Yes, this is late, but reflections take time.
I wasn't sure I wanted to write another political post, but I have found myself riding an unexpected emotional roller coaster. It's more of a kiddie-sized roller coaster, but it's still a ride I am surprised to be on. I would like to try to elucidate what I've been feeling, and also reveal that there are those of us who supported our new President, but don't actually believe he is the Messiah.
I did vote for Obama, and was very excited about having such an intellectual President at the helm, but I do know the man is not perfect. He is a man, one man, and, even worse, a politician. He will disappoint me; I know that already. I don't even agree with all his viewpoints; I shudder at the gross amount of dollars offered up in his economic stimulus package. But I have to trust that, for the most part, he will move in the right directions.
I was determined to watch the inauguration from work, which I did in our breakroom, along with about ten other people. We have a fairly even balance of black and white in our office, and we had both colors represented in our little audience. Nobody got overwhelmingly emotional, but it felt like being in church--no one wanted to talk over or make too much noise during the important moments. I was happy to see our new President installed, but that was about it.
Until later. As I drove home that evening, and over the next few days, some surprising feelings surfaced.
I first reacted to some of the news coverage, which included images of, and sound bites from, many of the spectators. Most concentrated on black citizens. Of course, they are much more emotionally connected than I am, and I cannot fully understand how they feel right now. But darn it, he's my President, too! Even if you didn't vote for him, he's your President. I did vote for him, but the hope he brings to me has to do with a lot more than his race. In fact, the primary inkling I had of my support for him was due to his focus on energy policy, not his his race, or his military or economic stances. So let's not forget that he represents the rest of the population.
Tied into this are my feelings about our country. I've heard more than one black citizen interviewed say something like "I'm finally proud of being American again." One woman said she had stopped reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, but that she "might just stand up and say it now." I knew exactly how she felt, but from a whole different aspect.
The last administration wounded me more deeply than I realized. The loudest elements of the right whipped up a witch-hunt against anyone who doesn't fall into their religiously conservative norm. You think "witch-hunt" is a strong word? Then you haven't felt the stigma of being pacifist, homosexual, agnostic, Muslim, scientific, poor, or just plain unhappy with the government over the past eight years. It sure hurt to have the religion I grew up in used to flog the opposition with the very intolerance Jesus decried. And it angered me that it was used at all to determine national policies of a supposedly and specifically religiously pluralistic country.
So I could identify with those newly patriotic black Americans--we feel like we have membership again; that America really is our country, that it really does represent us. I've been doing things I haven't done in years, like making sure I capitalize the word President. I might even tear up the next time I hear the Star-Spangled Banner.
Unfortunately, I only partly feel like a real, card-carrying member of the United States of America. When we as a society stop discriminating against people because of whom they fall in love with, then I will feel like a full citizen. Still, I can't help feeling a little better about my place in our society, simply because I expect a return to reason and tolerance in our national discourse. Not in place of religious belief, but alongside, and equally valued. This is not an if/or world; we can have Christian values without excluding other values.
At the same time, I have to recognize that there is a faction on "my" side that is liable to be just as intolerant as I was complaining about above. I've heard Obama called centrist by those far more informed than I; this gives me some hope that he will temper this wild enthusiasm for every crazy left-wing idea that comes down the pike. I do hope we can civilize national discussions beyond name calling and "nanner nanner, I can't hear you!"
Finally, and overriding, underlining and coexisting with these other feelings, is a sense of unreality. I was happy after election day, but the "transition period" was so long, and so ubiquitously reported, that it started to feel like a reality show. So I have to stop myself and virtually shake my head--yes, we have a new President. Yes, finally, somebody I voted for won!
As the new administration revs its engines, I find myself teetering between ebullience and cynicism. Yay, a new start! Nah, it's just a new day with the same problems. Yay, we're finally gonna make some progress! Meh, maybe yes, maybe no. Yay, the US is going to stop being so divided! I dunno...we'll see.
Well, hope is not a bad thing, so I will enjoy it, dammit. And whatever changes the new administration makes--for better or for worse--it will take a while. So I guess I'll just be happy I have a job to go to every day, and keep on plugging. Hopefully I'll see a light at the end of the tunnel before my hope runs out.