The dawn had yet to come up as we put the dogs outside in a pouring rain, packed up Bodie, a bag of coffee, a dozen eggs, some tomatoes and onions, and headed over to Matt’s house to watch the election returns.
The storm had temporarily knocked out Matt’s TV, which gets Armed Forces Television, so we gathered around a laptop and started preparing breakfast. Hillary watched in her Obama shirt. Matt clutched coffee in his, well matched to his pajama pants. Mason did a sort of cabbage patchy hip wiggle dance shouting Obama Obama Obama. It wasn’t for the faint of heart. Raj, the Australian contingent, filmed the TV once it came back on. Teal and Nat, heading back to DC shortly, cheered loudly with each swing state announcement.
Bodie, indoctrinated by his parents, knows that there is now a “bad” president. Bodie’s take on why he is bad comes from a preschool perspective– “he pushes and he hits” – isn’t too far off. When the anchors said Obama, which was every other sentence or so, Bodie gleefully shouted to us, “he said Obama!”
When Obama gave his speech, tears were flowing. I realized that a little piece of me, a knot, a tension, dissolved. Living overseas, I have to say “I’m American” frequently. And each time I say it, I now realize, it was with a touch of wariness of how it would be perceived, a small dose of embarrassment over the many messes that our country has instigated during this administration.
Certainly Africa, like most of the world, is watching this U.S. election unlike ever before. Tanzanians are exceedingly reserved, yet, when one walks around Dar es Salaam with an Obama shirt, people call out and shout “Go Obama!”. As we watched, Nat received a text message that tomorrow was declared a National Holiday in Kenya.
I’ve known how angry I was over the Bush administration’s mangling of most things it touched, but not realized how I had internalized that as some element of shame. Like good therapy, as Obama repeated “yes we can”, I felt a little weight lift, a sense of pride and optimism replace a knot of shame and cynicism.
The historic fact that Obama is African-American is fine, but the sense of hope comes more from his approach to how this country can care for its people, take a meaningful role in benefitting all citizens of the world, and ultimately create a world that is safer and more hospitable for Bodie and his generation.
I sat next to Hillary, Bodie clutched in her lap, as Obama spoke. A notion of possibility, of a more positive future, is palpable in ways that I’ve never imagined as a result of a politician. While this president is indeed stepping into the deepest assemblage of calamities that the country has seen in many generations, I have a sense of buoyancy that the U.S. will be a country that I feel proud to say I’m from again.