Election is over, now we know: Yes, we can!
Jubilation, ecstasy, elation, prayerful gratitude, drunken giddiness, righteous celebration, overwhelming joy. Laughing-crying happiness. Pride. It’s been hours now since the news, and I’m still having trouble forming complete sentences. As all great moments that are too large to process in their entirety, this one flickers before me, one image, one emotion, one thought fragment at a time. Jesse Jackson, speechless, tears streaming down his face. Worshippers at Ebenezer Baptist Church -- Dr. King’s church -- on their feet, kissing, hugging, jumping, yelling. He’s the pride of Chicago, the pride of Illinois. The pride of Hawaii. The pride of Kenya. The pride of African-Americans. The pride of young people.
Most important, he's the pride of the United States of America. Or at least the part of it I know best. On election night, spontaneous street parties broke out from the Castro in San Francisco to Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem. Seattle, Austin, Minneapolis, Boston. People were in the street, swarming, drumming, singing, chanting, honking, celebrating like never before. Christmas Day, people said. Christmas Day plus New Year’s Eve. Dr. King, people said. Dr. King meets John F. Kennedy. George Bush told us, in effect, not to worry about eating our spinach, saving for a rainy day, or being accountable for our actions. Then once in a while he handed each of us $600, no questions asked. Still, he ended up with the lowest approval rating ever. Obama, on the other hand, tells us he'll need our help. He says turn off the TV and raise your children well. He says we are going to have to roll up our sleeves, work hard, tighten our belts and sacrifice. And we love him. I hear people everywhere saying, whatever he needs me to do, I’ll do. Like Obama's going to be phoning us, giving out assignments. Actually, he did send me a text message and an email, just as he sent them to every other supporter. The email, titled “How this happened,” was sent on election night, right before he gave his acceptance speech. It said: I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history. And I don’t want you to forget how we did it. You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation or talked to your family, friends and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change. I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent and passion to this campaign. We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next. But I want to be very clear about one thing… All of this happened because of you. Thank you, Barack” Such nice manners. Later on there will be plenty of time to critique Obama, to second-guess him, to question his priorities. He can hardly be perfect. And he's inheriting a multiheaded monster of a mess from you-know-who. But for now, celebration. Americans are receiving e-mails from friends in other countries with messages like, “Congratulations on the election. Obama seems to be a bright, honorable man. Nice change for you!” Can it be true? Can we really have a president who inspires people this much? Can we really have a president this intelligent, this fair-minded, this worthy? Can we actually have a man of such spectacular promise as our new president? Yes we can. --- * BARB GUY is a regular contributor to these pages.