I didnâ€™t cry for an hour and a half. I watched dozens of other people weep and shout and wail and fling themselves to the floor with happiness; I watched pundits variously expound thoughtfully, babble incoherently and fumble for words before simply going mute. I did join my wife and kids in dancing with joy to a couple of my favorite â€“ and now forever Obama-rific â€“ songs:
But it wasnâ€™t until the close of Obamaâ€™s magnificent victory speech, after the pageantry and the big extended-family waveathon … it wasnâ€™t until everyone else had left the stage, and Obama turned back and gave one last salute to the crowd, that I began weeping uncontrollably. A headache I had been nursing all day finally dissipated, and the tension Iâ€™d been carrying around for two months â€¦ for two years â€¦ for eight years, really, finally seemed to melt away.
It was at that moment I realized I couldnâ€™t write the column I was planning for today â€“ the one in which I suggested that after all the name-calling, the vilifying and the brutishness of this campaign, I didnâ€™t feel sorry at all for the emotional pickle in which McCainâ€™s most intemperate supporters must find themselves. Not because this problem doesnâ€™t exist for them, but because Obamaâ€™s speech renewed my hope that even those folks will soon cool their jets.
“In this country,â€ he said, â€œwe rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long … And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress â€¦ As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection â€¦ And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.â€
Rhetoric, of course, is easy (for some). But with those words, Obama shredded the desire to gloat, tamped down the thirst for vengeance that might have kept Democrats across the nation from coming down off our collective high horse even after change was achieved. Not for the first time, Obama proved himself a far, far better man than I — and better than those many of us who, even as his impending victory became clear over the last couple weeks, have been tempted to keep our pens dipped in poison (he thought metaphorically as he typed away).
So I will trust that, as the vilest attacks on our new presidentâ€™s character recede into the past, the McCain supporters who uglied up his recent rallies (and even booed his attempts at conciliation on election night) will allow themselves to see President-elect Obama as he really is, and will allow their wounds to heal and their minds to open. And I will attempt to offer malice toward none, and charity for all, as I watch my country transition away from the policies and politics of the last eight years and toward something hopefully better, more uplifting, more binding and unifying.
It wonâ€™t be easy. The Bush administration no doubt will infuriate us on multiple occasions over the next couple of months, announcing new deregulatory measures and executive orders designed to make Obamaâ€™s agenda more difficult to implement â€“ and to provide one more sop to constituencies that arenâ€™t likely to get many favors after January 20. Attacks against Obama from the right certainly arenâ€™t going to cease â€“ though, with the new numbers in Congress and the end of such intense focus on politics, those attacks will be easier to ignore. And Obama certainly isnâ€™t going to do everything right, isnâ€™t going to get every bill passed, isnâ€™t going to respond perfectly to every challenge.
Then thereâ€™s the matter of Prop 8 in California and the (if anything) even more mean-spirited measure in Arkansas, where the citizenry threw the baby out with the bathwater in an effort to stop same-sex couples from adopting children. In the process of achieving that, they also managed to sweep away the rights of all unmarried couples (and perhaps single people, too, if the initiative is taken to its logical extreme) to be adoptive or foster parents.
There is a profound irony in the fact that Californiaâ€™s African-Americans â€“ many of whose ancestors had the Christian faith forced upon them by slaveowners â€“ voted in droves for Prop 8 while also propelling Obama toward the electoral votes that put him over the top on Tuesday night. The capacity for groups who have suffered discrimination throughout history to rubber-stamp the repression of other groups boggles the mind.
The passage of Prop 8 means that there are still enormous battles remaining to be fought, beginning immediately and continuing for years and decades to come. On this issue and others, there are still hearts to be opened, minds (and outdated religious dogmas) to be changed. Most pressingly, there are legal battles to be fought, and damn the discriminatory will of Tuesdayâ€™s 52 percent â€“ letâ€™s go before the judges and get it on!
Ahem… Even as we continue to press the fight for a more tolerant and inclusive future, we are buttressed by the mere fact of Obamaâ€™s election â€“ by the idea that something happened Tuesday night that couldnâ€™t have happened 150 years ago, or even 50 â€¦ or, really, even 20. Obama got more white votes than John Kerry got four years ago, or Al Gore got eight years ago. Even as gay Californians, and liberals more generally, lament the wrongness of Tuesday nightâ€™s result, we must temper our disappointment and anger with our knowledge of those facts, and the enormous sense of hope they bring.
Sixty years ago, Barack Obamaâ€™s father couldnâ€™t have married his mother legally in 30 of the then-48 states. Forty-eight years after Barack Hussein Obama (the first) did marry Ann Dunham, their son won election as President of the United States. With that in mind, there can be no doubt that gay couples, too, shall overcome someday.