07 November, 2008

Friday Favorite Election Moments

One day, when I resemble something that just emerged from a crypt, I'll be regaling children with the story of the most historic election in United States history. This will entail having to explain things like YouTube, having to use a device to access the intertoobz rather than just thinking up a connection, and other sundry things. Yes, I'll throw in a "walked to work barefoot in the snow uphill both ways" for good measure. But the thing that will be hardest to explain in the joy.

I've never seen my country react like this to a presidential election. There's been excitement and celebration in the past, but since when did we take to the streets? Have we ever gathered at Pennsylvania Avenue and chanted a politician's name in adoration? I don't remember it happening.

Here they were, outside of the White House, spontaneously singing the national anthem:

The title of the diary entry where that's posted is "Like We Overthrew a Dictator...." And it is like that. I hope the children of this country will never again have to know what it's like to wake up from an eight-year nightmare. I hope they'll never have to spend the run-up to an election wondering if the country will survive the result.

My favorite moment, of course, was the one that came immediately after I'd refreshed The Washington Monthly, and Steve Benen's victory announcement flashed on my screen:

At 11 p.m. EST, the networks have called California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii for Barack Obama.

And with that announcement, Obama will be the 44th president of the United States.

Yes. He. Did.

I read that, and I started crying. It was the most perfect moment I've ever experienced. All of the fear, all of the pain, all of the anger that had become a never-ending houseguest over the past several years finally packed up its bags and moved on. I sat there at my desk, weeping with hope and relief, and it would have continued to be the most perfect moment of my life if a damned call hadn't come in.

It's the first and only time I've ever posted from my work computer. I couldn't wait to announce this. I had to capture that moment. From staunchly apolitical to caring enough about the outcome of a presidential election to risk losing my job just so I could scream victory to the world at large: it's been an incredible journey.

Then there was you. All of you who commented that night and the nights after, your hope and joy, your excitement, made me feel as if you were there with me. Every comment that came in shone like the sun. Thank you for being there, and thank you for all you've done to make this moment possible.

In the pre-dawn hours of November 5th, I watched Obama's speech, and cried all over again. This is the man we elected. This is the man who pulled America back from the abyss:

We made the right choice. It's never been more clear.

I read the headlines from around the world, and knew that Americans weren't the only ones waking from a nightmare. The headlines were as giddy as those Americans celebrating in the streets of every city from D.C. to Seattle. I feel as though we've given a gift to the world, begun to make amends for the hell of the last eight years. We have a long way to go, promises we must not break, but one of the most gratifying moments was realizing that the world welcomed us back with open arms. Nothing will be easy. But we're not alone, and we have hope.

No election in my lifetime will ever again come close to matching this one. This moment is my favorite one, because it is our moment. We brought hope back, together.

This is the moment we realized, without doubt: Yes. We. Can.

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