Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The deeper truth of a defining American moment

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 democracy,
tonight is your answer.


--President-elect Barack Hussein Obama, 11/4/08

Last night, I wept openly as I watched history being made by an articulate, visionary, cool-headed, brilliant man; as inspiring a president-elect as I have witnessed in my lifetime. I am grateful to have been a tiny part of that moment; one little star in the Obamaverse.

A large part of the beauty of his campaign, for me, is his insistence that America belongs to all of us. I heard one Minneapolis civil rights activist describe it thus, on the radio this morning:

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.
Barack Obama is that dream.


YES. I am hopeful about so many things today:
  • That the American electorate is re-enfranchised, re-energized, and has wrenched the reins away from those driving us apart and driving us to destruction.
  • That Obama might find a new way of governing, in which every person is valued and nurtured and not only welcome, but expected to offer her/his best to the common good; in which we don't have to be each others' enemies; instead, maybe we can be partners in solving the serious problems of today.
  • That the next Supreme Court justices will be chosen by such a man/administration.
  • That he has a Congress which is situated to help him.
  • That perhaps the bitterness of Rovian politics is over, or at least knocked out for a while; that we can attack the issues instead of one another.
  • That the Republican party now has the opportunity and incentive to reinvent itself--to know that the hawkish, screeching divisiveness of its recent years has contributed to their upset yesterday; to remember how to be the party of Lincoln and an important counterbalance to the Democrats.
  • That the world witnessed what happened here, and may again take us seriously as a partner, as a leader, and as an idea.
  • That the symbolism inherent in this election may heal some of the hurt and division that bleeds our country of its power and goodness.
But I don't believe that we're finished with discrimination, and I worry that we'll become more self-congratulatory about it than is healthy. Yesterday represents HUGE progress from a racial perspective; however, it looks at this moment as if Proposition 8 is going to pass in California. And anti-gay ballot measures also passed in Florida, Arizona and Arkansas, supported in large part by people whose lives have been shaped by racial discrimination.

I don't get it.

The same forces that held African-Americans down for centuries are at work on GLBT Americans. The Bible was used to support slavery; "this is how the system works" was the cultural argument espoused by many slaveholders; a prevailing attitude of "their actions have brought them to it" on the part of white people has been used to justify the raging economic and social inequalities of the last 150 or so years since slavery was abolished. And many people who have spent their lives experiencing and opposing these forces voted against marriage and adoption rights for people like me.

I'm not trying to blame one particular group of people for the oppression of mine. It's not fair, and it's counter-productive. Please understand that I truly want to move forward into a new era...one in which Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness are accessible for everyone, without qualification. It just mystifies me that a society that is so excited today about how much better we've become around issues of diversity is still willing to overlook--to enact--blatant discrimination against 10% of its members.

Donna Brazile told CNN this morning that this is a moment in which people chose to throw off the labels that divide us and see ourselves as Americans. I wish I could completely agree with that statement. I think that's true to a greater degree than ever before, but we're not there yet. It's still OK to see GLBT folks as "other."

I don't mean to be a wet blanket on this wonderful day, but I can't completely celebrate yet; even in the face of the blazing hope of an Obama presidency, GLBT folks took four more body blows yesterday. I hope that, now that Americans seem to have recovered most of our collective senses, we can truly all get to work together...that we can make Donna's statement true. That President Obama can help us to remember who we are, and to dream of who we can become. That we can truly live into the idea that faith, hope and love are all-encompassing, and that the greatest of them is love.

For all of us.

Congratulations, America, on embracing as much of this ideal as you can get your arms around today. This is an incredible moment. I have a dream that our minds and our arms can continue to open a little bit wider...that tomorrow we may embrace an even broader American identity than the one we hold today.

Yes, we can.

6 comments:

aka The Swandive said...

Amen.
You have spoken my heart.

cecilia said...

Amen, dear one. You and I know we still have some miles to travel on this. But I do have hope this day.

Pax, C.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

You're not being a wet blanket. You're reminding us that we're still not done. We have more to do to reach that perfect democracy we long for.

Diane said...

well spoken. we're not there yet.

Katherine E. said...

Yes indeed, the day is not completely wonderful. Good reminder, thanks.

Katherine E. said...

Yes indeed. The day was not completely wonderful. Thanks for the reminder...