Now, it could be argued that on five bad hours of sleep, a raging morning headache, a cold all day long, and sheer giddiness over and above it all, I wasn’t good for much anyway, but at some point in the late morning, I came to understand that I was allowing myself one day to just enjoy the election results. I wouldn’t read anything infuriating, I wouldn’t think about my fears for the second term (fears for PBO’s life, and/or fears about what PBO will or will not achieve), I wouldn’t do almost anything but bask in the giddiness.
And before that day ends — before I get up tomorrow and have to write about matters Israel/Palestine and the President’s policies re: same, and I have to consider the extent of the hatred reserved for the man we just re-elected, and I have to be reminded of just how ugly budget discussions are — I want to get down how this feels, today. How it felt last night.
The anxiety I have felt over the past 10 days or so was entirely (and literally) unfamiliar to me. I’m just not built like that — I worry, sure, and can get pretty despairing given half a chance (or 25 years of peace advocacy), but the kind of paralyzing, hair-trigger emotionality soaked with an entirely amorphous fear and general sense of nausea? I don’t do that. But I sure did it, off and on, over the past 10 days. It was the chaos factor, the simple fact that America’s pre-election reality had been shaken hard by random weather and entirely unrandom voter manipulation, that threw me off so badly. I had been confident of an Obama win (though I thought it would be narrower than it ultimately was), but the chaos opened the door in my little head to the other possibility, and the sheer mean, nasty implications of that just overwhelmed me. I didn’t think Obama was going to lose — but what if he did?
So when the election was called, at about 10:10 pm CST, I thundered up the stairs to tell my just-barely-asleep boy, thundered back down, and burst into near-hysterical sobs. Shaking, weeping, falling into my husband’s arms, who was doing his own (much less extreme) version of same. The relief was not just “palpable” — it was a living, breathing thing that had entered our home and shed the light of grace on our worst fears.
And then, as the night rolled along, all the other victories for common sense and human compassion and fact over reality-bending were just one wave of joy after another. Tears continued to come, initially of the same back-from-the-brink, near-hysterical relief quality, but eventually of my rather more standard weepy-Wanda-OMG-the-wonder-of-it-all! variety, and that, too felt like a blessing (though all that crying may very well explain the morning’s headache).
This feels like not just a victory for President Obama; not just a victory for the party with which I have identified ideologically my entire life; not just a victory for policies that I believe to be good. This feels like a vindication of the huge step we took as a nation four years ago when we elected an African American in the first place; like a defense and a deepening of a crucial policy legacy that would have crumbled had Obama lost; and above all, like a statement that despite everything, despite all that we do wrong and all the myriad ways in which Americans are as stupidly human as anyone else — our humanity also contains a striving for justice and an attachment to bettering the world as it actually is. That we are not defined by people like Karl Rove and Sheldon Adelson and Joe Walsh and Mitt Romney, that we can look at their craven, manipulative mendacity and call it what it is — and push back. Reject it. Claim instead faith and hard work and mutual respect. A victory for government of the people, by the people, for the people over the forces of big money and appalling hubris.
This feels like hope.
I’ll get angry or frightened or sad, or all three, tomorrow (or the day after), I know. Not only is it the lot of the life-long activist, it’s kind of part and parcel of democracy.
But today, tonight, right now: I am grinning. I am hopeful. I am thrilled.
And tonight I sleep all the sleeps, and tomorrow I arise, girded and ready to face the dragons.