Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History Made

There are a handful of moments in one’s life that are truly unforgettable; some of these are personal, & only have meaning within a personal sphere. Some of them are shared across the culture at large. Yesterday’s election was one of those.

From now on, politics in the U.S. has been changed. Do I mean by this that Barack Obama will be a great, or even good, president?—I hope that’s true, because we need a real leader & statesman at this point, but of course I don’t know this. I mean that from now on we can more truly believe the cultural mythos about the reins of power being available, if not to all, then certainly to a much more diverse group of citizens; it means we have an African-American president, something I doubted would happen in my lifetime; it means we could have a woman as president—because for all of Sarah Palin’s well documented shortcomings, both she & Hillary Clinton were genuine candidates for high executive office. It means that people were able to look beyond deep-seated prejudices & vote for the man they believed was better for the job; & that gives me more hope for the future than I’ve had in some time.

The unforgettable & defining cultural memories I’ve collected over 50+ years are mostly tragic: the Kennedy assasination, the King & Bobby Kennedy assasinations, the horrors & chaos of Vietnam, Watergate, the September 11th attacks—this is an uplifting event, & one that seems almost unbelievable. The country has changed for the better more than I realized; whatever happens from here, this moment can’t be denied. The NY Times wrote:

“Mr. Obama’s election amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country. But it was just as much a strikingly symbolic moment in the evolution of the nation’s fraught racial history, a breakthrough that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.”

There’s also a brief but moving statement here, at 3quarksdaily.

As Obama said in his speech last night in Grant Park: "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."

pic: Morry Gash, AP

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