11.5.08 How Far We’ve Come/The Darkness Has Lifted
I cried on election night. The tears of joy took me by utter surprise when the networks declared Barack Obama to be president-elect of the United States of America. It was as if I had been suddenly unburdened of an enormous weight. And, indeed I had.
How Far We’ve Come
Before Brown vs. Board of Education and LBJ, racism was de jure. In the decades since, the de facto variety that has persisted, robbing our fellow citizens (and residents) of self-worth, opportunities for advancement, and the power to do a thing about it. Even six months ago, a primary candidate campaigned explicitly on the idea that working class whites would never accept a black candidate.
And then Barack Obama won the presidency.
This dream is in my blood. My parents became civil rights activists in the mid-1950s, in response to the brutal injustice they observed in Alabama, during my father’s military service. They brought me up in the nation’s first purposely integrating community: the Ludlow neighborhood of Shaker Heights, Ohio. The public schools I went to were 50/50 black-white from kindergarten through high school.
As a white man, I am blessed only rarely to suffer bigotry of any kind, but my upbringing taught me to care passionately about those without this good fortune and to seek justice with them and for them.
Last night was a triumphal moment in the ongoing struggle.
The Darkness Has Lifted
For eight long years (if not since liberalism self-destructed in 1968), the American people have suffered under a tyranny of evil and incompetence. The damage wrought will take decades to repair, from civil liberties and economic justice, to the environment and international relations.
But, the scoundrels were sent packing last night.
It feels like a weight removed, a burst of sunlight from behind dark clouds. It just feels so damn good to rediscover hope and pride, not to mention the chance to savor some well deserved schadenfreude over the fate of the bad guys.
There were voices today repudiating any celebration, on the grounds that there is more work to do and that Obama isn’t perfect. They’re right, of course.
But for this moment — for these few days — I would rather bask in joy. I think we’ve earned that.
©2008 Keith Berner