Sunday, November 16, 2008

Yes We Can (We Shall, We Did)

From the journal:

Wow. I wrote that last on on election day. It's from a song we made up in 4th grade- I had it stuck in my head. A lot has changed since I wrote that. I have a black president for at least the next four years. Democrats increased majorities in both houses. It is again illegal for any two people who love each other to get married in my state. Construction will soon begin on a bullet train linking the major cities of my life: San Francisco and Los Angeles.
So, lots of change.
Election night. Huddled around Fornoffs shortwave radio after dinner, wondering how best to run an environment camp while hearing everything we want to hear. We decide to sleep early, and then wake up at 2:00 and meet down at the soccer pitch.
Picture it: Dan, Fornoff, Emily, Rob, and after a while Amalia and Gracie. We are laying on our backs in a line under the stars, switching back and forth between BBC and Voice of America. We've got one sleeping mat underneath us, an open sleeping bag laying across all of us, and shooting stars, many of them that evening, racing through the sky. Two of them were so bright that they left a visible trail for a few seconds. I spat on the ground after seeing the first one, a Tumbuka custom I just learned, to ward off hexes.
I had made a large map of the United States on some flipchart paper. I brought blue and red pencils and colored in each state as the numbers rolled in.
We would chat, point out constellations and freeze as soon as an important announcement came on. State by state we colored in the future- northeast states going blue by blue, with Kentucky the first aknowledged thorn in our side. Pennsylvania was an important moment, but I was banking on it anyways. Mom, Taylor, Katie all texting me, Sivan trying to call but not getting through.
The point where the reality of history dovetailed with my dreams was when Ohio rolled in. They announced the delegate count to that point. It was in the low 200s. With California's 50-something, plus Oregon, Washington and Hawaii- well, I felt a knot in my stomach leave forever. I had been holding that knot for a long, long time.
The sun was rising over the Kandoli mountains, gorgeous and orange and striped and crimson. What a perfect start to a new begining. I got choked up. We all hugged each other.
Waiting for breakfast I had nothing to do, so I started washing some clothes while listening to the radio. McCain's speech came on- I listened, rapt. It was really happening, outside my head.
Waiting just outside the kitchen door a little later, Barack Obama came on to give his acceptance speech.
My words will fail me in my attempt to convey my feelings as I listened to him. In his first speech as a national leader, he asserted the legitimacy of everyone in American society, very unneccesarily. I teared up, not for the last time.
When he talked about people huddled around shortwave radios in the forgotten places of the world, I got goosebumps. He was talking to us, and especially the dozen or so campers huddled around us. I wanted to point at them and tell them that the future President of the United States was adressing THEM, live at this very moment, on the other side of the planet in a big party in a park. But I didn't- I didn't want to miss the speech.
And then with the look back at history that somehow didn't sound cheesy, the 106 year old black woman who voted for him, the Yes We Can.
Oh, God. It was so beautiful. That moment, when I felt my pride sweep in from some unknown place.
There was a time when I thought that I would almost rather have McCain win. Then I could rest easily in my cynicism and comfortably reside in Californian provincialism.
But this feeling- oh my God- it is so much better than that.

1 comment:

mom said...

Yes We Can- I Knew We Could!!!!!