Let me be honest here. When I saw the long faces at Romney Headquarters watching the numbers creep up and then take that beautiful vaulting leap over Ohio to 275, I did not feel sorry for them. When I saw their sad faces and slumped shoulders watching Times Square explode with joy, I did not feel much compassion for them. As an aspiring good Buddhist, I tried not to gloat. But let’s face it— I still cheer when the bad guys get their just desserts in the movies. I felt that fairy-tale satisfaction of the happy ending, when the monsters see their own gruesome reflection in the mirror and flee in terror or die from fright. That most beautiful of numbers— 275 still ascending to 302—was a mirror to the Republicans showing the end of (well, one can hope) the culture of exclusion and privilege. It was the happiest of endings and I slept like a baby.
Amidst the tangible horrors of the Bush Error, those who died in wars or from poor health care or who lost their jobs or lost their homes or lost their capacity to think amidst the stern call for obedience, there was the feeling of public discourse hitting new lows. When the person at the top sits at a $1,000 a plate fund raising dinner and says to those gathered, “Welcome to the world of the haves and the have-mores” with an arrogant smirk on his face and the snide chuckles of his followers” (go see that clip in Michael Moore’s movie Fahrenheit 9/11), he throws the barn doors wide open to a stampede of smug privilege. And off the Republicans went, letting the Bill O-Reilly’s, Ann Coulters, Rush Limbaughs and Newt Gingriches set the tone of hate-talk and cowboy swagger. The shameless effort to demonize Obama instead of stand behind him as President, the rise of the fanatic Tea Party, the illegal bullying at the polls or tampering with votes while espousing God and country, the priority of protecting their money and privilege over serving the most basic needs of people with health care and decent public education— well, the list goes on. Shameful, shameful and making me feel ashamed that they were becoming the voice of America.
Though I would have somehow gotten through the next four years with the likes of Romney, the ascendance of this regressive good ole boys club would have shadowed my every day. It would be like watching a movie over and over where the bullies always win, reading a fairy tale where the giant with no heart in his body keeps causing damage. Of course, I know that in the Republican fold there are decent people who love their family and take care of their dog and even have a political philosophy with some points worth considering, but it’s the whole tone of exclusion, denial (climate change? Naw, don’t worry—buy that Hummer!), ignorance, lip service to Jesus without ever once considering that they would slam the door in his face if he came around barefoot and bearded talking about how the meek shall inherit the earth.
But for the moment I can let go of the anger. The mirror has been held up and the people have spoken. I looked at all the white faces at Romney Headquarters, the rich men and the Stepford-wived women, and then looked at those folks in Times Square and the difference was striking. If the Republicans want to regain credibility, they would do well to take those Times Square folks into account. Stop the swing to the right, towards more fanaticism and more exclusion and start to think about the folks they’ve had the luxury of leaving out. No more. The new America is waking up and going to the polls, standing for hours in lines to claim their voice and their vote, using Democracy for what it intended. 75% Latino vote! Women claiming their reproductive rights! Gay rights groups! A leader who says out loud “Black, white, old, young, rich, poor, gay, straight—you’re all in the club! Let’s get moving together, deal with the big issues that face us.”
And that is the next step. A few days of well-deserved exultation and exhales, knowing we won’t be struggling against exclusive and regressive politics and then roll up our sleeves and get to work. Keep active. Keep involved, Keep the pressure on to keep moving toward the whole promise of America, where people are free to love (Go Maine! Legal same-sex marriage!), free to follow their pleasure that harms no one (Go Colorado! Legal marijuana!), free to feel part of this grand venture (Go Maryland! Immigrants rights!). Obama’s victory speech once again revived the feeling of hope that democracy is alive and well and still works and exhorted us to keep the momentum going. (My own pledge is to get more involved in the politics of education.) And Romney’s concession speech was also good, a step away from continued polarization and toward genuine bipartisan cooperation.
The mood is jubilant and the world sparkles just a little bit brighter. It’s a new day. Here’s a lovely poem about it all.
Sometimes things don’t go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost, green thrives, the crops don’t fail,
sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best efforts do not go
amiss, sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.