Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can

When we lived overseas when I was growing up, my mom was a consular officer. Meaning she worked in the visa section of the embassy, reviewing and determining the applications of people who wanted to come to the United States to work or live or whatever. I'd go visit her at her office after school sometimes, and on my way through the security checkpoint into the embassy I'd pass huge long lines of people whose biggest dream was to come to America. And it made me feel proud and blessed to have been born a citizen of this wonderful country that so many people around the world wanted to be a part of.

The past eight years have been tough for me, as they have been for many. I love my country, and it's been difficult to see the values upon which she was founded -- due process, equality, open government -- be stomped on by Bush et al. As a lawyer and constitutional law geek, I always marvel at the deliberateness with which the United States was created -- no other country in history was formed for the specific purpose of establishing a particular kind of government, and one which was to be by the people, for the people, and of the people. So when Bush used the war on terror and whatever else was on his agenda as an excuse to bypass constitutional protections like habeas corpus and the Fourth Amendment, I cringed when the proffered excuse was, "these are bad people! They want to kill us! It's different this time."

Because my feeling is and has always been, it can't be different. That's the point of this country. We are a nation of laws, not of men, and if we simply cast aside our principles whenever the going gets rough, then we've betrayed everything we are supposed to stand for. The whole point of the Bill of Rights is that it is precisely when the going gets rough that we have to dig in and stick to our ideals. Otherwise, why bother? If these are fleeting principles, then what are we fighting for? What are our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan dying for?

So last night was huge, on so many levels. I feel like we're getting the country back from a bunch of hooligans who have been disrespecting her for 8 years. I admire and respect Obama's intelligence, temperament, and attitude, and I feel he has the potential to be truly great.

And then there's the incredible history of it. As I looked at the faces of people like Jesse Jackson, with tears running down his cheeks, and the students of Spelman College, celebrating wildly, and John Lewis, who worked and marched with Dr. King, I was overcome with emotion and wonder. What must this be like for them? As much as the promise of America feels reborn to me, it must feel like that a hundred times more so to them.

There are enormous obstacles before our country. The economy, health care, energy, Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc. etc.). But I feel like we've taken a step toward regaining our place in the world, and we have a leader who will inspire us to work hard and tackle our problems and do it in a way that is inclusive rather than divisive.

Yes we can.

Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come." Obama referenced the theme early in his speech last night. It's a gorgous song, and Cooke's voice makes me ache in its clarity and emotion.


  1. Oh Wendy. This made me cry. Great post.

  2. All I can say is Amen, sister. Amen.

  3. Lovely, you said it right! I stayed up late watching CNN and election coverage and could never have pulled together a post like this - thank you!

  4. So wonderful! I love this post. You didn't acknowledge, though, that Obama is from Hawaii. Born and raised. I know that your time there has been difficult, but, as a person who was also raised there, I think there are times when you can be a bit unfair in your descriptions of the place. Yes, it is expensive (the main reason why I don't live there now), and there are a lot of people from a a lot of different cultures and backgrounds living together, which sometimes creates tensions. I am haole, and while I know you see that as a derogatory term, I see it as a descriptor that is sometimes used poorly. Anyway, I am not trying to beat you up, I think your blog is great. Just take it easy on what is truly a wonderful place. Enjoy your last few weeks in paradise: the sand, the surf, the sky, and the different kinds of people that are all unique to that little place so far from everywhere.

  5. Anne -- thank you! The whole night I was crying, and even now, two days later, sometimes I'll be watching the news and someone will be talking about how they felt when the election was called for Obama, and I still choke up.

    Suz -- Can I *get* a hallelujah??

    HKW -- Thank you so much. I was inspired, I guess.

    Schuyler -- Thanks for your comment. You're right that sometimes I am a little harsh on Hawaii. I try to be fair and objective, but I had really high hopes for this place and have found it a bit disappointing. But I am doing my best to enjoy it while we're still here. Just so you know, we are not selling our house here -- we plan to rent it out and hopefully use it as a vacation home in our later years. I don't hate it here, I'm just finding it impossible to live here right now. :)

  6. This really is a moving post. This election has meant so much to so many for such a large variety of reasons.

    I'll be glad to have the country I believe in back.