Thursday, November 6, 2008

The greatest day in American History

By Chris Moses

Just over two hundred years after the young states of America ratified a constitution that counted slaves as two-thirds of a person, on November 4th, 2008, the United States of America elected a Black man President. In a country defined by symbolism, by the satisfaction of beacon-shining hope, there is no sign clearer nor light brighter than the Presidency—the Commander in Chief—the leader of the free world.

The legacy of America's great founders—the office made by Washington and Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln—has passed from slave holders to a man whose color once marked the lowest of laborers, those un-free and without liberty. Great struggles and tremendous sacrifices proceeded this day, two centuries riven by bloody Civil War and bold campaigns for civil rights. Yet today like no other day all Americans can quote their future President and say 'yes we can': every parent can look their children in the eye and say with honesty and against all odds, 'work hard and you can do whatever you want.'

Barack Obama's victory has made history. So too has history made his victory—and this unyielding stream of time defines as much American accomplishment as it does the contradictions and enduring challenges that create the perennial opportunity for such triumph. One man has done the impossible and given tremendous hope to those burdened by despair. Still though a chorus wide and deep sings in low baritone, 'we shall overcome.' The millions in poverty; the young people who make their way, hungry, to unsafe schools; the parents and grandparents who have worked their entire lives and now suffer ill health without insurance or accessible, affordable care; these Americans woke up this morning no different than when they went to bed.

Such a dramatic instance of progress brings with it the renewed need for vigilance and the recognition that correcting for past wrongs may renew opportunity in the present but it does not ensure justice for the future. Nor can one vote for domestic tranquility ease the fear and suffering of those beyond America's borders who have been devastated by an arrogant, violent and misguided foreign policy. One or two terms in office does nothing for a generation given unending reason to hate America—families, homes, livelihoods destroyed.

The power of black and white united in a more equal America fulfills the wildest dreams of those who marched for freedom just one generation ago. It also stokes the wildest nightmares and unrepentant prejudice of those impoverished by fear and who still hate the idea that anything more than the color of their skin should count as credit for their worth as human beings.

Black and white balances a great deal of history though together they do not account for the truly stunning diversity of this country. Discrimination knows far more than two colors.

Rapid contempt for immigration and an opposition to living bilingually with Spanish—the language of those who first settled a great deal of what is now the United States—these intolerances counterweigh the greatest forces reshaping the nature of the American citizenry. Bigotry masked as conservatism seeks to wither on the vine of a never-real and profoundly false Eden of racial purity. A lack of education and the glorification of petty intolerance musters nothing more than illogical rhetoric and crass threats to counter the great possibilities brought by new thought, new talent, new ingenuity and inspiring ambition.

Color and class too balance a great deal of history though they do not account for the great inequities that remain between male and female nor can they efface the enduring scorn for any sexuality or gender that doesn't conform to the fantasy of some 1950s sitcom. Discrimination knows far more than two sexes.

Code words like marriage and family have been used to proffer a social order supposedly more perfect and permanent because of its connection to God and the American way. However hard history and the Bible may be scrutinized, nothing can be farther from the truth of America's ever-unfolding and ever-shifting homes and communities. Both in unwanted fragmentation and creative reassembly, the bonds of kinship have provided a wellspring of flexibility for connecting people and promoting the stability and prosperity that enriches the United States.

Real conservatism embraces change as a way to identify the best aspects of tradition and to leave the worst behind. What today stands for the far right is nothing more than self-loathing delusion absent any real hope of redemption however loudly the screams of Revelation may sound from such quarters. All the while the world truly does warm; trumpets sounds the effect of climate but fall on the deaf ears of religious fatalists terrified of science, unable to comprehend the power of human action.

Regardless of who is President these voices persevere and however much contempt they produce we can only answer them with overwhelming love and compassion—still with unflinching indictment and unremitting opposition—but all the while with the sort of complex and uneasy forgiveness that allows all of us to address the contradictions and imperfections that point the way towards a better tomorrow.


At November 6, 2008 at 2:48 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Better than Appomatox, V-day, or the moon landing, eh? Posts like this lend unfortunate credence to the chauvinist idea of women as emotional and lacking rationality.

At November 6, 2008 at 2:49 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg says unmarried women made the difference for Obama. Back in 1994, when white male voters were said to be responsible for the GOP’s takeover of Congress, the media came up with a label for them: “angry white men.” Will the media now refer to Greenberg’s voting bloc as “bitter unmarried women”?

Obama represents that fantasy alpha male figure they wish would marry them. His leftist policies represent the unearned largesse they want in lieu of an actual beta husband they secretly loathe.

Socialists gain when single women who refuse to settle vote. They lose when single women forget to vote on their way to the mall.


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