Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Weight of the World

Two years ago a friend of mine from Illinois said she was rooting for senator by the odd name of Barack Obama to run as president. Curious, inclined towards the Democrats but not satisfied by Hilary Clinton, I took a look at the politician my friend said was "like a rock star". I took one look and I scoffed. I have to apologize to my friend this day - but what happened last night was a miracle. What I said to my friend as I turned away from her candidate was "this America would sooner elect a woman to the White House than a black man with the name of Barack Obama". I'm proud to be completely wrong today. I'm loving eating crow.

Today I have woken up to a world with new hope and possibility, and an America that seems to finally be a little more united regardless of race. I have renewed confidence that the rest of the world will not bomb us into oblivion for our arrogance and hypocrisy. I have renewed faith in the democratic process - can I tell you that last night I dared not rejoice when other Democrats did for fear our election would be once again stolen away? I had to actually see the concession speech of John McCain before I would believe; a speech, by the way, that was intelligent and graceful.

And I'm not alone in my hope. But consider carefully just what a terrific burden in on the shoulders of President Elect Barack Obama? It's not only that he's inherited the biggest mess of any president, but he has the weight of the hopes and expectations of African Americans, America, and the rest of the world. He has many coats to put on and many faces he must wear and all the time sitting on the biggest rocket in the world. From the New York Times online this morning:

Francis Nyamnjoh, a Cameroonian novelist and social scientist, said he saw Mr. Obama less as a black man than "as a successful negotiator of identity margins."
His ability to inhabit so many categories mirrors the African experience. Mr. Nyamnjoh said that for America to choose as its citizen in chief such a skillful straddler of global identities could not help but transform the nation's image, making it once again the screen upon which the hopes and ambitions of the world are projected.

And from Germany:

"We have so many hopes and wishes that he will never be able to fulfill them," said Susanne Grieshaber, 40, an art adviser in Berlin who was one of 200,000 Germans to attend a speech by Mr. Obama there in July. She cited action to protect the environment, reducing the use of force and helping the less fortunate. In essence, she wants Mr. Obama to make his country more like hers. But she is sober. "I'm preparing myself for the fact that peace and happiness are not going to suddenly break out," she said.

Only time will tell what kind of president Obama will make, but the very fact of his election stirs the imagination. I can't even imagine what feelings must move in the hearts of African Americans today, but it must be something huge and overwhelming. As a liberal who wishes to be proud of my country, today I am proud. Listening to Obama speak last night I heard a man who was collected in the midst of chaos, gracious, intelligent, and inclusive. He seemed presidential.


1 comment:

Skyclad said...

To wake up with hope for the possible... that is life worth living.