For a long time I have wanted to be proud of my country. I bristle at the reflexive patriotism of many on the right that seem to live in the "real America", where we're always perfect and we never have to work to improve ourselves; we just need to wave a flag and give dirty looks to everyone else. And some of us nominal Americans seem to fall into the "everyone else" category.
I watched as a corrupt administration subverted our constitution and broke our most important laws, and had the nerve to call anyone who objected un-American. There's irony for you.
I watched as another nation was invaded, a nation run by a big fat creep, mind you, but one that posed no threat to us or to our allies. I listened to the obvious lies and marvelled that so many bought them wholesale. I despaired as those of us who cared about our laws, our treaties, and simple morality were shouted down and made to feel, again, un-American.
I watched as the same people who sold us the war, and who had already shown over four painful years that they were utterly undeserving of the trust that we had placed in them, were given another four years to wreak further havoc. I was shamed because the first time was a fluke, but this time we only had ourselves to blame.
I lost all hope in the American electorate at that point. And I never thought we could recover from the damage done by these people. And it may take a long time to do so. But I finally have some hope. I finally believe that the people who will be in charge are honest and intelligent and driven by a desire to move us forward, not deeper into some reactionary Manichean fantasyland.
I followed the election last night with measured optimism. I would not allow myself to fall into the trap of assuming it was over until there was no doubt. And at the beginning of the night, there was plenty of doubt to go around. The first layer of fear fell away when they called Pennsylvania. But it persisted. Then they called Ohio. Oh my.
After Ohio, the numbers simply were not there for McCain. It would have been downright impossible for him to make up the electoral votes he needed. And yet, I would not allow myself. I needed to see it clearly, unambiguously and unequivocally. I knew that California and the Pacific Northwest were done deals, but I needed Wolf Blitzer to say it out loud and flash the graphic on the screen. I could not relax until then.
As the onscreen clock counted down the time until the polls closed in California, I clenched my hands together, waiting for it to somehow be yanked away, like the 1986 World Series. Somehow the ball was going to go through somebody's legs. Somehow this was going to be snatched away from us. But it wasn't.
When the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, I did not jump up and down like a crazy person and run screaming through the streets. I felt a sense of relief, a peace and serenity that I didn't expect. I became rather quiet, shared a glass of champagne with friends, and silently wept.
When the graphic finally came on the screen last night declaring Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States of America, I felt a similar calm. I did not jump up and down like a crazy person and run screaming through the streets. I sat and stared at the screen, not excited but relieved and serene. I still could not quite believe it. And I silently wept.
I feel proud of my country again. Maybe for the first time, truly. The margin of victory (in the popular vote, anyway) was not large enough to make me feel totally confident that enough of us have turned the page. And the current occupants are diligently poisoning the well to make it even more difficult to even get back to where we were in 2000. But that commentary is for tomorrow. Now we are at the dawn of a new day. I feel like we are once again a place of sanity. And hope. And true patriotism, not mere jingoism.
Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama. Thank you, Joseph Biden. Thank you, Michelle Obama. Thank you, ACORN. Thank you, David Plouffe. Thank you, Howard Dean. Thank you, whoever you are that kept calling me and e-mailing me asking for money. Thank you, Rachel Maddow. Thank you, Keith Olbermann. Thank you, Tina Fey. Thank you, Ohio. Thank you, Florida. Thank you, (holy crap!) Virginia and Indiana.
Thank you, America. I love you.
Let's get to work.