Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The sense that this moment is unquestionably historic, and that, even more crucially, it's a chance to make it have been historic in a more profound and wide-ranging way.

On the south side of Madison, driving people to the polls: "Riiide to vote in style! We gotta juggler and a luxurious van! Free riiiides to the polls!" up and down the streets, kids chasing the car shouting "Obama! Obama!," Clay teaching three-ball techniques to the folks in the back seat, thumbs up and cheers from people in yards in the poorest part of town.

Back to the office after the polls closed, just in time to hear that Ohio had been called for Obama, thinking of my "Sing Out the Vote" cohorts.

The speech, like the campaign, made me want to be sincere, optimistic, tireless. The temporal and geographic expansiveness of it, the sense that it's not over for the human race, the plea for intelligence, its undeniable presence, had me in tears. The thought of everyone I know for whom the civil rights movement was the defining event of their lives, all the speeds and forms of social change, the thought that there were almost no bad reasons to feel bowled over by this.

I don't need to point out the reasons for caution, skepticism, not letting him get away with things, the need for the degree and intensity of involvement he asks for. My sustaining reason for optimism is the suspicion (based partly on my sister's reports of Obama while she was working for the Illinois Democratic Sentate) that he's actually prepared to listen, if we have something to say.

What in the hell is wrong with people in California? GLBT rights is an issue we're definitely going to have to press during the presidency of a thoughtful and articulate man who can still parrot the inane sentence "I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman," as if belief meant anything. (Admittedly, he tentatively opposed Prop 8).

Right now, though, I can't help feeling thrilled, even in exhaustion, at the prospect of a shift from eight years of a national political culture based on fear as the ultimate motivation to one in which desire and possibility are at least claimed as guiding ideals. To see photos from around the world of people's joy makes me think, again and again, that I want to love this country.


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