This is rambly, and on a topic I have deliberately tried to avoid all fall.
This is the first time in a long time that everything I voted for ended up going with the majority (including the ballot questions). I know there are a lot of folks out there looking to rain on our parade by criticizing the system, the candidates, the electoral college, etc. Yes, the system is broken, and no, I don’t think Barack Obama is somehow going to magically fix it, but I am choosing to deal with the brokenness and simply be happy with the results.
Dear friends had a party last night to watch the polls come in, but a combination of fatigue, avoidance of loud crowds, and desire to scream at the television kept me from staying very long up in Somerville. I went home and watched the rest of the polls come in on the futon, by myself, in the quiet. What can I say? It was nice.
I have wanted to see a female president for a long time, and supported Hillary Clinton in the primaries for that reason and because I simply thought she had more experience. I can say that it is thrilling to see an African-American President, the child of an immigrant, someone of humble beginnings. It’s easy to forgot that most of the country looks at our long list of white male presidents (like the one that is on my “Presidents of the United States” coffee mug) and sees people who they can’t relate to. There are people who poo-poo that sentiment, implying that it shouldn’t matter to people whether there leaders are white or black, male or female. Still, who we look at, who we look up to – those things matter.
And it matters that people of competence are allowed to shine. Yes, when I see Sarah Palin I see someone who looks like me (a hotter, older version of me), but I don’t get the sense that her values, or her idea of competence, is the same as mine. It’s not simply enough to have leaders who are of women, or who are different races. Speaking of my own experience, in my life I have wanted to be excellent in thinking, speaking, reading and writing. I have wanted to have knowledge. I have wanted to have morals that I could articulate and have wanted to be a leader who would encourage other people to live lives that are good. And who were the leaders I could look up to who had done that? George Washington, Martin Luther King Jr, Pope John XXIII. Good men, all, but men. With each election I see more women who I can look at and think “Wow, maybe I can do that. Maybe I can be the type of leader I want to be,” which is not to say I necessarily seek elected office. But every year, despite the setbacks, it becomes more and more OK for women to be strong, to be fighters, to be opinionated. That is hopeful for me.
Barack Obama’s election gives that same hope to other people. Here is a good man, who seems to want to do the right thing, who ‘works hard and plays by the rules’ as they say. And he looks like a large group of people who have never been represented in that way before. Like I said, it’s not perfect, but at least it’s above average.