As I walked the dog this morning, I noticed a number of my neighbors had American flags up. I suspect that in most cases showing the flag was an election day signal that they firmly believed in putting “Country First,” John McCain’s campaign slogan–this corner of Northern Westchester is surprisingly red for being so close to New York City. But I came home from my walk determined to take down the blackand orange Jack O’Lantern flag and put up the old red, white, and blue today for my post-election reasons. It’s impossible–regardless of your political views–not to be moved by what happened yesterday and by the reaction of the world.
“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 democracy, tonight is your answer,” said Obama in his victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago. “It’s been a long time coming…but tonight…change has come to America.”
The media chronicles reaction around the world. From a distance, it looks as if we have changed course, as if we have returned to a narrative of opportunity and possibility after a long desolate stretch when it looked to many as if this country’s sense of its own specialness–of special destiny and mission–had made us blind. From a distance, we have become a country that talks about freedom and justice (Parabola’s latest issue is “Justice”) at home while practicing imperialism, greed, even torture abroad. Now, at least for today, there hope that a movement in another direction has begun.
This is what is so interesting and captivating for a spiritual type like me. In the midst of all the admittedly ephemeral coverage of the meaning of this historical election, there statements about what has marked the president elect as special that are food for thought. The editorial page of The New York Times writes of Obama’s “focus and quiet certainty”…allowing him to sweep away presumptions, to stay calm and alert while his opponents lost their balance, giving in to greed or anger and fear. Reporters around the world create a composite picture of a hope that Obama is truly an everyman, a global one among many, a man who can rise above divisions–and be both extraordinary and humble.
As President elect Obama said in his victory speech, we are at the foot of a mountain. We face huge problems, and we will see how it goes. But for just today along with people all over the world, I feel like something momentous and extraordinary has happened. The media juxtaposed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his famous “I have a Dream” speech–predicting that the day would come when a man would be judged by the contents of his charcter rather than the color of his skin.” That day has come, and bearing witness to those qualities I feel like a treasure that has been a long time buried has been uncovered at last, that qualities that really mark a man or woman special have been tested and they have prevailed.