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Black President

Plenty of other people, including the man himself, have said far more eloquent things than I ever could about the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States. And even if they hadn't, I'm far too hung over to be the man for the job. But here's something I want to remember.

There's a lot of caution up ahead. The country really is in worse shape than I have ever seen it, on many levels, and Obama has a lot of hard work to do; he must apply himself, think carefully and swiftly, and have a rare combination of skill and good fortune if he is to be anything more than a man who spends four to eight years cleaning up the Augean messes of the last administration. So this election, miraculous as it is, is only the beginning -- it's the culmination of nothing.

And, of course, this is about so much more than race. America, in almost staggering numbers, has said 'no' to things she rarely says no to: pandering, prejudice, slander, negative campaigning, fear, and maintaining even a broken status quo. And she has said 'yes' to things she rarely says yes to: thoughtfulness, caution, progressiveness, intellect, articulacy, and nuance. This country has, to a degree I have never seen before, embraced intelligent liberalism (albeit of a very centrist variety) and halted a rightward drift I thought might go on forever. In doing so, it has accomplished the minor miracle of making me less cynical about politics in my country. So there is certainly much, much more going on than the election of a black man to the presidency.

But I cannot forget this: somewhere, spider-venomous and unkillable, clinging to the base of my brain, is the specter of what has happened to a lot of progressive leaders in this country, especially ones who have been strong champions of civil rights: King, X, JFK, RFK, Evers. But last night, I watched Jesse Jackson -- a public figure with whom, let it be known, I have had a lifetime of difficulties and disagreements -- weeping in Grant Park. Regardless of the details of what exactly happened on April 4 forty years ago, Jackson was right there when Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down by a two-bit racist hood and half the nation celebrated. And here he was, watching a black man telling the city, the country, the world what he will do when he becomes President of the United States. Anyone who thinks that Jackson wept because it wasn't him preparing to take the throne is far more cynical than I could ever imagine. He wept because, in his own lifetime, he had traveled a path that took him from not being able to raise his eyes when a white woman walked past, to seeing his friends and comrades shot down in the street for the crime of asking to be treated like human beings, to seeing Barack Hussein Obama chosen by a great majority of Americans of all races to lead the country into the future. He wept because, damn it, that means something.

And that's when I wept, too.

There is very much to do, and history has a way of confounding us. But today is a good day, for so many reasons.

Comments

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dubdobdee
Nov. 5th, 2008 01:52 pm (UTC)
\n/ \n/ \n/ \n/ \n/
eatsoylentgreen
Nov. 5th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
"And, of course, this is about so much more than race. America, in almost staggering numbers, has said 'no' to things she rarely says no to: pandering, prejudice, slander, negative campaigning, fear, and maintaining even a broken status quo. And she has said 'yes' to things she rarely says yes to: thoughtfulness, caution, progressiveness, intellect, articulacy, and nuance. "

isn't that nice? isn't that nice?
steve_hicken
Nov. 5th, 2008 02:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks for that, Leonard. Very well-said.
vito_excalibur
Nov. 5th, 2008 02:12 pm (UTC)
My god. Yes.
tritium
Nov. 5th, 2008 02:25 pm (UTC)
Well-said. For the reasons you mention, I can't get behind the slogan "yes we did;" there's still so much to do, electing Obama president is only the beginning. But I'm proud of my country in a way that is much less abstract than ever before.
dyskodyke
Nov. 5th, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC)
I don't know -- I think this is pretty damn eloquent. I feel compelled to link to it from my own journal.
garbagedog
Nov. 5th, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC)
ok, you just made me cry, too.
bassman42
Nov. 5th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
I wept as well when I saw Jesse Jackson crying, and I don't even live in the states anymore! It was a victory for decency and, with any luck, might spell the end for race-based glass ceilings. Now if he can just live up to his promise, which isn't completely in his own hands. Here's hopin'!
solipsiae
Nov. 5th, 2008 04:19 pm (UTC)
All this "right-of-center" and "new progressive" seems to be misguided, imho.

This is an unbelievably great opportunity for the Democrats to redefine themselves as people who recognize, understand and support the American people: all of us. Like, "Since this is who we are we'll just reflect that in the way we do things here." Little things that mean a lot, like legalizing gay marriage and decriminalizing pot. Just an acknowledgement of REALITY - that hardly seems progressive to me. Just catching up to the rest of us.

That doesn't feel "liberal" to me. That feels human and normal and right.

Oh, the redefinitions. I really can't wait.
slammerkinbabe
Nov. 5th, 2008 04:33 pm (UTC)
But I cannot forget this: somewhere, spider-venomous and unkillable, clinging to the base of my brain, is the specter of what has happened to a lot of progressive leaders in this country, especially ones who have been strong champions of civil rights: King, X, JFK, RFK, Evers.

I felt this way too. I couldn't help it. I was always so disdainful of the people who said that they couldn't support Obama because he was so likely to be assassinated, and I still am disdainful of that; but what I realized last night was that the fear was real to me for all that. At first I thought it was prejudice of some sort leading me to think that way, but then I realized that it was instead about how much he reminds me of many of those people you've just listed, and what their fates were.

And yet all the hope and the joy (and disbelief!) are so very present.

This is a great post. Thank you.

Edited at 2008-11-05 04:38 pm (UTC)
roninspoon
Nov. 5th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)
Jackson was weeping because the Obama girls finally get a puppy. Also, all that stuff you said.
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