I cried, and Liam stole my snack

I didn’t stay up to watch the election results; I got a good night’s sleep. I woke up this morning and turned on BBC radio just in time to hear McCain’s concession speech. Christi and I went downstairs in the apartment of our Sudanese neighbors to watch Obama’s victory speech (we don’t have a TV.) Liam (my 2 year old son) had fallen down on his way to school; he walked back to be comforted and joined the festivities.

The speech was vintage Obama, but I’m not big on hype or political rhetoric; I remember Bush saying many of the same things when he was first elected (obviously not as eloquently).

But when the speech was over and Michelle Obama walked out onto the stage, the tears suddenly came (for Christi too). The symbolic importance of this moment for America and the world cannot be overestimated. I know it’s not perfect, and the real work is just beginning, but a critical threshold has just been crossed. That this barrier has been broken means a lot to me, and it makes me feel real good right now.

In the meantime Liam, rummaging through my backpack, takes out my banana bread snack, adds it to his own, zips up his backpack, and – with a smirk on his face – trudges off to school ;-).

Other random thoughts:

  • I’m really glad the campaign is over.
  • Will all the lobbyist have to learn how to play basketball now? (Reflecting on Obama’s election day activity.)
  • Christi on seeing Joe Biden on stage: “Joe Biden just got a free ride. He must be thinking, ‘boy was that easy.'”
  • I appreciated McCain’s concession speech, but we haven’t arrived with regards to race; we’ve still got a long way to go – on Main Street as it were.
  • It’s all downhill from here (once the realities of Washington strike); wait, we still have the inauguration. I’m counting the the First Lady to help the president keep it real.

With apologies to all my really conservative friends, I’m going to enjoy this moment.

12 thoughts on “I cried, and Liam stole my snack

  1. steph says:

    Congratulations Ben and congratulations America. The whole world is celebrating Obama’s victory. I’m not into political rhetoric either and all the imperialistic twoddle but America has done the right thing in the eyes of the world and that is important for all our futures.

  2. steph says:

    Yes and I’m glad Michelle is there. She’s a solid intelligent woman.

  3. steph says:

    BTW I’m very disappointed the McCain crowd booed at Obama’s name when McCain gave his concession speech. That was a very bad look for the world to see.

  4. Ben says:

    That’s what I hate about the deeply partisan nature of politics – especially in America where there are only two parties. The people at that rally had given their hearts and souls to see McCain elected. Somehow that had translated into demonizing the opponent. Having gone so far down that road, it’s hard to instantly switch gears.

    I have the same sinking feeling when people demonize George Bush. He certainly has had some terrible advisers and made some colossal mistakes, but I think people forget that Bush expressed some of the same hopes as Obama when Bush first came into Washington as the president-elect. Let’s hope Obama’s hopes survives the partisan political scene in Washington better than Bush’s did.

  5. Simon says:

    When the result was announced, my housemates and I went out in the streets. I live in a mostly African American neighborhood, and people were singing and laughing and honking car horns. Cars would drive by and you would hear girls chanting O-ba-ma over and over. We walked to the downtown with a drink in our hand and laughed and spoke for almost an hour with people in the streets. We got home after midnight.

  6. R says:

    I just wrote the longest comment in response to this post, and then WordPress went and swallowed it.

    I’ll try to recapture the gist one more time.

    First, Congratulations America(ns). In one fell swoop you’ve managed to uproot a faltering international image and replace it with a sense of admiration and awe. I have to confess, at times, I didn’t think America was ‘big’ enough to pull this. I’m so glad I was mistaken.

    Second, about Obama’s speech:

    I actually saw if a little different than you did. The words were not remarkable, but the tone of his voice was. And I for one have never heard any one use his voice as language as effectively as Barack Obama does.

    I was fascinated when, during his rallies toward the end of his campaign, when he was speaking eloquently and passionately about what McCain couldn’t do and the crowd got all worked up to the point that they started to boo at the mention to McCain, he would pause, lift his hand slightly, and crisply say to his supporters “You don’t have to boo, just vote.” There’d be a moment of silence, and then there’d be a round of applause from the people he had just remonstrated with and it was all just so fascinating to watch.

    To a large extent, if you’d seen Obama’s other speeches, especially pre-convention and then in the last ten days or so of the election, you would have remarked that his tone was deliberately measured. Like he saw the moment before him and he understood that it was his to seize if he chose to but he decided it wasn’t the right time and so he walked circles around it so that if you understood the language of his voice, you understood that he was deliberately refusing to grab it because he realised that it did not belong to him alone but to the millions of people around America who had made it happen, and even to the people who hadn’t wanted it to happen.

    As this post risks surpassing the previous one in length, I will press the pause button and move my ruminations elsewhere.

  7. Ben says:

    Hi R,

    I’m honored that you posted such a long comment here (twice.)

    I held my breath up to the very end; I know a lot about America’s racial history, and I too was afraid that it might not happen. (Thanks in no small part to Christians and Obama’s pro-abortion votes in the Senate – a serious concern.) Getting the final confirmation on Wednesday morning was a big relief to me.

    About the speech. It was indeed great and Obama is one of the great political orators of all time – vintage Obama. Still, he pales in comparison to many of the great black preachers I’ve heard, and they do this regularly without teleprompters.

    All I’m saying is that hype and speeches don’t do much for me. I’ve heard thousands of speeches my lifetime; hundreds of them have been great; a few have been truly great. Yet even after a great message, ask a person a week later what was actually. That’s just me.

    By the way. Liam (2) – who’s never heard an Obama speech in his lifetime before yesterday – started chanting, “Yes we can” without any prompting from anyone. He hasn’t given it up yet.

  8. Ben says:

    Simon, I’m really glad you got to enjoy the moment. I’m hearing from other friends and relative that people around them were in a somber mood, and that would have been a major bummer.

  9. Ben says:

    R, more on Obama’s speech. I wanted to add I try to pay as little attention to the campaigns as possible – except to find out who is ahead on the polls. I do try to read lots of biographical material to try find out as much as possible about the character of the individual. In that regard, my mind was made up about Obama long before the campaign rhetoric began.

    All I’m saying is that as great as the speeches can be, I’m more interested in things like management and direction. If the way he managed his campaign is any indication of the future, then we are in good shape.

    So, I’m paying a lot more attention now than I was during the campaign, when everything gets distorted.

    And I think that is what moved me so much when his wife came out. At that point, Obama ceased to be the eloquent politician. At that point, all the history and memories and the importance of the moment hit me. If you look at some of the “Links of the Day” on the right of this blog, you will get a much better articulation of some of my sentiments.


  10. steph says:

    “faltering image”? faltering from what? did it ever have one? I think it’s fair to say the world has admiration and awe for Obama but with America, I think we are more relieved and encouraged. It reminds me of an American young conservative academic who consoled his readers with “the world now regards us with great honor[sic]”. Somehow that seemed a little arrogant as if we are all to look up to America now. Most of us are quite egalitarian.

    Liam – that’s so cute. 🙂

  11. Ben says:

    I’ve lived more than half my life as an American in foreign lands, but I’m still a little surprised how much people think of America .

    It is what it is: neither great nor terrible, neither heaven nor hell. The same applies to our presidents. Some are better than others, but they are not messiahs; nor are they devils. Most are either victims 0r beneficiaries of uncontrollable circumstances.

    There are parts of the American ethos I’m quite happy with, and there are other aspects I’m terribly ashamed of. The same applies to just about everywhere I’ve live.

  12. R says:

    Yes, I totally understand not paying much mind to the campaigns. I know I watched the goings on more for narrative rather than substance. Reading some of the links now.

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