Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Day Reflections

Just a year ago I never could have believed that Tuesday's election would be possible. But as I listened to speech after speech on YouTube, and learned just how brilliant, fair minded, and universally appealing President Obama was, I grew in hope. Then when I volunteered (see the photo at our favorite house with my new friend Brenda), and saw the enthusiasm of every Obama supporter in Allentown, PA, I really started to believe. Sure there were the doubters, those that yielded to the fears hurled at them by the RNC phone calls... but they were not as convinced that he was evil as his supporters were convinced that he needed to be elected. And I hope that the conversations we had with those undecided voters had an impact.

Monday night I baked Obama cookies in preparation for our celebration...

Obama (Chocolate Chip Oatmeal) Cookies -

Cream together:
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 c of packed brown sugar (brown sugar only, baby, yeah!)
1 tsp. of vanilla
1/2 tsp. of salt
2 eggs
Mix separately:
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup white flour
3 cups rolled oats
Stir butter mixture into oats mixture and mix well.
Fold in:
1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips.
Pat down Tablespoons of cookie dough onto a cookie sheet
Bake at 375 for 10-15 minutes until slightly (and beautifully) browned.
Cool slightly on cookie sheet (on cooling rack) before attempting to remove.

When I woke up on Tuesday morning I texted everyone: "Happy Obama Day!!!" and proceeded to celebrate the entire day - walking with Marisa and two of her friends, who wore my Obama buttons (and asked if they could keep them : ) to the polls, and then on to Quick Check so that we could parade around the town showing our Obama pride. My town probably went McCain.

Then Tuesday evening I went with Wayne to dinner at the apartment of friends in Manhattan, cookies in hand. We brought the hostess a bouquet of orange tulips, symbolizing revolution, and concluded a day of celebration with an evening of heightened excitement and a little screaming and crying. We heard screams of joy coming from apartment windows all along Hudson Street. It was so much better than New Year's Eve or a Superbowl or a World Series. It was genuine, deeply felt, overwhelming pride in our country's ability to do what it needed to do at this moment in our history.

I have seen with my own 51-year-old eyes how far African Americans have come in our country. I've witnessed everything from subtle oppression to blatant job discrimination to economic alienation and outright disgraceful hate crimes - I've been an outspoken observer for all of my life. Today I know these wounds are not healed across our land - but they are healing. Today I know that Americans can use their intelligence to overcome their fears. Today I realize that when we appeal to the best in all of us, we can gather millions to a truly righteous (not self-righteous) cause. I said in a blog post a week ago, as I expressed my unwavering optimism, "I'm proud of us." I say it so much more emphatically today.

As a footnote, however, I must add that I am so sad to see the bans on gay marriage in three states. We cannot legislate to remove personal differences. In my opinion alcohol is more evil than marijuana, yet I would not ban either. I would improve our education system so that young people without parental grounding can gain self-esteem from other role models and don't feel disenfranchised or disconnected from a sound, guiding compass. Throwing kids in jail for possessing weed does not improve our society in any way, much less help them to change their habits.

Likewise, far more harm is done to women, and lasting psychological harm to children, in bad heterosexual marriages than could ever be done in a loving same-sex marriage. I don't believe it harms children at all to be raised by loving parents of the same gender. It does not "make them" gay. This has never been the case. Those fears are unfounded.

By saying that banning the right to have loving, positive gay marriage is "pro-family," while denying the childcare, the education, and the basic right to health care (calling them "socialist") that all children need - furthering the breakdown of "traditional" families across America through the overwhelming burdens of these basic needs - the religious right, in my opinion, is exposing itself as fundamentally hypocritical at best, and destroying the very fabric of our American dream at worst.

Anyone who feels that they know what is best for everyone else needs a humbling wake up call. I once thought all of these things. I once thought that I knew what was best for everyone - that my zealous religious views were superior to others'. Then I was forced to take a good long look at myself in the mirror. What I saw was fundamental hypocrisy. I saw that my motivation was not love for others, but love for myself. That being right meant more to me than understanding them. That my brownie points were more important to me than the everyday struggles of my fellow humans. At the end of the day... I didn't care about people, not really. I only cared about what was "right."

I clearly see now that people who don't understand the differences in others write all of these little rules, restraints, and limitations on harmless behavior so that they can feel safe. Laws are meant to protect us from harm, not protect us from differences among us. When love is your motivation you see clearly what is good for others; and what is good for all of us is love. Love heals, it does not divide us. Stop. Think. And let love motivate your actions.

President Obama had to appeal to conservatives as well as liberals to be elected. Many republicans voted for him. Many of the religious right that are disillusioned by Bush and the war or the economy voted for him. The fact that those bans won as he won the presidency shows that many voted for both him and the ban. I am glad he won. I am proud that he won. But we have much work to do to raise awareness for the rights of individuals to choose their own path in life, and the obligation of government to ensure fair treatment for all - individuals of every race, creed, and orientation.

Every human lucky enough to have someone to stroke their brow when they're sick, to hold their hand when they're afraid, to have a shoulder to weep on when they lose a loved one... the very sweetness that every human longs and strives for in their life... should be hailed as a fortunate soul, and should feel the support of a society that understands the value of these treasures, and encourages the commitment that secures them in their loving bonds.

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