Monday, November 3, 2008

"That One" Makes History and There's No Going Back

My stomach is in knots, my heart is like a stone in my chest, and I don't know if I can handle one more truly fascinated Irish compatriot asking me for my opinion about what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm torn between trolling the internet for every bit of election news I can get vs. not wanting to think about tomorrow night at all for fear that I might feel just a bit too much optimism and so totally jinx the whole thing!

Similarly, I'm alternately proud and saddened about what this election means for me personally and as a (Jamaican) American. The fact is it took me years to make the decision to relinquish my Jamaican citizenship for the U.S. one. Not because I ever planned to move back permanently, but because (as you might have guessed by now) being Jamaican is part of the core of my identity and the passport symbolized that. On the other hand, having spent all of the last 30 years but one in the States, I've also been quite americanized and am completely emotionally invested in what's going on at home.

This will be the very first presidential election I'll have had the opportunity to vote in since becoming a naturalized citizen 3 years ago, and what a way to lose my electoral virginity! I'm bursting with pride that America has come to the point of actually almost electing a partially black man to be President of the United States [wow, I get shivers just writing that!] and that I had the chance to be a part of that history. But, I'm also terrified that it all sounds too good to be true. That my hopes will be dashed (or stolen) again. Mostly, that it means so much and my history isn't great for these kind of things working out.

Of course the latter statement makes it sound like I think I actually have the power to personally jinx this. Sadly, I don't think I'm the only one with the same unwarranted superstition - I'm sure a lot of other Democrats feel the same way - so I'm imagining huge swathes of the population in the country right now all repeating the mantra "Don't wish too hard. Don't get too excited. Don't expect too much!"

In the end though, no matter what happens tomorrow, we will all survive. Republicans, Democrats, and Independents alike. The world won't really come to an end, though I know several friends who've threatened (jokingly and not so jokingly) to use their passport and join me in expat-life if we have to face another 8 years of the same old, same old. We'll go back to living as neighbors again, no matter whether we're living in Red or Blue (or yellow-striped) country. We'll work together, socialize with each other, go to the same church, love each other, and fall asleep in the same bed together just like before all this started. The yard signs will come down and hopefully all the nasty Facebook flair will disappear, as will most of the rumors about who's secretly a terroristic, socialist-loving muslim. The Us vs. Them mentality will diminish a bit and we'll go back to being individuals again who can admit that our loved ones on The Other Side are actually relatively intelligent, thoughtful people who don't really want to destroy everything we believe in.

America and its politics will start to feel somewhat normal again. But, no one will ever be able to take away the fact that American politics has passed a major milestone, one I never seriously considered I would see in my lifetime. A woman yes. A "black" man? We've come a long way, baby, all of us. And there's nothing anyone can do to make us go back!

Note: Sadly, a piece of Obama's own personal history was lost today when his grandmother died of cancer. My condolences on his loss. But I loved the CNN commentator's quote from Psalm 30:5 - "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." That's something we can all pray for.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am sure when you reread this article you sent out, your night will be indeed be turned to day.. HAPPY OBAMA DAY!!! signed mom

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

Well? Did you survive the excitement? Starting to worry that you may have exploded.

I still feel that Obama is way too slimey and glib, unfortunately, but must necessarily rejoice that he prevailed in the face of the alternative - namely John McCain and, more precisely, Sarah Palin. A happy day, then, by default. (This, for me, is very high praise, so don't be getting mad, okay?)

Only good things to you, Sirmelja.

Kind regards etc....

TPE

Sirmelja said...

Happy O.D. to you too, mom!

TPE - No, I haven't exploded. I'm actually still trying to mentally process my way out of my dumbfoundedness.

BTW, I never get mad with (deluded) friends about politics, I just get even by being extraordinarily gracious in triumph (no "nyah, nyah, nyahs" out loud) and praying lovingly for you to one day be able to wrench your head out of your nether regions :-)

THE PERIODIC ENGLISHMAN said...

Ha! I've been praying for just such a thing for years, Sirmelja, and yet still find my head firmly stuck.

If it helps, however, then you may be pleased to hear that I voted for Barack Obama on the "If The World Could Vote" website. It felt like an agony to do so, right enough, but his forward-looking vision (even if it is entirely based on fantasy and horribly fuzzy wishful-thinking) is significantly more appealing than the nervous backwards glances of a McCain/Palin travesty (based almost entirely on grubby self-interest).

I also stayed up most of the night to (silently and reluctantly) cheer him on. I didn't want to wake up to any nasty surprises in the morning (thinking of Florida 2000 here), that's for sure.

I'm hoping against hope that he's a catalyst for meaningful change and yet know from the painful lessons of Tony Blair not to pay the slightest heed to his windy, pointless, exasperatingly vague rhetoric. He's done the pretty stuff, now it's all about actions. (I'm thinking Proposition 8 would be a fine and symbolic place for him to cut his radical teeth and prove that minority rights matter - we'll see.)

It's nice to live through a happy history, however, whatever the fears and doubts.

Deludedly yours, (very secretly, imperceptibly) happy,

TPE