On the night of the election, we sat in Diana’s living room watching history unfold before our very eyes. We had written thousands of post cards to voters in Ohio and Nevada telling each one in our own words why a vote for Obama was the right one. As the results of one state after another came in we waited with anticipation and apprehension. When the networks declared Ohio for Obama we jumped to our feet, hooped and hollered, waved our arms and danced around one another.
We had only made a small contribution but somehow we were sure that our meager efforts had made a difference. The results kept coming and then as the polls in our western states closed, the pollsters and networks declared victory for Obama. The dancing continued. The champagne flowed. The joy spilled out onto the street as we walked giddily to another friend’s house to continue our celebration.
I could not remember ever feeling such exhilaration over an election. Never. Ever. Why now? I wondered. Was it because in my lifetime I and many others had never seen our financial markets and economy spinning so wildly out of control? Was it because we were tired of having our personal freedoms chipped away in the name of some faceless, amorphous enemy when, in reality, we were our own worst enemy? Was it that we were afraid for ourselves, our families, our friends, and our nation?
When we were children hadn’t we all been taught that you get more with honey than with vinegar. It did seem like we had been given too much vinegar–the vinegar of bitterness, arrogance, greed, and caustic ideology– over the last eight years. It seemed that we had been drugged on consumer goods, fast food, too good to be true mortgages and financial investments, and violence. Pundits talked about the fake economy, the loss of America’s respect in the world, and the imperial presidency. Now we yearn for moderation in our thought, tolerance in our beliefs, and taking responsibility for our actions. We desire to create value rather than spend. We long to be respected and loved by other peoples. We suddenly appreciate civil discourse and negotiation. I wondered whether this time, is it possible to stay on this path to the greater good, or will we once again we swallowed up by our baser instincts and selfish desires?
Our friend had worked all day from 7AM to 9PM as a judge at our precinct’s polling station and had just gotten home. As we crowded around the island in her kitchen we raised more glasses, made more toasts, and congratulated one another. Then someone said, “What are we going to do now?”
“You know now that the election is over what issue are we going to continue to work on?”
There was a collective sigh of recognition. Yes, we all thought, we must keep working. We can’t expect Washington or Sacramento or anyone else to do it for us. Our country has been returned to us. It’s a mess. We’re in a deep hole. But, we can make a difference. We can participate. We can use our creative energies for the betterment of our nation, our children, and our seniors. We can keep right on working.
Someone piped up, “I want to work on health care.”
“So do I.” someone else chimed in.
Then another agreed.
Was it the energy of the moment that drove the consensus? I wondered. But, then I realized that we were all women with families and aging parents. Some of us and our loved ones had weathered serious illness that has sapped not only our spirit but also our pocketbooks. We were in the know. We felt the pain of a dis-functional health care system. The pitch of excitement faded. It was getting late. Time to get home.
Now, a week later. I am pondering what are my next steps and what are my personal goals.
All original content copyright 2008 Mary E Slocum