November 6th, 2008


Some personal reflection

My father has been answering his work phone, "Obama Nation, how may we change you?"

Yes, I may be the last to this, but I like to sit and consider my thoughts before I write them all out.

I had a miserable day today. I'm sick, and what started as a sore throat has spread to my chest, which is typical for me-- ever since 9/11, the slightest sniffle makes me asthmatic. I left my phone at home last night when I went to cacophonesque's house, and then, today, on my way home, I realized I didn't have my keys. Blocks from my apartment, I pulled out my laptop and got enough of a wireless signal to ask Destiny if I had left them with her. No! So I went to every store I had visited the night before. No!

I had to call a locksmith. Three hours in the rain did not help my cold. I've got a doctor's appointment for tomorrow, though, so that will maybe get it all cleared. I hope.

So I cried several times today. I'm not sure how many of them were because of the frustration I was feeling, and how many were because of the immense gravity of what happened in this country last night.

Everyone here knows that I've been volunteering for Barack Obama for pretty much as long as I've been able to. And I've volunteered in many, many political campaigns in the past, but this is the first time where I felt like my presence, my part in the campaign really mattered, on some level, even before his victory was announced.

I was watching Comedy Central. No one was expecting the returns to come in that early. I wasn't. I thought it was part of the skit when Jon Stewart announced it. In some ways, it's kind of fitting that I heard this incredibly heart-stopping piece of news from the so called 'fake news' that has come to serve as some of the most real news over the past eight years.

I felt, watching John McCain's concession, that he was finally speaking as the candidate that I would have liked to see run. It was the best speech he has given through the whole campaign, and possibly the best concession speech I have ever heard in my lifetime.

Now, I was in college in 1996, on a campus where no one expected Bill Clinton to lose, and it was barely granted acknowledgment, and since then, I have lived in heavily Democratic cities during Bush wins, so I don't know if this is something that has ever happened before, but I've never seen people literally dancing in the streets over an election. It was breathtaking but also surprisingly sober for a bunch of people shouting "Yes we can!" at cars. I bought two dozen donuts to hand out toe the crowd, and the donut guy, when he found out I was doing this, gave me a half dozen more for free. There were kids asking if I could give them an Obama button-- I ran out of ones I was willing to part with-- and people genuinely in tears thanking me when I mentioned I volunteered on the campaign.

(This photo is by Kitty Laroux, a complete stranger.)

There is so much I want to say about this election. But at the end of the day, so many people criticize Obama for his pretty speeches, and all I have to say is this: What do we remember most of our past Presidents? We remember the ones who spoke to our hearts. And this is a man who will be able to do that in good times and in bad. People are saying that we don't know what kind of leader he is.

Yes, we do. He is a leader who has been able to convince millions of Americans that yes, we can.

And doing that, doing that even before he has taken office, is more than Bush has done for us. We believe in ourselves again.

Yes, we can.

We have restored that childlike and fervent belief that if we put our noses to the proverbial grindstones, we can make things happen.

And when people chanted out on the streets, into the wee hours of the morning, it was not Barack Obama's name they chanted the vast majority of the time. It was "Yes, we can." To me, that is so, so important, that people took a personal share in this victory. This was not about revering a single man. This was about the power of individuals when we come together to form a movement. The stark contrast of that to me, of watching John McCain speak, when everyone chanted for him, and watching Barack Obama speak, where everyone chanted for us, was the final statement on the difference between the two campaigns. And I do mean campaigns and not individuals.

I know this is not true for all of you reading this, but for someone who has been actively involved, yes, we can. We can do anything when we work at it.

I am hoping that our President-elect continues to call on us in the way that he has been doing throughout the campaign. I am hoping he continues to remind us all of our own abilities. I am hoping that he continues to demand the improbable of us and see us work to make it possible and then move from possible to real. I am hoping that what he has laid down for us will function as the groundwork to help all those people in real need tonight whose relationships, civil liberties, and very identities as human beings have been dealt a blow in several states to gain the same possibility that he himself has seen become a reality for so many other oppressed people within his lifetime.

And for those of you who are still cautious, yes, the message does demand hard work. We're not expecting anything to be given to us. That was not the message of this campaign. The message was always that we would have to work like hell.

Which is why I hesitate to say "Yes, we did," like so many are saying, because did implies finality. We still can. We still will. And we need to keep that attitude.

We need to. In every facet of our lives.

So today, when I was on the verge of calling my mom to cry because I was locked out, I sucked it up, told myself that if we could do what we did yesterday, I could fucking figure out how to get into my apartment.

I know that having a message is not the be all and end all of being a good leader, and I definitely believe that a message requires the substance to back it up, but you know what? I think right now, I'd just like to talk about the message. The campaign is done. The changes may or may not come, but even in the face of valid criticism that one can't lead on a message alone, I think somebody's got to say, yes, but the message is inherently and powerfully good.

Oh, yeah, and PS, Pastor Conrad? Allah and Buddha and Hindu just kicked your God's butt. I don't know which God that is, since my God loves everybody.

I know this post is a long post, but that's what happens when I think.

I was reminded of three conversations I have had with my mother, at different points in my life.

In 1984, I was six years old. That was the first Presidential election where I was old enough to know what was going on, and Geraldine Ferraro, a woman who had personally done some exceptional things for my family.

I understood the importance of that, of what the first female Vice President would be, because then, people would still so often attach male pronouns to so many positions of power and important careers. And my mother explained to me, at that time, the female leaders and the black leaders of the Civil Rights movement and the Women's Lib movement. My mother said to me then that she didn't think Ferraro would win. I remember her telling me that she believed we would elect a Black man as President before we elected a female President, and she explained that she felt that way because the Civil Rights movement began first and really inspired the Women's Lib movement and showed the way for a lot of female activists (of which my mother was one). She said that because of watching that history unfold, she felt that our choice to elect would mirror that earlier history. And this was something she explained to a six year old.

In 2005, my mother railed at me about how my generation is not activist enough. And I was mortified to discover that she thought I wasn't, considering the amount of active volunteerism I'm involved in.

And then I realized the difference, and I explained it to her. In the 60s and 70s, when activists wanted to be heard, that's just what they did-- railed at the status quo. They broke the rules, broke the laws. Their movement was effectively an army. Yes, if my mom were running for office, they would call her an unrepentant terrorist.

We're not, I told her. But that doesn't mean we're not activists. We simply don't fight against the powers that be-- we work within their systems, work around them, play quietly by the rules and change things from the inside.

She voiced skepticism that that would ever work.

The next conversation follows that up. When I was volunteering for Obama during the primary, she said that she couldn't help feeling like Barack Obama was my generation's George McGovern.

Right now I just want to say, look, Mommy. My activism worked.

Now let's get to work on giving those unalienable rights to everyone. And then, maybe, it'll take less than 44 years to elect a 47-year-old gay president.