"We don't know what the next president's going to face. If we choose someone with vision, someone with guts, someone with gravitas... someone who's connected to the other people's lives and cares about making them better... if we choose someone to inspire us... then we'll be able to face what comes our way and achieve things we can't imagine yet." (-Toby Ziegler, The West Wing, season 4.)
Politically speaking, I have never been part of the winning team. The only presidential races I have voted in ended with embarrassment and despair- and the only political satisfaction and inspiration I could find was from the fictional characters on the West Wing. (And come on, I know I wasn't the only one thinking "Bartlett for America" all the way through the primaries!) Politics weren't anything I could support in real life, just a fantasy pipe dream brought to us by Aaron Sorkin, and my role in politics was activist, radical, revolutionary and general mal-content. But last night made me feel like maybe something else was possible.
I was a nervous wreck all day: I woke up at 7:30 with stress dreams, dressed and walked down to my local Mafia bar to vote. (Technically, I think it's called a "private club" on my voter's registration card... but it was pretty clearly Mafia owned. Also, just in case you were wondering, the mafia voted for McCain.) Work was just a blur of me trying to destract myself from the election... mostly unsuccessfully. There were texts and calls from family and friends: "Have you voted yet? Have you seen the numbers?" Yes: I voted, no: I'm trying to remain calm. (Mostly unsuccessful.) I watched the election in the basement of a friend of a friend, surrounded by like-minded queers and plenty of snack food, adorned in my Hufflepuffs for Obama t-shirt, my "I voted for Change!" sticker and my lucky underwear.
(underwear not shown.)
Now, Philadelphia has been rioting for the past week straight (first the Phillies winning the world series on wednesday, then Halloween and the Phillies parade on Friday, then the world's largest pinata on sunday... don't ask about that last one, it's still sort of a sore spot) but when the clock struck 11 and the west coast polls closed... we could hear the rumble of celebrations all the way in a south philly basement. People started honking and screaming all over the city. We stayed and watched McCains almost unbelievably humble concession speech (he almost sounded like the old McCain- the one from before the campaign!) and then Obama's wonderfully amazing speech. We had goosebumps... and seeing Jesse Jackson crying was possibly the cutest thing ever.
(did you catch that gay shout-out at the end?! A president mentioned gay people! Unprovoked and unapologetically!! also... sorry this link doesn't work... copy and paste?)
And then we hit the streets.
(Along with a few other people.)
I have been to protests. I have been to marches. I have been to rallies and teach-ins any many many other political gatherings, but NONE of them were this joyful. For the first time, our gathering wasn't based on anger or frustration. It was about desperate relief and sheer joy. It was amazing: people of all races and ages out in the streets at 2am! It was a moment that I will never forget. Ever.
(Josh, Sarah and Q. at Broad and Chestnut at about 1:45am)
So now comes the hard part: now Obama has to live up to everything we see in him. But today, we celebrate. Today I'm not reading any incendiary political material, or making any activist art work. I'm not going to stress (too much) about prop 8 which is still up in the air, or complain (ad nauseum) about the 2 other states that passed anti-gay marriage amendments. Today, I'm going to bask in the rosy glow of being politically successful on a national scale, and invest energy in the belief that things can be and are going to be different.