On the night of the election, I heard people screaming and chanting in the streets outside of my apartment in Chelsea.
“O-bam-a! o-bam-a!” came the cries.
At a bar across the street, people booed as John McCain gave his concession speech, and people cried at Obama’s acceptance. It was a beautiful thing – that feeling of pride that swelled inside so many people when he was elected. Suddenly it didn’t feel like there were 2 separate and alien Americas, and I wasn’t left with that alienated feeling that encompassed me when somehow the country opted for George W. over the democratic candidates. Maybe this is how the republicans have felt for the past 8 years – affirmed. To me the election was an affirmation of all that I love about the country, about our government, and about the ideals that Americans hold. I teach social studies, and try to excite kids about the brilliance of our founding fathers – creating 3 branches of government rather than one. The bill of rights, the constitution – they all laugh about how excited I get when I tell them about it. And yet it felt like something of a lie.
I talked about the balance of powers, and in the back of my mind I would be counting the instances during the last eight years when the executive branch has chipped away at the other branches. Talking about the president’s ability to sign and veto laws, I pictured the many signing statements that accompanied Bush’s endorsement of a law. I didn’t expect to feel hopeful or excited in any real way, in part because I was bracing myself for another loss and in part because I couldn’t imagine that anything could really change. But listening to Obama speak, it was as though we had a community organizer rather than a president – and I was filled with hope at the realization that a community organizer is just what this country needed. Barack Obama started as a community organizer, and I hope that that part of him doesn’t disappear. As Americans it is time that we, my generation especially, who does indeed consider activism to take the shape of the creation of a facebook group, take ownership over the country. Obama seemed content to acknowledge that the job has just begun, and that it was work that would require all of use to play a role in. Repairing our country is not something that can be done from the top down – and for all of the talk about democracy being a government of the people by the people, it seems like we the people have taken a back seat in the past couple of years. After 8 years of disillusionment, disappointment, and becoming a more cynical, jaded country than we used to be – we don’t need someone to give us directions. We need someone who will empower us, and make us stop threatening to move to Canada if it didn’t go our way.
It’s a blue government, with a democratic majority in the Senate and the House in addition to our new blue White House . In two years, anything that has been going wrong will be easily pinned to the Dems, and that majority may slip. It’s not sad – it’s the inevitable cycle – the regulation that was built into our constitution. It’s why, after 8 long red years, it is possible to feel so much hope. But for today – everything seems to be as it should be.