Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Day After

Not unlike the plot of the post-nuclear war movie, yesterday saw an attack on Republicanism of mammoth proportions that swept over the country from coast to coast and laid waste to an electoral map that was all but set in stone in the two previous Presidential elections. It came out of the cool Autumn sky and thundered down around those who had for eight years thought themselves immune to the vagaries of American politics, upsetting apple carts and devastating bastions of conservatism. By the wee hours of the next morning, all that remained was rubble, shattered dreams, dashed hopes, and a leader capitulating from his desert stronghold.

So, what now?

The leader of the attack, the man who promised change, and brought it last night, said it best:

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

It is not enough that Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, for that does not automatically absolve us of the sins of slavery, bigotry, and Jim Crow. It is not enough that he cut across party lines and forced states long thought to be Republican fortresses to yield to the force of his convictions. It is not enough that he is strong, forbearing, patient, and magnanimous. For what was done yesterday was not the start of something new, but the unleashing of something inevitable, the release of the titanic forces of pent up frustration and desire that had been written into the Declaration of Independence with the following statement:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

That simple statement, which launched this great nation, reverberated and echoed in every vote cast on November 4th, 2008. The governed, having determined that it was time for a change, brought about that change, and in this case, the ballot was mightier than the sword, for no shots needed to be fired to bring about this new revolution.

And still, it is not enough.

For having secured this victory, this statement that we can and will fix things, we must now accomplish change. And we cannot do it as fragments, pools of Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, black, white, Hispanic, Jew, agnostic, et. al. -- we must do it as one. As President-Elect Obama so eloquently put it:

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

And so now, the true task of change begins. Our support for Obama must spread forth, to encompass all those around us, of every race, every station, every persuasion. We must lean down, look those who lost in the eye, reach out a hand, and ask them to come with us and help us. If they refuse, so be it, but we must extend the olive branch. We must mend fences. We must stand shoulder to shoulder, if change is what we truly seek. There is no reason why all of us cannot benefit from what is to come, from the Wall Street investor able to make all the money they want, to the victim of foreclosure being put back on their feet and given an opportunity to start over. From the illegal immigrant given an opportunity to make a living here as a legal resident, to the abortion foe who can be secure in the knowledge that fewer unwanted babies are being born. No matter what part of life in America we come from, there is no reason that we cannot all have the peace, prosperity, and happiness that our Constitution provides us.

It will require hard work. It will require vigilance. It will require lowering our mutual suspicion and hostility. It will mean admitting we are wrong, that we have made mistakes, that we have misjudged each other. It will mean being a bigger person than some, and tolerating outright hostility.

It will not be easy.

From this moment forward, we pay for this election with a commitment to ensuring that we participate fully in the great experiment that is Democracy, whether it is voting in every election, writing our Congressmen, asking hard questions of our President, or simply giving what we can to others who are in need. The cost of this victory is high, but the reward is higher, as long as we do not stop, do not take a rest, do not stand on our laurels. Celebrate now, and embrace this truly historic moment... then realize that tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and every day thereafter will require even more work, time, and sacrifice. Do not stop paying. Do not stop participating. Do not let the winds of change fall still.

1 comment:

  1. That was beautiful! I have nothing to add - but a lot to think about. We'll make the world better for everyone whether they like it or not. :)