commentator Joe Scarborough said that it wasn't John McCain as a person that the voters were rejecting, it was the extremism that the Republican party has been showing for eight years that they were rejecting. He said that the politics of fear and lies is what they were (finally, in my opinion!) rejecting. That's why the Republicans lost all the way down the ticket, because it was about more than a person, it was about a party that has become out-of-touch with it's constituents. I can't believe it took this long to happen, but I honestly thought it would never happen, so the fact that it happened at all is a miracle to me.
Over the last year I've been saying over and over and over, Where are all the normal Republicans?!! Where are all the Republicans who think differently than I do, but want to have a real debate about the ideas without it immediately devolving into name calling about someone being a "Muslim" or a "messiah?" It didn't used to be like this, so they must exist, but I can't find any of them! Debate is healthy and the best policies often come from those people who work together across the aisle to make change happen, but I haven't seen any of that lately. I'm very hopeful that last night's election wasn't just a change for America, it was a change for the Republican party as well.
If I can return to the crying for a minute... I never felt that Barack Obama's race made a difference one way or the other to me, much the same way that I never felt that Hillary Clinton's gender made a difference one way or the other. I'm always baffled by people who find that to be a determining factor, positive or negative. But last night watching the acceptance speech and hearing about all of these people who are our parent's age or slightly older who spent their childhood's fighting for civil rights and marching in the streets... to hear about these people who fought so hard to use the same drinking fountains and sit in the same restaurants and go to the same country clubs, to think that in their lifetime those people will get to see a black man and his family live in the Whitehouse brings me to tears. I've never had to fight that hard for basic rights in my lifetime so I will never know what that feels like, but it makes me weep to think about how deeply that can change your soul.
If you haven't seen the acceptance speech yet, PLEASE watch it. Please, I'm literally begging you. Watch all 17 minutes and do it in a quiet place where you can pay attention. I'm going to rewatch it right now and I guarantee you that I'll start crying again. But I have to say, if it doesn't move your gut, then I don't think you've been paying attention. And I guess that's your choice, but I would urge you to start.
Additionally, here is John McCain's concession speech. He was gracious and very thoughtful and had his campaign been run in such a manner I think it would have been a far tighter race. He's not a bad man, but he lost his centrist beliefs and tried to pander to the extremists and it failed. I only hope that some of his rabid and hateful supporters will follow his lead.