The Day After: Obama, The Election And The Next Term
First things first: YAAAAAAAAAAAAAS! Obama won! Okay, on with the show. The first time I put fingers to keyboard in the name of K. Clark's Corner was on November 5, 2008--the day after Barack Obama made history as the first black president, breaking down one of the biggest, if not the biggest, barriers to racial equality in America, if not the world.
However, November 4, 2008 was also the day California voters decided to insert discrimination into the law in the form of Proposition 8, with Arizona and Florida also approving gay marriage bans and Arkansas banning gay couples from adopting. It was a definitely a day of mixed emotions: elation at the fact a black man was elected leader of the free world, but disappointment at others'--especially black folk's-- unwillingness to let other people be free to live their own lives.
Four years later, things are not perfect, but have certainly shifted. While Prop 8 is still in litigation, voters Maine and Maryland voted in favor of marriage equality, the first time gay marriage has won on the ballot. The nation's first openly gay senator has been elected. Don't Ask Don't Tell is dead. And a sitting president has gone on record as being pro-gay marriage.
The last fact is one that sits in my mind the most. That President Obama, instead of playing the oppression Olympics, can see LGBT rights as civil rights, speak directly to our community and champion our struggles is, along with all the other events, a huge cultural step forward. I can see all parts of myself--black, gay, humanistic--in the president's vision for America.
For that reason, along with what I feel is a good list of accomplishments in the face of an economy on life support and a party of no, is why I voted for him again. Are we aren't completely out of the hole yet? Nope. But I believe the president will work to help anyone who's willing to grab a shovel and dig themselves out, rather than a privileged few while burying the rest of us alive. Some felt Mitt Romney was the better man for carrying out this task.. We'll have to agree to disagree on that. But I digress.
Perhaps he felt more sensitive than most to our plight after being subjected to some of the most egregious, racist and just downright shitty (I'm looking at you Donald Trump) treatment a commander in chief has ever had to withstand. In some weird, wrong way, said shitty treatment has been a good thing, as it has exposed our supposedly "post racial" country's lingering underbelly of racism and prejudice, just as Hilary's, and to an extent Sarah Palin's *shudders* potential candidacies unveiled its sexism.
All that being said, here's what I took away from last night's victory and the immediate aftermath:
1. President Obama's speech was inspiring, humble and sincere. I thought he did a great job of extending an olive branch to the other side without coming off as weak or condescending.
2. Though I've spent the last century (at least that's how long it feels) reading, shading and otherwise criticizing Mitt Romney, his concession speech was pure class. Ironically last night felt like his most natural, human moment of the whole campaign. It was like something real woke up inside.
3. Speaking of waking up, it looks like Republicans have finally realized catering solely towards white voters will not win elections anymore. Unless that's just post-election depression talking. Either way, America is now irreversibly multicultural, and they must find a way to deal with it. I think cutting loose the whack job/Tea Party wing of the party is a good place to start.
4. Compromise. Both sides must learn this word and learn it well--hell, tattoo it on your neck like Chris Brown--if the next four years are to be better than hostile stalemates while our impending financial doom looms closer. Bump all the political theater; people's livelihoods are at stake. In some cases, their actual lives are at stake. Both sides need to be willing to give up some ground and see beyond party lines.
Honestly, seeing beyond party lines is something all of us could stand doing a little more of. We may not be in a position to create policy, but we can change how we treat others we disagree with. Color me optimistic, but most liberals aren't leeches who let the government to pay all our bills, wipe our asses, and tuck us in at night as we mercilessly milk the system and cackle all the way to bank to cash unemployment checks. Just as most conservatives aren't racists and/or homophobic fearmongers who think all should be sacrificed in the name of capitalism and rape is god's intent.
There is fraud, craziness and bigotry in every bunch. There probably always will be, and it should be stamped out wherever it rears its divisive head. However, if we don't mentally make "whomp, whomp whomp" (think Charlie Brown's teacher:) sounds in our heads the second someone reveals a political affiliation opposite our own, we'll have better chance of keeping out the crazy, and letting in our common humanity.