Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Random Thoughts for Today

I've been thinking all day of how to put my thoughts into words. I considered not blogging on the historic election results of last night at all, and just letting the result stand for itself. I've thought of describing my feelings, but I'm at a loss for words (for all of you who know my long, wordy, rambling style all too well, I understand your shock at this time). But since a blog is verbal, I shall do my best. The only way to really do it is various sketches of how I feel. This post will just be random thoughts, and probably won't have any cohesiveness, so be forewarned.

I wept last night when CNN called the election. I had a grin on my face and my hands over my mouth and my eyes welled up with tears as I saw the joyous faces of the American people in bars, churches, parks, streets and stadiums. Something glorious had happened. It wasn't just a Democrat coming back into office after such a long, long, long drought of George W. Bush. It wasn't just the fact that he is immensely intelligent and informed and seems to be all the things Bush isn't. It wasn't just the fact that the country will now go in a new, hopeful, wonderful direction. It wasn't just the end of the "shoot first, ask questions later" mentality that has dominated the last 8 years. It wasn't just that the man who could do all these things and bring all this change is black. It was all those things... and the fact that the American people voted him in. They voted for the black man. They voted for an intelligent man who could bring change. His win had nothing to do with his family connections, or how much money he had, or any sort of bartering. It was just good, old-fashioned, best man winning.

I walked to work this morning with the sun shining, and it was 18 degrees outside! In Toronto! In November! (For those who don't read Celsius, that's about 65 degrees, which is unseasonably warm for Toronto at this time of year; our weather is very close to that of New York City.) It was as if Mother Nature had decided, "Hey, I want in on this, too!" I walked up the quiet street where I park my car behind my office, which is just far enough away from the busy street where my office is located that you can walk in peace for a few minutes before entering the busy building. The leaves were falling from the trees. I reached up and caught one. I could swear I could hear Louis Armstrong singing, "What a Wonderful World," and then realized it was in my head. And then I realized: I'm in a freakin' movie. A cheeseball movie where the impossible happens and it had a crazy happy ending and the sky turns blue and the sun shines through the clouds and everyone is smiling. I'm in a Gene Kelly movie. No, wait, a Disney movie. I half-expected a little cartoon bird to flutter down and land on my shoulder.

Honestly, I've never felt like this for as long as I can remember. I'm sure I felt pure, unadulterated joy as a child many times, but this morning, it was different. It was like racism had been obliterated. (I know it hasn't -- not even close -- but for one brief, shining moment, it had been.) It was like the world was a good, wholesome, happy place. I felt like I could say to my children, "The world is fair. Good things come to good people. You can do or be whatever you want to be." and not be lying. IMAGINE.

I wished Martin Luther King Jr. could have witnessed today. Or Rosa Parks. Or John Lennon. Or Barack Obama's grandmother.

I'm a big fan of Dave Chappelle, and he did a brilliant stand-up film for HBO a few years ago; it was probably 1999 or 2000. In it, he does a bit where he talks about how a black man will never become president. The bit goes on for a while, giving all the reasons, and it's very funny. Yet now, only a few short years later, that joke seems so old and dated, like it's a scene from Mad Men.

I watched the speeches this morning on CNN. I thought John McCain's was eloquent, wonderful, and beautiful. I was discussing it with my brother and with my dear friend K. and we all agreed that this was the John McCain who had entered the election. This was the man about whom I'd said, "Hey, I'd be happy if the Republican won this time, because the man is pretty awesome."

A century ago, President Theodore Roosevelt's invitation of Booker T. Washington to visit -- to dine at the White House was taken as an outrage in many quarters. America today is a world away from the cruel and prideful bigotry of that time. There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African American to the presidency of the United States. Let there be no reason now -- (cheers, applause) -- let there be no reason now for any American to fail to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest nation on Earth. (Cheers, applause.)

Senator Obama has achieved a great thing for himself and for his country. I applaud him for it, and offer in my sincere sympathy that his beloved grandmother did not live to see this day, though our faith assures us she is at rest in the presence of her creator and so very proud of the good man she helped raise.

I think if he'd chosen a different running mate, his campaign wouldn't have devolved into the circus that it did. McCain deserved better than that. You can go back through my posts, and you'll see I never mocked McCain. It was that running mate of his that was the joke. And, by extension, his major flaw was that he'd chosen her. The thought that she actually thinks she could run in 2012 is shocking to me. As my brother said, let her have her own talk show. Now THAT she could probably do well at, and I mean it.

And then Obama took the stage. I felt a wave of joy wash over me as they showed that audience, and the looks on their faces. It really, truly felt like a new day had arrived. And his speech, delivered in his trademark way, was perfect:

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that's on my mind tonight's about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs, a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that "We Shall Overcome." Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination.

And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.

Yes we can.

Obama has the weight of the world on his shoulders right now. Millions of people are looking at him with their faces turned upwards, eyes wide and hopeful, hoping he will carry them to the Promised Land. That's a big task for anyone. He'll soon have to follow through on some of the promises he has made. But for now, let's just bask in this. I'm basking in the fact that I have two children, ages 1 and 4, and they will never remember a time when a black man was NOT president. Imagine! That fact alone has put a spring in my step all day.

And now I'll share with you a story I've told everyone who will listen today. My daughter, who is 4, watched the speeches with me this morning (I had them on my PVR). I wanted her to know how important and amazing this was, and I tried to explain it to her. She didn't understand what he had won, exactly, and asked me if it was a race, and I said yes, you could call it that. I told her this man was very important. She asked why. I said because only a few years ago, silly people believed you shouldn't be able to choose your leader if you had dark skin. And now, a man with dark skin had BECOME that leader. Isn't that amazing? I asked her. She said yes, and even though she didn't quite get how momentous this was, she could tell it was important by the look on my face (usually she's begging for Little Einsteins in the morning, but she seemed very interested in what I was watching instead). But this was my favourite part of the exchange:

Her: Why are all those people cheering for him?
Me: Because he is going to bring change for all of them, and it’s change they all need.
Her: Why don’t they have any money?
Me: [???] They have money, hon.... what do you mean?
Her: Well, if they have money, then why is he going to give all his change to them?

Out of the mouths of babes. :)

I disabled the comments on my last two posts, just because I didn't want any Anonymouses coming on and trampling on these happy times. Thank you to everyone who took the time to actually email me with positive, nice emails. I'm going to leave the comments open on this one because I would love for you to share with me your thoughts on this day. I hope the negative people will just keep away on this one.

Again, thank you America. The world is applauding you today.

Thanks for listening.


Michelle said...

I cried during McCain's speech. Then I cried during Obama's.

I hope the world will look more positively upon us these next few years.

Emilia said...

I'm glad to hear you're sharing this happy day with your daughter; I hope she remembers it as she grows up!

Jim Wood said...

I voted for John McCain, yet I still understand the significance of this election. However, it will be a much better day in America when a black man, or woman, is elected president and it is not such a big deal.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that you're happy, Nikki. By that I mean, Obama has never really thrilled me as he has you. I would have voted for McCain if I were American (yes, Nikki, I do vote in important elections in which big issues are at stake). That said, I wish the man well and hope his presidency is more successful than Bush's.

Anonymous said...

I didn't cry when the decision was called but I did feel like America had done an amazing thing. I have big hopes that Obama can actually make some of his own dreams happen and improve how some people now percieve the States to be: a big bully! As you talked about in one of your previous posts, we Canadians are affected by everything that happens in the US, but we don't want that "big bully"....we want to know that we have a neighbour that will help us and the rest of the world, a neighbour who will stand up to the terrorists and injustices in the world when the need arises but not just plow through everyone because they feel they are the best.

I particularly enjoyed reading the story about the exchange with your daughter. She may only be 4 and not understand what exactly is happening but the reason she was so interested is because you were interested. Those little minds have such an ability to understand what others are feeling and they do indeed know deep inside what is important and what is not. I have had similar "deep" conversations with Hayley, who is 5, and am constantly amazed at her observations.

I am one of many Canadians who are celebrating this US Election result along with you. I am also glad that you disabled the comments in your previous posts. They stood alone and did not need to be picked apart and insulted by those posters who come on YOUR blog and tell you what you can and cannot talk about.

Excellent posts, Nikki...keep it up.

The Chapati Kid said...

I hear you Nikki!
Your leaf-catcher-in-crime.

yourblindspot said...

As an American Democrat who resides in a state that will presumably always remain stubbornly red on the electoral map, I cannot say that there weren't those who attempted to dampen my spirits yesterday. I can say, however, that they were entirely unsuccessful.

Step one, check. Now to step two.

Nikki Stafford said...

michelle: We already do. :)

Emilia: I do, too!

original blawger: Thank you so much for your comment. I was so happy that you came on here and said you voted for McCain; I was hoping I'd have a Republican come on and be as eloquent as you are about the outcome. And I agree; this is the first step, and I cannot wait for the day when my child (or grandchild) says, "Were you alive in the time when they'd never had an African-American president before?" :)

jj: I'm happy that you're happy that I'm happy. LOL!

Michele and CK: Thank you for your comments. xo

Joshua: Sorry to hear someone attempted to trample on your good day (I did have one person try to bring it down a bit, but I just didn't mention it my post). And I'm SO glad they didn't succeed!

By the way, the sun is shining here again and it's STILL warm! My happiness continues. :)

Austin Gorton said...

My wife and I gathered at a friend's house to watch the election results. We watched McCain's speech and the entire group of Obama-voters thought it was superb, and agreed that if the McCain who spoke that night had been the McCain who showed up at the campaign, maybe the outcome would have been different.

We drove home, and my wife commented on how she's proud to be an American again, that hopefully this means America can renew some of the international goodwill squandered by cowboy diplomacy the last eight years.

I told her that regardless of what happens in the next four years, no matter how successful Obama is or isn't in it setting things right and keeping his promises, we are witnessing history, and we will tell our children about this day.

We got home and watched Obama's speech. My wife told me she got chills and I told her that's what a good speaker should do. We agreed that for the first time in eight years we were excited to hear a Presidential inaugural and State of the Union addresses, to hear a Presidential speech devoid of malapropisms and folksy slang and halting teleprompter phrasing.

When Obama recalled Lincoln and the Gettysburg address, I even teared up a little.

No matter what happens in the next four years, good or bad, it was definitely a night to remember.

Anonymous said...

Just to voice my two cents here, but I'm going to call foul on this meme that "if McCain had handled his campaign the way he handled his concession speech, things would have been different." McCain spent a third of his speech praising the inspirational rise of African-Americans from second-class citizenship over the course of his lifetime (McCain was nineteen during the Montgomery bus boycott), and Barack Obama's rise in particular. Most of the rest was the usual reach-across-the-aisle stuff. If McCain had "fought" like that in the election, he'd have been creamed!

The Chapati Kid said...

We're not talking about the content of his speech, jj. We're talking about the eloquence and dignity with which he spoke. McCain was always thought to be a centrist Republican, but the campaign was bigger than him. The biggest flaw in his campaign was that he didn't have a single clear message, so he was running scattershot. When we say we believe the election might have turned out differently, we mean that there would have been no invective from the Republicans, there would have been wiser choices made for a running mate, and way less dirty campaigning. None of this would have happened if McCain hadn't got lost in the mire of politicking. That's all we're saying. He wasn't strong enough to speak over his advisors. There's media reports (actually a great one in Newsweek that will be fully released in the coming days, of insider observer reports of the back room politics in both camps - snippets are available on their site now) that show McCain to have resisted wanting to use the Ayers angle - until Palin went ahead and talked about it without his approval, how deeply hurt he was when Lewis said his campaign was racially segregating (he had taken his kids to meet Lewis because he admired him so much), and much much more, that show McCain to be a good man who mishandled situations, was badly advised by his camp, and was kept in the dark about a lot of things while he was on the road.

There's a wonderful article in the Economist today that speaks with deep admiration for McCain, and explains exactly why he lost, considering he was such a popular candidate 21 months ago when it all began.

Austin Gorton said...

Yeah, I think my group of friends all liked McCain's speech at the very least because we were relieved he didn't take a page from his running mate's book and incite the crowd against Obama.

Anonymous said...

I am not a huge McCain backer or anything, but I thought his speech was the definition of classy. That being said, I find it odd that two sides in an election can spend months tearing the other apart and pleading with people to, to steal from Keith Olberman "save the democracy" by voting for their side. Then, as soon as it is over, they all unite behind the winner and urge their supporters to come together for the good of America. It all sounds very nice and idyllic, but if everything that one side says about the other is true (in any election) how can they possibly throw their support to that side when all is said and done? While it certainly is a better system than many countries have, there are a lot of flaws with the American system of electing a president. But I doubt anyone here wants to get into that now.

One other thought. I disagree that Obama is the right choice for America, but again, I doubt you want to get into an argument about it. I did hear a particularly good analogy from Mike Tirico. He said, and pardon my paraphrase, that essentially America, by voting for Obama, has clicked "restart" on their computer. They have opted for "change" and for a clean start. But, and I don't know Mike Tirico's political views, he cautioned that sometimes when you restart a computer, things don't come back as you want them. Change is not always good, and while you have your reasons for celebrating Obama's victory, just keep in mind that this "restart" may not necessarily be good for America.

That said, I again don't want to start a big argument here, so I will leave my comments at that. Oh, and don't go catching leaves from trees. Who knows what bug has just peed on it.

humanebean said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
humanebean said...

I have to begin by saying: "Wow. In my lifetime. Wow."

I watched the results come in last night with hope and confidence ... and rising tension. When it became clear that the pivotal states would flip from red to blue in this seemingly endless election year, I felt myself literally swell with ... emotion, pride ... and incredulity.

I grew up a white man in a largely white world (my slice of it, that is). I remember meeting a boy at summer camp and exchanging information so that we could stay in touch when we got home. We spoke by phone and I got my Mom to drive me to his house, over on the other side of town. I don't remember staying long and when we got back home, my Mom told me that she didn't want me to have friends that lived in "that part of town". I was mad, because I understood immediately that it was because he was black.

And this was in Massachusetts. In the 1970's. Forced busing to integrate the schools was the law of the land and people in South Boston were rioting and screaming on the news. I never thought of my Mom as a racist. She didn't 'hate' people. She was just like 90% of the other people that I knew. The races were .... different. And, that mattered. A lot.

Today, after staying up late to watch the speeches and finally getting to sleep while trying to understand all that had happened in just 24 hours, I woke up in a different world. All day long I've been searching my mind and heart, feeling my way around the edges of this unusual sensation. I'm sure that some of this will fade with time, once we get back to the business side of presidential politics. Obama has huge challenges ahead and the best minds of our generation are struggling to figure out how we can begin to solve them.

But. The fractious and stratified people of my nation went to the polls yesterday and elected an African-American man President of the United States. That people are still divided by race and politics, class divisions and fear was made clear by the narrowness of the popular vote, and by the booing and catcalls that greeted Obama's name in McCain's concession speech. Already the scramble has begun to convince people that the main reason Obama was elected is that George W. Bush and the dreadful economy whipped up a perfect storm for the Republican party. "There are none so blind as those that will not see."

An intelligent, thoughtful, decent and caring man was elected President. And, if the carefully parsed details of the exit polling are to be believed, not BECAUSE he was black, but because enough people believed that the color of his skin was not the most important criterion for choosing the next leader of the United States. As Martin Luther King, Jr. foresaw .. a day may finally have dawned when a man can be judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his character.

And it happened here. In my country. In my lifetime.


The Chapati Kid said...

Humanebean, that made me teary-eyed.

Nikki, why isn't Kristin commenting anymore, I wonder?