Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.
Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.
Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”
Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.
What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.
In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.
Why do I and so many others, none of us Americans, feel so strongly about the election of this man?
It’s partly charisma, partly the oratory, some of it is a reaction to the past eight years and I’m sure our personal brand of politics has something to do with it too.
And a lot of it is hope – that in a world of six billion people, there must be more like him, waiting to come forward.
Four years from now, or perhaps eight, we will know how it all turned out. Whether it was just a chimera we desperately wanted to believe in or whether that early promise bore fruit. But at least we’ll always have had this moment of possibility.
My grandparents took a train to listen to Mahatma Gandhi speak, my mother cried when Pandit Nehru died, my father waited in the cold to listen to A. B. Vajpayee orate… I could never connect with any of that. How could you feel that way about a politician? The closest I ever came to it was when Nelson Mandela was freed from prison and my father and I would pore over the articles. But I don’t think either one of us looked at Mandela as a politician as such.
And then one day, I noticed a strange pull in my facial muscles as I watched Barack Obama deliver a speech. I was, to put it mildly, grinning from ear to ear.
Years have passed since then and I still don’t know whether I trust half the things he says… nothing personal, but even the best of politicians is still a politician. But I feel as though I’ve passed a rite of passage by experiencing this happiness.
I can only imagine what it would have been like if he’d been my fellow citizen.