Last night was surreal. We were playing Scene It at 8:03, when the election was called shockingly, historically early… we performed the celebration rites we had planned: champagne, Dan’s ancient cigar, some enthusiastic “WOOHOO!!!”s off the front porch. It felt anti-climactic, our lonely celebrating, so we walked downtown in the almost-rain.
Here’s where it became real to me: we were wandering through downtown’s mostly quiet and empty streets when we happened upon a posh little restaurant and bar. We could see the TV through the window, and the group of us clamored in to the lobby to join the watching. As President Obama (elect, whatever) spoke last night, the symphony let out. We stood in the lobby watching his speech, and symphony goers, elderly couples, waiters, chefs, and diners stopped what they were doing and sat, quietly, to watch, to cry. All of us sat together, strangers drawn in by a face on a screen, and no one spoke. Never in my life have I seen a room full of people pay such rapt attention.
When we left the bar, there were drums on the streets, and the crowd of few quickly became a parade of many, hundreds, maybe a thousand, and there was dancing in the street in Portland, OR. We stood on the steps of the Square and sang the Star Spangled Banner off-key. We clapped. We laughed.
This is hope. It is attentive and still, it is unified and inclusive, it is joyful and impossible to contain. And though we love and support the man who has served as the voice of this hope, we know he isn’t the source of it. The hope stems from all of us, strangers in a bar, familiar faces on the street, sharing a common joy… we wanted this, we worked for it, and the victory belongs to all of us. Barack Obama isn’t a savior. He’s a man, a good man, but just a flawed man like all of us. The hope, the hope is that we have chosen him. We doubted our ability to influence change, but we have succeeded. We know now what we are capable of… we know we can. The hope is community… something we’ve been missing for a long, long time.
A word to my friends in California… I’m happy we’re celebrating together, but I’m sorry your joy is tainted by the Prop 8 results. Know that I’m praying for you always, and loving you from here… I’m sorry that somewhere along the way we seem to have forgotten our call to love, and replaced it with a need to enforce our interpretation of religious law. This is the sort of thing that caused Jesus to challenge the religious leaders of His day, asking them to look to their own faults instead of trying to regulate the choices of others. Please remember that many of us are for you… my heart is broken for you today.
But it’s a new day. Anything is always possible.