After a day of volunteering, for me and many thousands of others, and months of worrying that somehow, despite everything, Obama would not win, it happened! And Washington, DC took to the streets. I watched the returns and Obama's speech with my friends and then took a short walk outside to be part of the revelry. There were cars honking and people cheering. The city felt unified instead of segregated as usual. And indeed we were - 93% of us voted for Obama. After two hours of standing in line to vote, my neighbors and I were unified in our worry. On the way back from volunteering in Virginia, I spoke to a woman on the Metro who was worried that somehow, someway, despite everything, the election would be stolen. She spoke of plans of canned goods and hiding out in a basement while riots commenced. But thankfully, instead of riots there was cheering (and a large police presence) and the black and white residents of the city celebrating together. It was, and is, amazing.
Beyond my city, I have unloaded some of my cynicism and believe that America's image in the world has the chance to change. It is precisely what Obama said last night: "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 our democracy, tonight is your answer." When sitting in a bar in Belfast, N. Ireland last spring I talked to two older Catholic men. They saw their own struggle echoed by the struggle of African-Americans in the U.S. and said that if Obama could do it, they had hope for themselves and their country. When living in Ghana in 1997 the U.S. flag was everywhere - painted on the sides of stores, homes, and vans, it represented the hope of something better. When I was there in 2003 during the start of the Iraq war, some of this hope had turned to skepticism - a skepticism which was projected on to me as I was asked if I supported Bush. Now I believe, I hope even, that Obama's election can change the world's, and my own, view of America. It turns out I'm patriotic.
I first voted in 2000 in the Gore/Bush election which lasted long after election day. My candidate did not win, and the election felt - was - stolen. 2004 felt like a repeat of 2000 with less blatant thievery. Hence my cynicism. But yesterday I got to vote for a president who won. And I have hope.