[Normally I try to respond to the last comments before my next post, but this is an important occasion. And also, I've been "celebrating"...]
So I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. Just getting that out of the way.
Not because I was such a rabid supporter (in fact, I always joke that Bill Clinton was our "Best Republican President Ever!"), but at primary time I honestly thought both Clinton and Obama were equally qualified to lead the nation. And, when it came down to actually deciding, when presented with two equally qualified candidates, I voted for the woman.
Because I have to say, voting for a woman gave me a teary-eyed moment of pride, like I keep seeing in the Obama coverage, right there in the Brookline Devotion School gymnasium. If, heaven forbid, I ever have children, I realized I could tell my daughters - without bullshitting them - that anyone could grow up to be President of the United States.
So I am not belittling the momentousness of electing an African-American president, I'm really not.
And I do love me some Obama. God, I'm so excited to have a charismatic speaker and writer and intellectual for president, after years of hostility to science and intellectual curiosity, not to mention the mangling of the English language...that was a damned pretty inauguration speech. I'm a sucker for well-turned phrases about hope and sacrifice and the common good, and extolling what right-minded people can accomplish if we just work together. Also, don't ever tell, but the song "Simple Gifts" is one of my favorite things in the entire world. Shut up.
That said, I'm not sure I get the Obama thing. Yes, for liberals, after eight brutal years of seeing everything we believed in at best ignored or quietly overturned, and, at worst, demonized, we have a president who is reasonably aligned with our ideals. A president who values communication and humility and accountability over bloviating, moral rectitude, and a towering sense of macho entitlement. A president whose policy propositions are not actually, well, destructive.
But, but, but...for so many people, Obama is so much more than an elitist liberal policy wonk's wet dream. There's something about him that is fundamentally different from other presidents (besides the, um, obvious difference). Something that inspires and engages previously apathetic and hopeless people. Something that makes people believe.
I keep hearing things like "I can believe in my country again" or "I have hope for the first time" or "I'm not ashamed to be an American anymore." And I am so incredibly happy that Obama is inspiring that kind of hope in people, because - compared to many other nations - we have a damned apathetic populace, in terms of political participation.
But I just don't get it. I never really lost hope in America in the first place. And I was never ashamed of my country. Misguided, stupid, and embarrassing though the last eight years may have been, I never lost a sense that America was fundamentally okay. Or would be, eventually. This country is far from perfect, and I really did feel like most of my fundamental values were under assault by a horribly misguided administration for the last eight years. But that administration wasn't America, to me. My country was deeply flawed, but I knew it would get better. And I would do my part to bitch and moan and fight and vote to make it better. Because part of loving your country is realizing that it can always do better, and it's your job as a citizen to hold it to that standard.
So, as much as I love finally hearing a president speaking inspiring words that are actually aligned with my political ideals, and as much as I recognize that this is, in fact, an amazing moment in American history and politics... what really matters is what he does with it, no?
This nation seems to be unprecedentedly optimistic, enthusiastic and excited about what our president and what we, as Americans, can do.
So what is it that you hope for in the next 4-8 years? What important things do you want to see us accomplish? Regardless of your politics, what would you do with this outpouring of "Yes we can?"