Sunday, November 9, 2008
Ring them bells, ye heathen,
From the city that dreams,
Ring them bells from the sanctuaries,
Cross the valleys and streams.
It’s hard to be disgruntled when everyone around you is so happy. And November 4 was unquestionably a day that brought immense joy to millions of Americas.
Whether you were among the 64,058,826 people who voted for Barack Obama, or one of the 56,500,053 who voted for John McCain, at exactly 11:01 West Coast time the mood of a country changed. For a brief, fleeting moment, we were neither Republicans nor Democrats. Conservative nor Liberal. Right nor Left. Ideology evaporated, labels disappeared, color was washed away.
The whole world was watching. And what they saw was something uniquely American. The singular, defining quality that distinguishes America from every other country in the world: ‘redemption’.
The election of Barack Obama as the first African American president didn’t eradicate the racial injustices embedded in our nation’s DNA some 240 years ago. But it did emancipate us by from the past in some communal, collective way. And African Americans weren't the only ones who felt the lifting of the shackles. We all felt the weight lift. We all experienced that moment together.
Traditionally, these moments of collective consciousness are reserved to see us through the dark times that have befallen our nation—Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans, 9/11.
This was different. This was a moment in which we were bound together by hope and optimism, rather than brought together by horror and despair.
The closest thing this nation has come to the transformational moment we experienced Tuesday night was the defeat of the Nazis in World World II. But even that wasn’t really the same.
Yes, the chimes of freedom rang around the world, but the freedom America fought for was a deferred freedom. It would take another 60 years, and another generation, before the true tenets of freedom were extended to every American.
The headlines told the tale. And the tale didn’t need elaboration. Like all pivotal moments in history, the story could be reduced to three simple words:
To see over 700 front pages from November 5, 2008, click here.
The elevation of a black man to the presidency in this year, on this date, at this moment in our nation’s history could not have happened at any other time. Barack Obama was simply born at the right time. Born into a broken world desperately in need of being fixed.
For the last eight years, decisive, destructive partisanship has torn at the fabric of this country. On November 3, 2008, we were a nation of broken idols, broken treaties, broken vows, broken laws, broken words that should never have been spoken. On November 4, we were something else.
And while the man charged with picking up those pieces will inevitably be labeled by his detractors as a ‘empty vessel,’ a ‘blank slate,’ a ‘complete unknown,’ perhaps we can take solace in this simple fact: what better place to put all these broken pieces than in a vessel large enough to hold the limitless hope for a future that, for the first time in our nation’s history, truly feels like it can benefit every American.
Oh the lines are long,
And the fighting is strong,
And they're breaking down the distance,
Between right and wrong.