Archive - Nov 5, 2008
Twenty-four hours ago, I was sitting at NPR Studios in Washington DC with a group of other bloggers waiting for the election returns to start coming in. It was a mixed group in many ways, male and female, white and black, young and old, conservative and liberal. We all sat with our hopes and fears as we waited for the first polls to close.
The evening went by. We talked amongst ourselves. We took tours of NPR studios. We made snide comments about some of the gimmicks the major networks were using to fill the time before the results were known.
The storyline proceeded as expected and the story about a substantial win by Sen. Obama wasn’t really unexpected news. The bigger news, the bigger story, is what our reactions have been. The conservative bloggers morosely closed up shop soon after Sen. Obama was declared the winner. The liberal bloggers, many of them adjusting to the new moniker President-Elect Obama, hugged one another, and then sat transfixed as he addressed our country. When the speech was over applause erupted amongst the bloggers.
On Twitter, I had received news that U Street was awash with jubilant Obama supporters. The Metro stops running at midnight, and there seemed to be no available cabs, so I walked a mile and a half from NPR studios to a friend’s house on T Street. As I walked, I heard endless horns honking and innumerable shrieks of joy. I ran into my friend on the street as he and some of his other friends were heading from one celebration to the next.
As I got closer to U Street, the cacophony of horns and shrieks as compounded with the sound of fireworks going off. It felt like New Years, a time when everyone celebrates a chance to start over. It felt like being in Little Italy years ago, when Italy had won the World Cup, one of those long and hard fought battles where people wondered when victory would ever be grasped. It felt like St. Patrick’s Day on Fifth Avenue, when everyone is at least a little bit Irish.
Yet before I had left the studios, I had spoken with a few of bloggers. Two mixed race couples were part of the group and they noted how as we talk about racial issues in our country, and have made a significant step forward, the issue of mixed race couples has been avoided. We talked about the many difficult challenges that face President-Elect Obama and our country over the coming days.
I, too, have been overwhelmed by joy at this momentous turning point. Yet I remain keenly aware of the difficulties making ends meet and I wondered about all this jubilation.
Today, I spoke with my daughter who has a friend from Japan that has been confused and frightened by all the jubilation. No, this isn’t normal. This is a unique election. It is the fulfillment of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech. It echoes Nelson Mandela’s election as President of South Africa. It is a profound change of course from the last eight years. It is a triumph of hope over fear. Perhaps it is the response to September 11th that we have been waiting for, for so long.
Yet, I too, have wondered about this outpouring of exuberance. What does come next? Will this energy be focused into a new type of civic service? What will happen when the problems we face are not fixed as quickly as some would hope? What about all of the conservatives who are disappointed, bitter or angry at the results? After all, over fifty million Americans did vote for Sen. McCain. One conservative activist encouraged his friends online stating that the 2012 campaigns start today.
Back home, I have read through a smattering of the emails that have piled up while I was gone. I was struck by the raw emotion without a lot of reflection by many of my friends who are group psychotherapists. It seems everyone is caught up in the moment. It is a very special moment, and I hope everyone savors it, but I also hope that we can reflect on what all of this really means and what we need to do next. What are your thoughts?