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.