me at 4 am last night- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Barack
It was warm, eleven o’clock at night on a November Tuesday, and New York was broiling under its smog skin. All week it crept up; the slow, sure tensing of expectations. There was hope. There was fear. It was on everyone’s mind and a topic of fervent conversation for months, finally taking precedence with the opening of the early polls. I was only half-listening. I was half-interested because I had taken stance years ago, stupidly, ignorantly, that I didn’t care for politics. Mom and Dad would take care of things and shield me from what the nightly news reports showed. The generalized “America” had its place Elsewhere, but life in the real world happened right outside my window. That same localized world alerted me the moment that Barack Hussein Obama, son of a black father and a white mother, Democratic nominee hopeful, a young Senator from Illinois who wore his sleeves rolled up like Abe Lincoln’s, had been chosen as our 44th President elect. At eleven o’clock at night, as I was typing my homework for my Friday classes, cheers sprung out from the street and cries rang from every direction and every apartment building to the North, South, East and West. I stuck my head outside the window. Five people looked up at me, showing me their shining grins, calling out. I called my uncle (someone had to hear this), who heard the tumult from his Pennsylvania home. Manhattan was burning in a roar of elated acoustics. People are still, at 3 o’clock in the morning, cheering out of sports pubs and off of rooftops. And I am crying for America.
I’m not crying because Obama spoke so powerfully after he was elected. I’m not crying because Joe Biden, a real human being, is going to be Obama’s fighting arm in the coming years. I’m not starry-eyed and waiting for change, I’m not resting after two years of anticipation. Feeling like a bystander for most of the presidential campaigns, I had no expectations to be filled or broken. I am simply stunned. I am amazed. I am in awe of the enormity of what just happened. We are; America is, the last remaining superpower, and finally living up to what we have always fancied ourselves: a progressive country that has the clout and manpower to shape the future. Today, as we are in the midst of the long, crashing fall of giants, we have a chance to land softly or grasp our way back to balance. A black man is going to be president. This is history in the making. And do you know who did it? We did it. Young people did it. They said so on the news, on every channel: the young voters of America, mobilized for change, stood for hours to pull an archaic lever to the right and left.
I don’t know as much as many of my peers about Obama’s politics, but I like what I do know about his projected policies. Still, he’s a politician, and for that reason alone I won’t wear a T-shirt promoting his campaign. What I can’t get over is this swelling feeling of camaraderie pregnant with the weight of shared responsibility. No one vote really matters; the hours one student spent waiting to vote are a droplet of water in a tidal wave, but people did it anyway. I did it. And I walked out of that booth knowing that I was contributing to something. I didn’t even think I was going to get around to it. By making that decision, I touched the federal powers that be with the hand that cast the ballot.
The roar churning around me is the sound of the machinery that pulls us into the future. It is always there, but only on nights like this does the sound of united, astonished voices allow us to hear it. And by nights “like this” I mean nights that throw together the makings of history. I cast a vote that helped every American get here, to the stepping stone down one of a thousand forks of a road leading to a precipice. Now what? Now we can expect the unexpected. I cast a ballot that helped us get here, down one of a thousand forks in a road leading to all the potential tomorrows. No one knows what lies ahead, but the thrill brings rejuvenation to a stale, tired place. There is hope. There is fear. These emotions will accompany the start of each day for the next four years. But I know that at this moment I, like the fed-up men and women who pushed Barack Obama to victory with the flipping of a millions switches, am, maybe for the first time in my life—and who is to say for how long?—proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. Now I know what this really means.