Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thanks America, and especially Mary

Last night was incredible. Lots of people were convinced of the outcome before the results started coming in, but I was still skeptical. US politics have never been easy, and lately they've been getting more screwy and twisted that not much would have surprised me - either a scandal or pure stupidity on the part of American voters. Outraged and upset, yes, but not surprised.
But we pulled through! We're getting ever closer to rejecting bigotry and hate and discrimination based on too many different factors - we lost the gay marriage in California, but we elected a black president! A cultured, intelligent man who makes me want to straighten up and become a better person when I see the example he's setting.
Mary told me today about a quote from Obama, said during a quiet moment while traveling from one campaign stop to another. He asked, "What if I let people down?"
The fact that we have a president who worries about being good enough for the people he represents in so incredibly reassuring that already, months before the man will even take office, I feel lighter and more confident in the future of our country.
Mary made my day. Of course I spoke to my family and friends about the election, but it's hard being cut off from them by thousands of miles and a crummy Internet connection.
I had left home early to go to a meeting. It would be my first time heading into this part of the city, and I wasn't too sure about which bus to take. But I saw an older woman ahead of me, carrying her laundry and obviously frustrated with the traffic, wearing a Camelbak. It couldn't have been more clear that she was from the States. We stood and stared at the traffic together, made a few idle comments about the driving here, then almost simultaneously brought up the election. We were both so excited to have someone to talk to, to share the excitement and expectations and hope that we'd been feeling since early last evening.
We stopped on a quiet street corner and talked for about half an hour. We found a place in the shade and she set down her laundry, and she told me that she hadn't felt so hopeful and excited about our country's future since she was a college student at Berkley in the 1960's. Her voice lowered as she said, "After Martin Luther King was killed, I never thought I'd have hope in politics again." She was 70 years old and we cried together on the street as we hugged and celebrated a victory that I was afraid to hope for, and she thought would never come in her lifetime.
I don't know if I'll meet her again, but the memory of a perfect stranger who changed all her plans to talk excitedly and passionately about her renewed hope will always be with me. Years from now, when people ask me where I was during the election, I can tell them that I was miles away from home, separated from all my friends and family. And even still, in a city of over 6 million people, the feeling was so overpowering that strangers stopped in the street to hug and share their joy.

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