Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Rediscovery of Faith and Hope

When The Kid was four, he came out with one of those profundities that have given rise to the expression 'from the mouths of babes'.

Hope is the thing in your body that keeps you alive.

It's been hard for me to hold onto hope during the W years. At times, I've felt completely exhausted and utterly ground down.

Watching the 2004 election and seeing the Republicans successfully employ a strategy of fear-mongering to divide and conquer was a significant low point and drain on my hope resources. I vividly remember sitting home alone on the day after the election, watching Kerry's concession speech, and wondering how it could have come to this. How could reasonable people could look at the same set of facts and come to such radically different conclusions?

When I looked around at the America that George Bush and Dick Cheney had created, it did not look like the America I grew up in.

I did not grow up in a country where people were held for years without charges, trials, or even access to impartial courts.

I did not grow up in a country where a bogus doctrine of pre-emptive defense was enough to start an ill-conceived, improperly planned, and poorly executed war.

I did not grow up in a country where the Constitution was just a piece of paper to be ignored and circumvented according to the whims of the President.

These are not the reasons that I moved to Ireland, but they are part of the factors that made it possible for me to move. The damage done to the country helped unmoor me from my home. (I dug through my friend Dave's archives to come up with a post that he did shortly after the election, which included my thoughts at the time. For me, to read it now is to relive it.)

The last few weeks have been rough. It was hard for me to listen to all of the vitriol, the bald-faced lies, and the blatant attempts at fear-mongering. And as hard as it to listen to the bad stuff, it was sometimes even more difficult to listen to the good stuff: the positive polls, the soaring speeches, the reports that things were going to be different this time. Like a divorcee fresh from a bad marriage, I put up my defenses against the charming suitor at my door.

I knew what I wanted though. I wanted an election free from court challenges and voting issues. I wanted the popular vote and the electoral college vote to both say the same thing. I wanted a big, shiny, clear-cut Obama win.

Even though I had a flicker of hope burning in my heart, I just couldn't let myself believe. Even when the results started coming in, I was fidgety and superstitious. While colouring my electoral college map (a ritual I've done in every election since I was 8), I'd wait until the handy NY Times Election Dashboard showed a majority of media outlets calling the results the same way.

While Peter cheerfully coloured in Pennsylvania, I told him, "My heart is too fragile." The longer Ohio, Florida, and Virginia stayed in play, the edgier I got. It wasn't until they called Ohio that I allowed myself to say it out loud - "He's got a real chance. This is actually happening."

When ABC News called the race for Obama, my first feeling was relief, followed by the rush of excitement I'd kept bottled up for the last few weeks. The feelings just intensified, especially during Obama's acceptance speech, which was the perfect end to a well-run campaign.

One line of the speech stays with me, because it reminded me of something that I forgot. Something essential that I needed to remember:

For that is the true genius of America--that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

Unlike the day after the last election, today I am ready, excited, and hopeful for that next tomorrow.

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At 5 November 2008 at 11:12, Blogger Babaloo said...

And you can go to bed relieved and happy. And hopeful.

I didn't stay up but it was the last thing I checked last night and the first when I woke up - the NY Times dashboard. And I woke up happy. :)

And a turnout of 75% to me shows how many Americans wanted this to happen.

At 5 November 2008 at 13:11, Blogger laurie said...

i have to admit, all this hope is damn scary.

we have been so badly crushed before.

but yes, i am hopeful. i am very very hopeful. we opened a bottle of champagne last night and i couldn't stop crying.

At 5 November 2008 at 14:12, Blogger Kaycie said...

I cast my vote in a state where I knew it almost certainly didn't matter, but the act of voting itself, completing that little arrow identifying Barack Obama as my candidate of choice was only the first emotional surge in a day full of them.

I am joyous, hopeful, and more than a little nervous for January to arrive. In my heart, I know we took a step toward bringing America back to more than a shadow of her former self; once again, I can see the land of opportunity, the land of the free, and the home of the brave. She has not, despite my former fears, been destroyed. This election proved that to me.

At 5 November 2008 at 15:24, Blogger Col said...

Whoo hoo! I am hopeful, and joyful, and filled with pride for my nation, whose people came out in droves yesterday to cast their ballots.

This was incredibly important, and we did it right! Hooray!!

BTW, Ann, as an expat, where do you get your absentee ballot? From the last place you were registered to vote? (What state did you vote in?)

At 5 November 2008 at 16:08, Blogger the rotten correspondent said...

When they called it so fast last night when the west coast closed, I was stunned. It seemed so unreal to have wanted something so badly, and been so afraid to even let the thought leave your lips for fear it would be ripped away.

But today, reading your beautifully written post, it finally really hit me. We did it.

And finally the serious weeping begins.

At 5 November 2008 at 22:55, Blogger Sadie said...

I was like you, scared to agree states were actually called when the media gave them away. But we did it! Here's hoping we change the world!! :o)

At 7 November 2008 at 14:43, Blogger Dave P. said...

Wonderfully said, Ann. I love your ritual of coloring in the map, that is excellent.

I finally stopped crying yesterday, though it probably won't take much to get me going again. Like the video of people spontaneously singing the National Anthem at 2am on St. Mark's in NYC. Not bad for a bunch of people who hate America.

At 8 November 2008 at 01:16, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad Obama won but we have decided we are still moving in with you. Peace/ Love AL and UG

At 10 November 2008 at 18:27, Blogger -Ann said...

Babaloo - I took a nap and woke up all disoriented, but then I remember 'oh yeah, it's the day after the election' and it all clicked into place.

Laurie - For once in my life, I've been able to have the hope without the dread of disappointment. It's kind of nice. Strange, but nice.

Kaycie - We were looking at the NYTimes county maps and I don't think there was a single even light blue county in your whole state.

Col - Because all my mail goes to my parents' address and I applied for a driving license in Ohio last year, I was able to register to vote in Ohio.

RC - I'm happy to report that I'm past the weeping (although that victory speech totally gets me every time) and have moved onto the grinning gleefully everytime I listen to the news. Such a nice change.

Sadie - I hope so too!

Dave - I suppose I have to thank you and Colleen for talking me down during the primaries. :)

AL & UG - You don't want to live here. We got 10 inches of rain last month.


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