Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Shock and awe

We interrupt our regular programming to bring you special election commentary. We will return tomorrow to our exploration of the great issues that have entertained philosophers and theologians for centuries. Thank you.

Sorry, twink, I'm taking that phrase back for now. It is my reality.

Shock and awe. It is what I am feeling right now. The shock sits heavy on my chest, like an Irish Setter, gleeful, enthusiastic, but heavy nonetheless. Awe is what I feel for my country. My country. This is the first day in a long time that I have said those words with something other than disgust behind them.

It took nearly 12 hours for me to put a finger on the feeling I've got after this election. I feel like I did four years ago when the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years. Honestly, that's what it's like.

For so many years, for so many election cycles, for so many summers, we hoped our team would do it this time. We hoped that our team, our guy, would do the impossible and win the big game. Every year, and every election cycle, we were disappointed. It became something familiar, something comfortable, this disappointment. We knew what to do with it. We sighed, took down the party banners, gave the champagne to friends who were celebrating something else, like a baby or a marriage, and we went back to our lives.

"Next year" was more than a refrain with us, it was a cultural identity. Since Jack and Bobby, we Democrats have not really believed that we would be allowed to succeed in a big way. Certainly not the way Reagan succeeded for the other guys. For some reason beyond our comprehension, we just were never going to be crowned homecoming royalty. It is not dissimilar to the emotions of a woman who has been a bridesmaid at eight weddings of her friends in a year, but whose boyfriend still lives in his parents' basement and delivers pizza part-time.

Success is unfamiliar to us, those of us who are progressives and liberals. Centrists always seem to do OK, but those of us who are genuinely liberal have not had a candidate with a snowball's chance in a very, very long time. Dennis Kucinich, otherwise known as the Democratic Party House Elf, was right on all our issues, (and his wife was the hottest thing on two legs I have seen in a VERY long time) but he's a space shot. His presentation put him so far out there that he never had a chance. We progressives seemed doomed to perpetual bridesmaid status.

Hope is foreign to us. Real hope, that is, stuff we can believe in. Our hopes have always seemed too high, unreasonable. Like we were asking too much. Temper yourself, our friends said. Don't aim so high, or you'll always be disappointed. You'll never get it right and you'll be destined to always be let down.

Unable to let go of our ideals, we resigned ourselves to perpetual disappointment. We're never going to be happy, we said, but at least we won't sell out our principles just to be on a winning team.

And last night our team won. And now I don't quite know what to do with myself. I've got a grin on my face, but it seems faraway, as though through a fog. There was no shouting and jumping and yelling in my house last night, just a huge exhale of pent-up air. It felt like we had held our collective breath for so long, hoping against hope, not quite daring to believe, and when we Charlie Brown finally got to kick the football without Lucy yanking it away, we exhaled, but just didn't know what to do after that. I sat there on the couch, tears occasionally leaking out of my eyes, but somehow waiting for a newscaster to break in and say "I'm sorry, there has been a terrible mistake. We called it wrong. Here are the real numbers. John McCain has won."

It feels as though we just can't believe we are going to be allowed to keep this treasure. Progressives, particularly those of us born in eastern Massachusetts, are all too familiar with the tragedy that too often befalls our candidates. We have mourned Jack and Bobby for a lifetime. Our lifetime. We know what it is to have the rug of hope pulled out from under us, and we are understandably reluctant to give our whole hearts to something with so large a target painted upon it.

I heard a lot in the past few weeks about changing the world. It is inspiring. It is breath-taking. It is terrifying. It is familiar. It sounds like Bobby.

Please, whatever powers run the universe, please don't take this from us. Please let us use this moment to do good works, to help people, to bring care and comfort to those who need it, to comfort the afflicted. And maybe, just a little, afflict the comfortable. Just a little, maybe.

So today is about shock and awe. I am enjoying the feeling carefully, dipping my toes in to see if it is real. It feels real so far. As when the Sox won, being a part of the winning team will take some getting used to. I think we're supposed to have a parade or something now. We'll do that, I guess. It is all so strange and foreign. Warm and nice, but foreign. It will really, really, take some getting used to.


1138 said...

Hope Wins!

Demeur said...

It was totally surreal out here in Seattle. People took to the streets yelling and screaming. A throng of police were also there and... Nothing happened no over turned cars no broken shop windows nobody arrested. :-)

Snave said...

Great post, Dawn. I have felt so trod upon by the rightwingers the last eight years. There are people in my town who have lorded the Bush-Cheney wins in 2000 and 2004 over the few or us local lefties by leaving their bumper stickers on their cars, leaving political signs up forever, etc. Now I feel vindicated in a number of ways. I won't lord it over the yokels, I'll just talk to them about whatever they want to talk about and will be as civil as possible. I see us entering what is potentially a new age of civility in our political discourse. That is one of the things I most want to come from this election cycle.

The wait has been excruciating, but now we have elected someone who I believe will be an actual leader. I always loathed Reagan, but I do believe he was an actual leader. In this case, I think Obama is fantastic, and the idea of him leading our country thrills me to the core.

Sooner or later, reality will set in, but for now, Dawn... isn't this amazing, and isn't this wonderful? I haven't felt this good on any other presidential election day, and I have voted in seven others besides this one.

Anonymous said...

I am walking and breathing so carefully, on eggshells, thin ice. I'm afraid. Of crazies. Of the Rovian just plain meanness. Of 76 days that those who would like to see him fail have to set up god knows what kinds of awful traps. I believe in him. I also believe that the other side has not changed. I worry. And god, do I hope.