Let me begin by saying that I am not as eloquent as I'd like to be.
It is now 5 days after an historic election, and I am still so thrilled with the result and how the result came about. I think we will never fully comprehend how much effort it took to get to that result...so much footwork, so many phonecalls, knocking on doors, shuttling people to their polling places. Donations.
I did not vote because I cannot. I have never come out and said it, mostly because I didn't dare. I am permanent resident. I can live here, own a house, own a business, go to work, raise my children, pay my mortgage and my taxes, but I cannot vote. Which is my own choice, and I am not lamenting anything, except this time around, I really would have liked to go vote.
25 years ago, when I came here for the first time as an exchange student from Germany, I felt free to talk politics with whomever. Over the years, the climate changed so much that it was very palpable for me: you had to feel people out to see where they stood, especially during the last couple of years. It got scary. Friends from other European countries were saying the same thing. It was beginning to feel like the old eastern Germany, where you had to be very careful choosing your friends and who you were saying what to. (I had visited there one time. I saw it with my own eyes.)
Up until Tuesday night, I didn't dare trust the polls that were saying that Obama was ahead...I needed to stay up until the very end of his acceptance speech to believe it. And then to see people celebrating in the streets. I was so glad to lose sleep that night.
All week, friends and co-workers and I have been talking. One guy said, "Well, it's kind of too late for all of that now, isn't it? 8 years too late." (I think he is a pessimist.)
That gave me pause. Obviously, 8 years ago, this country wasn't ready to vote the way it voted now. Maybe we (and I am taking the liberty to include myself, because I am prouder than ever to be able to live here) had to go through horrible 8 years in order to be ready for change. To realize what we are capable of.
I am hoping very much that the momentum can be kept up for a while. The momentum of peaceful community organizing, resistance to ignorance and stupidity, warmongering and belligerence. The momentum of being able to talk to each other, of people of all colors and walks of life talking to each other. I want to keep the hope that a good life is possible where we get along with each other and other nations, where we really try and save the environment, and where I don't have to be afraid to voice my dissent.
And you know what else? I am probably not going to completely agree with every single thing Barack Obama does. Time will tell, but for now, I am getting very excited about January 20th, 2009.
Ed.: Permanent Resident. Not citizen. (I corrected it in the text above). Or, as Dear Husband likes to tell the kids: your mother is an alien!