And then I was reading y'all's reactions, and I found myself unable to feel any of the same joy or excitement or jubilation. I think I was shocked, mostly. My eyes were a little wet. And the thing is, I don't think I had realized until that moment how much I had lost over the last eight years, until the moment that I got it back, and that loss was suddenly what I was aware of. I realized right then that I had lost faith in pretty much anything this country stands for. I mean, let me just throw some words at you: Weapons of mass destruction. Patriot Act. Abu Ghraib. Waterboarding. Wiretapping. (This is not even to speak of the massive clusterfuck that was the admininstration's response to Hurricane Katrina.) The 2000 election was the first I was able to vote in, and I felt like that election was stolen from us. The 2004 election--I felt like there wasn't an "us" anymore. It was like there were a few of us who were screaming into the storm that this admininstration was bad, it's preying on our worst instincts and fears, can't you see it, it's not a Republican/Democrat thing, it's beyond that, get him out, and the rest of the country was merrily voting Dubya. And I feel like I can say this now because even the Republicans of 2008 don't want anything to do with Bush. That election was more depressing than 2000, because it was like--"We are never, ever going to get rid of this administration. Even after Bush is gone, another Bush will spring up in his place, but more to the point, that's what the rest of this country wants."
My mother voted McCain (given our financial situation, she's afraid of higher taxes. Deeply, deeply afraid) and she's been saying for weeks now that Obama would win, it was a foregone conclusion. I did vote Obama and I didn't believe it would. I honestly just could not bring myself to believe that this country was capable of electing him. We would elect John McCain, he would probably be better than Bush, maybe we could get the waxy buildup of the current administration out of the White House but probably not, and life would go on much as it had for the last eight years.
I went back looking through entries I'd written about this time four years ago, wondering if I'd said anything about this, and all I was really able to find was this:
I realized something a little ugly about myself last night--that I was hoping Kerry would win so I could heave a sigh of relief and go back to being blissfully unaware of what's going on in this country politically. And I'm realizing now that I shouldn't have done that in the first place, and I sure as hell can't afford to do it now. There's no one man we could have elected who would have fixed the injustices going on in this country, partly because half the country doesn't even see them as injustices. We can't rely on one man to fix everything, and I think part of our current heartbreak is that we thought we could. If we could win this election, we'd be home free. But that wasn't true in the first place.I'll stand by that now, even. There's a point at which it's not really about Barack Obama at all. (Or John McCain, either--I am really, really not a Sarah Palin fan, to put it lightly, but I would have voted for John McCain back in 2000 if he'd gotten the ticket instead of Bush. This particular campaign seems to have brought out the worst in a lot of people, but his concession speech was really, truly gracious. There are many men inside a man, if that makes any sense, and the man who gave that speech is a man I would have been all right with calling President.) Barack Obama puts on his pants the same way you and I do, one leg at a time, and he has the opportunity now to be just as good or bad a president as anyone else has ever been. What I'm saying is, there's a point where it's about the people who elected Barack Obama, who made a leap--a huge, historic leap--that I didn't believe they were capable of making. I didn't believe people were capable of reaching out for someone who promised change instead of security (and I really, truly believe that is what the two campaigns came down to, "change" and "security," and those are two completely valid platforms) in a time where people have been scared of their own shadows. I didn't believe people would have been capable of voting as a nation for a white man promising those changes, and now we have a black President Elect? That just... blows my mind. Maybe it's just because I'm in Alabama and have lived here all my life, but... that's not something I was sure I would ever see in my lifetime, much less right now.
It's not over. One election doesn't solve anything--no matter who you elect, that candidate still has to live up to his promise. No matter what change you want, you have to get out there and make it yourself. But for the first time in a very long time, it felt like the country had opened its eyes again and remembered its name.