Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on the Day After

This morning I woke up and, apart from it being unseasonably warm, it was a normal fall weekday. There were piles of yellowed leaves in the streets and on the sidewalks. People were going to and from work. The bus was still crowded.

It was a perfectly typical Wednesday morning.

You really wouldn't have been able to tell this morning that the night before was a historic night, that the country had chosen to follow up nearly eight widely unpopular years with the risk of the unknown, that hundreds of thousands of people had packed downtown Chicago to hear the first black president-elect in the history of our country claim victory, that after a long, gruelling and seemingly endless election process we finally had our answer to the question: who gets saddled with fixing our collective mess?

People were crying and dancing in the streets all over the world. All over the world. Who can remember the last time people celebrated all over the world for the election of an American president?

Years from now I am certain that people will ask me if I was there downtown when it happened, when Obama claimed victory and a quarter of a million people went absolutely wild and Jesse Jackson cried for all the television watching audience to see world over.

And I will tell them no, I was at home in my apartment. Eating leftover chicken fried rice out of a carton. Typing away on my laptop with the election on in the background.

Anti-climactic, I know.

From the comfort of my desk chair, I saw John McCain step up to a podium in Arizona. I listened as he gave an eloquent and graceful concession speech where he quieted the shouting disappointed masses as best he could and pledged to work with the new President. He was calm and direct, and I could have sworn I detected a certain amount of relief.

In that brief speech he was the John McCain I vaguely remembered from before the campaign.

And Obama gave the type of speech that Obama gives, draped in the soaring rhetoric of hope and change, a call which has become synonymous with his campaign along with the easily repeatable slogan "Yes we can." Still it raises goosebumps.

But I think this was the last time Obama could really give this speech. Last night Obama ceased to be the embodiment of change and became the new establishment.

It remains to be seen what this new establishment means. It remains to be seen what change really means, and whether or not our President-elect can live up to (or even come close to) the insane expectations that the world has of him.

All of this for a guy who was a state senator, what, four years ago?

Last night I expected that the whole country would wake up today feeling a confusing mixture of exhilaration, fear, relief, doubt, excitement and uncertainty. Yet this morning, all I had was the understanding that I still had a job to get to and a bus to ride.

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