After canvassing, after checking the polling places on Election Day, after haranguing everyone on Facebook, after sporting bumperstickers and buttons for months, after sending monthly donations to the campaign, after all of this work, my partner and I celebrated the news of Obama’s stunning victory by driving back to the county field office. We weren’t in Grant Park, Chicago–not even Grant Park, Atlanta–but that little storefront campaign office on Mt. Zion Boulevard in the gray area between Clayton and Henry Counties was a microcosm of what was happening all over the world at that moment.
People hugged, cried, cheered, laughed, and even preached after everyone joined hands and sang “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing.” One woman was so overcome with emotion that she’d weep and weep, either alone or in another campaign worker’s arms, then watch the speech, then weep some more. Another woman offered a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving, finally dissolving into a torrent of speaking in tongues that continued even as people began leaving the office. A little girl ran importantly around the office, making mini-campaign signs on Post-It notes. (For her hard work, she went home with my new Obama 08 baseball cap.) People snatched me up and gave the best biggest bear hugs, and I did the same.
And people thanked me. This was odd. I have been so busy, taking an overload schedule of doctoral coursework, teaching classes, and moving into a new house, that I feel my efforts have been minuscule. Other folks spent many more hours, knocked on many more doors, and gave much more money. Why thank me? I didn’t have to wait 500 years to see someone who “looks like me” in the White House.
But I realized that every little dent that each of us was able to put into this psychic Berlin Wall had the cumulative effect of knocking it down. And when the wall came down, it was heard around the world.
Now, the real work comes. Yes, I have tens of thousands of dollars in student loans hanging over my head–at a crippling $600+ per month once I graduate and the grace period expires. I still have no idea whether I will find gainful employment in my field, despite earning two specialized degrees and working on a third. I don’t have any idea whether I will lose my house if the economy continues its agonizing St. Vitus dance, or whether I will be able to afford my monthly prescriptions (and the expensive doctor’s visits that go with them) anytime soon.I don’t know when my hometown of New Orleans and my beloved Gulf Coast–from Galveston to FloraBama–will be made whole again. I don’t know when our military will stop killing civilians in my name in order to prop up private petrodollars, or when my partner’s family in Cuba and Miami will be able to visit each other freely again. I don’t know whether the fear I see in the eyes of some small-town white Southerners will give way to hate or to hope.
Hope. Hope that these things are about to happen. Act. Act with the grace and generosity that President-elect Obama has shown throughout this campaign. Dream. Dream that it’s OK to dream again, and to make these dreams real, one step at a time.
Let us be patient with each other as this nation’s greatest moment comes into being. Let us act with honor, remembering those who gave their very lives for this moment. Let us–all of us, the syncretic lesbian intellectual immigrants, the Bible-believing descendants of African slaves, and the stunned Confederate revisionists–become the Beloved Community.
The world is watching us.