Thursday, August 28, 2008

Let's just pause, shall we?

I have been dipping my toe in and out of the Democratic convention, half hoping that my sense of inspiration and hope would get re-ignited, half fearing the relentless gravity of that dreary, myopic, politics-as-usual that drained the primary of all its sunlight.

I listen to NPR and read the speech post-mortems on Slate, mostly on the XX Factor, where for months I've followed the most intelligent debate I could find on the Clinton and Obama candidacies, and all the hopes and angst and bitterness that they engendered.

This morning the post-mortems were all about Bill Clinton's speech, without a single mention of one of the momentous events in US history: Yesterday, one of the two major political parties named a non-white person as their candidate for president.

Oh, the actual roll call vote was buried early in the day's schedule, thanks to lingering nervousness about how the die-hard Hillary supporters would behave. And the traditional absence of the presumptive nominee himself always detracts from the drama of the moment, in my opinion. But still, it was a moment that literally made me weep. I'm not sure I really believed that I, born less than a year after the Voting Rights Act gave black people a meaningful right to vote in this country, would ever see a black man at the top of the ticket.

Sure, seeing a woman at the top of the ticket would have been just as momentous, and I am just as hopeful about that too. I refuse to be unhappy about having to choose between two kinds of momentous.

When we were in France in April, once someone realized they had an American who could converse in French, it was as if they couldn't resist the opportunity to ask: Really, you actually might elect a black man? I could see them rock on their heels a bit, rethinking all the exasperated thoughts they had about us. They want to like Americans, they really do; they find us endearing and strangely, naively kind as a people, yet also so selfish and short-sighted. We share an historical legacy with the French, birthing Western representative democracy through our twin revolutions. But they have been despairing about us lately. This unexpected twist in our election process made them feel genuinely hopeful, for their strange old friends, and for the world.

It really does give me hope, that we might be that kind of a country after all. It's a nice feeling. Not nearly as nice as it'll be if it actually happens.

1 comment:

Among the Pines said...

After the buzz created by the selection of Republican VP candidate, I think we are going to have to work tremendously hard to become "that" kind of country. A VP with a "mean girl" streak is not my ideal.