“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.” Barack Obama, Victory speech, 11/4/08
What Obama’s election means to each of us who voted for him is different, but within a shared context. We have all been participating witnesses to something far greater than the election of a new president, and each of our stories- what this election personally means to us- is important.
This two year long election process has changed many of us, and those changes have combined together and will continue to bind together in ways that will cause historians to one day mark this past year in particular as revolutionary.
(If you are one of those people so fortunate as to be frequently within range of my voice, you know I often engage in hyperbole to make a point. The word “revolutionary” in the above sentence, is not a hyperbolic statement. Just so you know.)
How this revolution will play out over time is as unknown as the future of the American Revolution was at its beginnings in 1776. That revolution, too, was undertaken in audacious, courageous but not specifically definable, hope. The colonists’ eventual victory over the British began a political, sociological, and economic process, one that continues, and which includes this revolution of 2008. The history of the War for Independence is important for us, as Americans, to know about and remember. And one of the great primary sources for written histories of that time is the personal correspondence of not only the Founding Fathers and Mothers of our country, but of the soldiers from both sides of the fight.
Those letters reveal the hopes, the dreams, the frustrations, the confusion, and the love of their writers toward those to whom they were writing. Taken together, those letters are a snapshot of a particular time in history, yes; but they also reveal human commonalities that transcend time. So, let’s jump to my point here: I think we should be writing letters to each other right now about the revolution we’ve been a part of. British or American; blue, red, or some lovely shade of purple- what we are thinking, feeling, hoping, or fearing as individuals is part of a larger context and that context is important . We all know this election has been unlike any election we’ve witnessed (don’t think that’s true? Check your emotions over the last few days. Compare them to what you felt in 2004, 1996, 1980, or 1972. See?), and there is historical importance in what we write down and enable others to know about us, and about our country, as we have experienced it.
Therefore, to my children..
Dear Joshua, Darcy, and Sarah:
Thank you for the things you did, each in your own ways using the resources you have, to make this election of Obama possible. You are part of a generation that was able to have hope and to have that hope realized. You have been part of a movement that reached its first important goal. You have done something that has far greater implications and meanings for others, than for yourselves- as lofty and high as your own ideals are.
My generation started out that way, but by the time we were your age, it seemed the whole world of politics and culture was Nixonian and white. One by one, with few exceptions, Baby Boomers turned their energies toward gross exaggerations of the very things they had at one time rebelled against. The generation that felt their hearts beat wildly with newly found passion when they heard JFK say, “Ask not what your country can do for you..”, and who listened to MLK Jr. speak, “I have a dream..”, and watched as RFK said “Some men dream dreams, and others say, ‘Why not?’ – that generation also had to hear the horrible silence that followed. And we filled that silence with illusions of happiness: drugs, debt, suburban sprawls, selfishness and all the attendant fears that accompany each of those false ideals.
From real hope for a better world we descended into “Me,Me,Me” politics, created false gods that looked and thought like us, elected superficial sound-bites to office, and lulled ourselves to a semblance of sleep with a Pandora’s box of pharmaceuticals, swelling bank accounts sucked from the national dirt and human hearts of Third World countries, and the conviction that our country was THE best, THE strongest, and the only country on earth that should not, could not, dare not be questioned about its God-given, wealth-confirming, pollution-belching, trinket-loving role in the world.
Somehow, somehow, though..somehow, in the midst of that self-absorption and between episodes of “Dallas”, “Charlie’s Angels”, and “Miami Vice”, my generation gave birth to yours. Generation X, Y, or whatever the media pundits try to reduce your names and ages to, you have not let the hope inherent in being an American dry up into an unrecognizable husk of veneer-thin words. You have gone to school with and worked with people of all colors, sexual persuasions, nationalities, and religions. And you saw them for who they really are- not as the categories your parents warned you against, nor as people who were separated by law and religion from you, but as humans, like yourselves.
Then, one of you rose high enough to ask, in a way that more and more people were able to hear, “Can we?”
And your answer spilled over into the hearts of many of your parents, because we remembered again what it was like to act out of love, rather than fear. We remembered that hope didn’t have to lie dormant under disappointment. We responded, because you responded first to the question, “Can we?” with a loud, put-your-money-and-time-where-your-mouth-is, “Yes! Yes we can!”
And- holy cow- we did.
Lead on. You’re doing a damn good job so far.
Love to you three especially, but also the millions and millions of others like you,