When I woke up yesterday, I did what I always do. I sleepily retrieved my son from his crib when he yelled for me and brought him into the big bed so we could have our morning cuddle.
"Guess what," I said to him, half expecting him to respond "chicken butt" (don't ask, it's a game I probably never should have started.)
And I smiled, because he was right. Obama indeed.
I was moved on Tuesday night to see the hundreds of thousands who filled Grant Park in Chicago for Obama's victory speech. I wish I could have gone myself, but being a parent, I had other responsibilities. I was moved to see the people gathered at Rockefeller Center awaiting the election results, and happy to see so many young people excited about the democratic process.
That night, I was proud that we had a candidate that didn't win through the tactics of fear or the propagation of hate. Tuesday night's election was a victory because we had a candidate that inspired people to want to be a part of the process. More than 10% of voters on Tuesday were first-time voters. In a country that usually is apathetic about politics, that is a significant victory. Democracy can only be stronger with more people involved.
The next morning, I was moved to see images in the New York Times of civil rights workers' responses to the Obama victory.
How amazing that men and women who were beaten, arrested, and in some cases even killed, just so they could have the right to vote, could see one of their own elected to the highest office in the land. This is no small victory for the African American community. There was no Bradley effect. There was only a multi-cultural electorate that saw past racial divides to come together and elect a leader.
Yesterday, I couldn't help but be optimistic.
After the 2004 election, I was convinced that the country's problems weren't just Bush's doing. They were the problems caused by a majority of the population that believed that America was better that, superior to the rest of the world, and in that belief of superiority, they elected a leader who was unconcerned about being ethical or moral in our dealings with the rest of the world. They bought into his ridiculous rhetoric about Kerry's elitism (whatever the heck that meant) and voted for someone who couldn't manage to pronounce nuclear correctly, much less think past the false binaries that divide "them" from "us."
But yesterday I was proud of the people in this country. They proved that they were tired of being ruled by fear--the incessant "orange alerts" at airports, the constant warnings that the "evil-doers" are out there gunnin' for us. They proved that America might still be a land where anything is possible for anyone.
And then I realized that voters in three states voted to ban gay marriage. They same voters who believed "yes we can" also decided "no they can't."
In three states, voters decided to take away rights that the courts insisted were inalienable.
So today- the morning after the morning after, my optimism is tempered by sadness. Because we still have a long way to go to prove to the world that we believe all men really are created equal, that all men have the rights to life, liberty in the pursuit of happiness. That my son will have the right to marry whomever he deems worthy of his love.
It took until 1967 for couples of different races to be allowed to marry. Maybe someday we'll get to the point where we can truly see all people as equal. Where we can offer the same civil rights and liberties to everyone, regardless of age, race, creed, or sexual orientation. It may be a long time in coming still, but I have to believe that