Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Democracy in America

Le Petit obligingly woke us up at 4:30 Paris time this morning, just in time for us to catch the first results of the election. As I got up to help le Petit fall back asleep, my husband ran off to peek at the television. I waited for him to relay the news, curled up with le Petit in the big chair in his bedroom and trying my best not to be too nervous.

When I crawled back into bed at a little after five o'clock, it took me a moment to realize that the strange glow bathing the bedroom came from my husband's Blackberry. He was huddled under the covers checking news sites.

"Did Obama win?" I asked anxiously.

"They haven't called it yet. But McCain can no longer mathematically win. They should call it soon."

He crept back to the living room and I fell asleep, reassured, but this morning I regretted not staying awake with my husband to watch the acceptance and concession speeches. Although I voted for Obama and I wanted desperately for him to win, I have great respect for McCain as well. From the excerpts I saw on CNN this morning it seems like they were both at their very best last night.

We woke up to Radio Classique announcing the news with jubilation. A little later the phone rang: my father had stayed up to call me. "You're waking up to a new world," he announced.
His declaration was almost drowned out by the screech of our answering machine which my husband and I, still half-asleep, fumbled with looking for the "off" button.

I got the message anyway.

I would have given just about anything to be back home celebrating with him.

Not since the fall of the Berlin wall have I lived through a moment of such optimism. A race which in many ways has brought out the best in American democracy has ended with the election of the first African-American president in history. Beyond that, Obama has channeled and focused so much optimism and hope, and I think that this quintessential faith in the future is our greatest strength as a country. I am so proud to be an American today.

Are these reflections too trite? Or simply true? Or are they just the result of a night of fitful sleep? I can't say now, but I'm writing this because I want le Petit to know how I and so many other folks felt on the morning of November 5, 2008.

Meanwhile here in France, where the overwhelming majority of people supported Obama, the country is expressing the same pride and relief that a father might feel when his daughter announces her engagement to a favorite potential son-in-law. Radio Classique has been playing Copeland and Bernstein all day long in celebration.

My father made me promise to explain to le Petit what has happened -- even if he is far too little to understand -- and to give him a flag to wave today. It just so happens that we have a flag courtesy of the American Consultate in Paris.

Obama will be taking office shortly not only with the largest challenges a president has faced in my lifetime, but with the weight of the world's wildest hopes on his shoulders. I wish him luck.

What would de Tocqueville think? I can't help but think that France, our sister nation born of the Enlightenment, will learn from us this time around.

4 comments:

Isabelle said...

Very nice post, Parisienne, but I'm afraid that people are expecting too much from Obama, as if he was a magician or even the Messiah...
What do you think?

caramama said...

I don't think that your reflections are trite at all. I think you accurately captured how a lot of us feel.

I believe Obama can change things. He already has just by being the first black man to be elected to the Office! He inspires people, and I think that above all else will get change going.

I'm not saying miracles, because the system is in place to keep one person from causing too much change, but some change. Hopefully important change.

Goddess Babe said...

Ditto, Caramama.

This is the most hopeful I've felt since My Man Al almost got to be prez.

Check out http://www.iftheworldcouldvote.com/

It's amazing to see how many people around the globe have invested themselves in Obama's message of hope.

I'll admit, I stayed up. We watched Girl with a Pearl Earring to avoid constant CNN. When a potty break occurred and I clicked over to CNN to hear them talking about McCain's concession speech, I could barely believe it. The idea of an uncontested election hadn't occurre to me! I was relieved that I would not have to wait for recounts and challenges.

Still, I woke up Wednesday feeling very unsettled. Other mom's at Miss G's Kindermusik class echoed the feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop.

President-Elect Obama DOES have major challenges to address. I trust that he's up to it, but I sure wouldn't want to be the one in the hot seat to fix this mess! I'm sending him as much positive energy I can. For as non-religiously spiritual I am, I sure hope Obama's asking the Infinite for some help, and I hope more that he's actually listening for some Answers!

Anonymous said...

Whether our hope is born out or not, you've accurately captured a moment in history that will speak, we can hope, not only to le petit but also to generations to follow.
Nice Job!