Wednesday, November 5, 2008

While we breathe, we hope.


Four years ago this day, I walked around BYU campus feeling utterly alone in my misery. The country had spoken and it had spoken in a manner I believed to be wholly incomprehensible. It requested four more years of the Bush administration. This would have been slightly more understandable if I hadn't sat through a "debate" in my American heritage class that featured comment after comment such as "let's face it, Kerry's just not cute enough to be president." And Bush looks like a monkey, I thought to myself. I didn't understand. I still don't.

After the Patriot Act, I didn't think things could get much worse for the nation in terms of the damage done by the Bush administration, but hey, they haven't ceased to amaze me. Regardless, I blog today about something more remarkable: the outcome of the most important presidential election of this generation.

A week ago I went running sporting a "Don't blame me, I voted for Nader" shirt, partially to get a rise out of campus when I jogged through during a class break. I couldn't help but wonder if I would want to wear it again today. A friend of mine remarked that election day was like Christmas: you go to bed and wonder if you're going to wake up to candy or coal.

Four years ago I went to bed when Kerry was projected to win, and woke up to a slap in the face. I approached this election with more caution, no sleep. Watching the results roll in with the BYU democrats club was exciting, to say the least. I am amazed at how successful the Obama campaign was at reducing apathy and inspiring college students. I'll never forget the moment that I saw "Obama projected to win presidential election" first display on the screen - the room erupted into cheers and tears. "No more Bush!" they chanted, and then "Yes we can!" and then "We did it!" and then simply "O-ba-ma!"

I rallied some politically aligned friends with my roommate last night after the acceptance speech and we went out for milkshakes to celebrate. "Happy Obama!" was our parting cry. This morning I felt like a living celebration. I had celebratory 10-grain cereal. My celebratory high-knee steps in aerobic dance were extra high; my fist pumps had meaning behind them beyond toned triceps. Although some Utahans were rallying friends to dress for mourning, I felt like God decided to weigh in by sending celebratory crystalline white confetti all over campus, and then bringing in the sun to further lighten the mood. I ate a celebratory bagel sandwich in my celebratory sweatpants before going home to have a celebratory shower. I feel like a new woman. "Have a great day," the cashier said. "Oh, I'll have a great next four years!" I replied with a grin.

The words of Obama's acceptance speech will forever echo in my mind. Try as I may, I can't do this event justice. We have a black president and, for the first time in my adult life, a president that I agree with my friend "is actually presidential." My feelings echo what was said:
"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 our democracy... tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen, by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different, that their voices could be that difference.

It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled. Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states.

We are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day."

This is perhaps the first time in my life that I have actually felt proud to be American. As I bit into a celebratory apple this morning, I found it was mealy and hoped that this moment's elation wouldn't follow suit and be flattened by a letdown in performance during the next four years. I appreciated Obama's comments about hard work and sacrifice for change that may take more than a few months, years, or even a term to come about. For the moment, at least, I believe the best. I, too, "have never felt more hopeful" and I, too, can finally echo a feeling that I lost four years ago:

While we breathe, we hope.

8 comments:

ashmae said...

i'm glad you posted this.

Morgan said...

i have felt the same way today, despite the crap in my life, i can't stop smiling. nothing can make me stop.

Tres Jolie Julie said...

"Oh, I'll have a great next four years!" I read, between hanging up celebratory laundry on celebratory clothespins in my celebratory PJs and ponytail.

Jeff said...

Charla--I was celebrating too, but then I got an email from my right-wing religious conservative family that exposed the truth: Obama is the ANTI-CHRIST! Do you know what this means!?! AH....ok, don't panic, don't panic! Plans are already underway to secede Utah Valley from the Union, so we should be ok as long as we stay in Zion...

lia said...

charla, this is a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful entry. yes yes yes yes yes! WE CAN!

Sommer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Caitlin said...

It feels so good that I have a president I can faith in and love.

Thirdmango said...

I accidentally got into politics during the Clinton administration and found only hate from everyone around me for supporting him so I alienated myself from politics for a good 5 or 6 years. Once I got back into politics I was in the Bush administration, so now I don't know how this will work, all I know is right now, I'm happy as can be.