Thursday, November 6, 2008


The sad truth is that I was a lot less engaged this time around. Partly it was because I felt burned the last two elections, after putting quite a lot of time and effort into volunteering and campaigning and paying close attention and getting my hopes up. Partly it was because my focus shifted substantially to being pregnant and moving from Philadelphia to upstate New York and giving birth and parenting an infant. Most of which, I'd like to point out, is also the world's work, not that that lets me off the hook.

I voted for Obama, and I'm delighted that he won. Mostly I'm delighted because he strikes me as intelligent and kind, the two qualities I prize most in both the people I love and the people I want to follow. That he's also funny, handsome, and a hell of a speaker is delicious gravy.

I'm also delighted and moved that my son will not remember an America in which an African-American had never been president. It's an unalloyed pleasure to mark so happy a milestone in history, to know that we as a country have made a step forward that can't be undone, and that rather than making us all angry -- as irrevocable steps forward in history often do -- it's made most of us well up with tears of joy.

However. There's an element of unexamined smugness and complacency in some of the celebrations of victory that bothers me. As if all that needs done to climb out of the giant mess we're in is to elect this charismatic fellow and give ourselves a nice pat on the back. There's work to be done, everybody, and Obama can't do it alone. Prejudice has been dealt a body blow, but then, well, Proposition 8 passed in California. We're still mired in two bloody wars and a terrifying economic collapse, and, as Jon Stewart so eloquently said, "Hope don't park your motherfucking car."

And another thing: please don't say it's the first time you've been proud to be an American. It's not zero-sum. There's no balance sheet proclaiming that pride must outweigh shame in order to count -- and even if there were, do you really think that one election wipes out everything on the wrong side of that balance? And if you've never been proud to belong to a group whose members have produced The Simpsons for nearly two decades, made more charitable donations than most of the rest of the world put together, invented most of the things that make modern life fun, and got up from their television sets the morning of September 11th and got in line to give blood, well, go ahead and shove your pride where the sun don't shine, because you have no sense of what to be proud of.

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