Friday, August 29, 2008

The Morning After

I spend a lot of time thinking about politics, but little time writing about it. The issues we face are too complex for me to fairly address in the relatively small amount of time I spend doing this, and there are many remarkably bright people who do better than I ever could.

I am not a partisan. I don’t believe that either party has a monopoly on sound policy or good ideas. And though I’m skeptical, I’m not jaded. I assume the good faith of candidates and public servants until shown otherwise. And I like to listen to smart people with whom I disagree, because I never discount the possibility that they might be right and I might be wrong. I am a man open to persuasion, and I believe that the best ideas are forged in the fire of rigorous debate.

That’s a long way of saying that I’m not here to deliver a partisan message. In fact, I don’t view this as a particularly political message at all. I just want to say that I watched Barack Obama speak last night and felt pride, not because of what he said to us, but because of what he said about us.

I am forty years old, a relatively young man, yet old enough to remember when a night like last night seemed impossible. I remember deep and corrosive divisions in this country. I remember slurs tossed off casually, thoughtlessly, almost innocently. I remember when public expressions of bigotry didn’t seem all that shocking.

Two generations later, we know that an African-American man can be elected President of the United States. We don’t know that he will be, but we know that he can be. Two generations may seem like a long time, but history will view it as a heartbeat. America has its critics, and has earned many of its criticisms, especially when it comes to the tangled web of race. Still, we stand one step closer to doing what no other great Western nation has ever done, to elect a person of color to our highest office.

That’s a tribute to the best of American nature, and a reaffirmation that the American dream is no myth. A kid raised by a single mother without the privilege of money or status can, through merit, rise to the very highest level, no matter his background. It makes me feel a swell inside. It makes me think of songs by Curtis Mayfield and Sam Cooke that were designed to give comfort and inspiration, and that now stand as prophecies fulfilled. It is all right. A change has come.

Sam Cooke - A Change is Gonna Come

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