Returning last night from a dinner (celebrating a personal financial victory and having just heard of the Electoral milestone being passed), my mother and I listen to Obama’s historic speech. We have a lovely dinner under our belts and in her case, a few belts under her belt. I sit near her in the living room of the home I was raised in and listen, really listen, to our new President-Elect.
Obama’s speech was a good one. His first words were about possibility in America and the rejection of cynicism. He spoke highly of John McCain (words not made hypocritical by his personal conduct in the campaign), prescribed a dose of humility for the victors in the election, and assigned us the task of listening to one another for the hard work ahead.
He also spoke to interests I hold at heart – to live without cynicism, but with intelligence. To accept the differences of our neighbors and refuse to succumb to bitterness.
When he spoke on these themes I found myself moved to tears. For a couple of years now, as the Bush administration has gone down in history as a horrific chapter, if not the horrific chapter, in the history of this country, I have tried not to cross certain lines of decency in my participation of the public sphere; in these last months eschewing the myriad and trifling examples: the Bristol Palin sneers, the liberal e-mailing “An Open Letter To Red States” *, the villifying of the real-life “Joe Six Packs” – and so many other examples of snide and hateful language that obviously are too tempting many of my friends and peers. It has been hard, speaking personally, to refuse this cynicism when those I know and love have loudly railed that vitriol and calumny have its place.
Obama went on:
“There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree…
So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. […] Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House – a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, ‘We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.’
And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn – I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.”
A referendum: “partisanship and pettiness and immaturity”.
I want to believe, so I do believe.
* From the speech last night: “We have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.”