Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Vignettes of Hope

America has voted. Barack Hussein Obama is the president elect of United States of America. I am happy that my cynicism about the American electorate, particularly in relation to the racial issue, has been defeated. I was following the results all night and here are some vignettes from a night full of hope.

Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic posted a note from one of the readers of his blog. I felt it is very beautiful. Here it is:
Nothing in my life has actually changed in the 30 minutes since it was announced Obama will be our next president. I have the same bills, the same amount of money in the bank, my dishwasher is still broken, and my 5 month old beagle won't stop peeing on my carpet. Everything in my life is exactly the same as it was 30 minutes ago; and yet I feel as though everything is different.

I feel so much hope. I feel so much pride. I feel like my one vote was a single drop of water in a great Tsunami of change. I feel like I was one of a million voices screaming in the night, " I love my country and I'm taking it back!" I'm so proud of the country that I love and have so much hope in my heart that we can together heal the wounds that have been such a source of pain and anger to us all.

I know Obama isn't going to fix the economy overnight, I know he won't be able to provide healthcare to all Americans by February '09. I know Obama isn't a Messiah who four years from now will have turned this country into a fabled utopia. But I also know Obama will make moral decisions. I know Obama will try to unite where others try to divide. I know Obama will help to make America the beacon of hope it once was to others. I know that at 27 years of age, I witnessed one of the most important and hopefully glorious chapters in American history.

I know hope.
The immense sense of soaring hope and the firm anchor in reality are both vividly evident in this person's comment. Thank you for voicing a shared feeling with such clarity.

In last few weeks, I was anxiously following the race in Pennsylvania and Ohio. This American Life covered the Obama and McCain campaigns in Pennsylvania in one of their episodes - Ground Game. For anyone interested in grass-roots political campaigns, this is a must listen. It featured the town of State College, PA (where I lived and studied for six years) and how the students campaigning for Obama are conducting huge voter registration drives. It featured a student volunteer named Kaycee (hope I am spelling the name correctly) who was the most active and most successful in getting students registered. It featured the union leaders in Pennsylvania who are persuading their fellow workers and union members to look beyond race, get past the animosity and vote for Obama based on the issues that they care about. I am listening to this episode again tonight. As the networks called Pennsylvania for Obama tonight, I can only imagine the joy these volunteers must have feel at the end of a successful campaign. Their HOPE was vindicated tonight. Oh! and Centre county went for Obama by 11% margin tonight! Go Nittany Lions!

When I was in India, the image of an "American" in my mind was always that of a 'white' man or women. This image was reaffirmed in so many subtle ways - through the movies, the images of American Presidents and other American leaders. After coming to this country I met and got acquainted with many Americans who didn't fit the stereotypical image and were still very much 'American'. What excites me about the Obama presidency is the fact that it will change this image of the typical 'American' for so many people including many Americans themselves. As the world sees a man of color as the president of America, going about the business of governing and decision making just like any of the previous presidents, somewhere in the subconscious the prejudices will start to melt. Barack Obama's face on national television will do more to remove lingering doubts (often based on unfounded fear) and deep-rooted hatred of people based on race and color of skin, than many other overt programs and campaigns to fight racism everywhere. That alone in my opinion will be a great achievement.

This is my hope today.

1 comment:

Neil' said...

YES WE DID!

In my area of VA, Democrats celebrated in the Hampton Holiday Inn. Cautiously optimistic as the electoral votes started rolling in, we really got a lift and reinforced hope when Pennsylvania went to Obama. Not a big surprise, but it meant that McCain had a tough fight. Then around 23:00 Virginia was called for Obama and the crowd went wild, and almost as if on cue for followup: Obama projected as US President 2008! What joy, relief, and (for the mostly black crowd) pride. I exchanged many a high-five and even some fist bumps and hip style handshakes. Obama’s proud but conciliatory speech was very stirring, it said just what needed saying. Congratulations, baby! John McCain gets credit for a gracious concession speech and for supplying a colorful character into the public eye (now safe to chuckle over.)

For those of us who worked to canvass and register voters, it was especially poignant and rewarding to have won Virginia. I didn’t do as much as I could have. Still, it helped and that made me feel a part of history not just for the USA and the world, but my state as well. The young “kids” who had been organizing for Obama around here were happy but dazed, as if they couldn’t believe it. We had record voter turnout, I don’t have exact figures yet.

And now, it is still “Yes we can” to solve America’s problems and pitch in for the world as well. We all have to pitch in.