Election Soundtrack: A Coda

Last night, my neighborhood was wound tight, ready to spring into celebration. The hollering and pot-banging began the moment the networks called it for Barack Obama just after 8:00. Scattered fireworks popped, and bleating car horns punctuated the shouts of joy. A group of newly minted patriots whooped its way down the middle of the street waving an American flag. My wife asked, "When was the last time you saw someone in Southeast Portland waving a flag?" Soon, we heard a parade of drummers marching on the sidewalk past the Dixie Mattress Company on SE Belmont -- the group made up of families with young children for whom the future may have been made a bit brighter. Last night's celebratory Election Soundtrack post certainly fit the mood in my liberal enclave.

As the election results first began to be reported, I was full of anticipatory excitement, but I did not feel the full import of the night until I slipped away from the television to walk the dog. I roamed the neighborhood with the hound, listening to Congressman John Lewis on NPR as he spoke about what this moment meant for him. Tears came to my eyes as I thought about this man who literally shed his blood fighting for the right to vote. I felt the same when I saw an uncharacteristically silent Jesse Jackson, cheeks wet with tears as he stood with the multicultural multitude celebrating in Chicago. For that moment, Jackson wasn't the caricatured blowhard he seems to have become; instead, I saw him, once again, as the man who was there on the balcony when Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered a mere forty years ago.

We have every right to joyously celebrate Barack Obama’s historic win. Sadly, while one civil rights movement reached an incredible milestone last night, another movement suffered heartbreaking defeats. All but ignored by the media was the fact that several nasty, anti-gay ballot measures, including Measure 8 in California, were approved by voters whose minds are narrow and whose hearts are filled with irrational fear. I’m reminded that the struggle goes on, and that we are still far from justice.

Mavis Staples sings the beautiful gospel song that accompanies the frightful, ugly footage in this final entry to the Election Soundtrack. I'm sorry for that pairing, but it's real and it happened in America not so long ago. Change can happen too. Keep your eyes on the prize brothers and sisters.


shobiz said...

It's been an emotional few days, but this post brought fresh tears to my eyes. How far we've come, and yet how far we still have to go. But I had a new experience when I saw the shot, at the end of that clip, of the crowds listening to Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington. It's a scene I've viewed on film many times before. But with the new perspective of this historic week, that shot made me think of the huge crowd in Chicago's Grant Park on Tuesday night, and the man who gave a speech that at times echoed Dr. King's. It was a civil crowd, a gracious crowd, a crowd that even applauded John McCain when his name was mentioned. Like MLK before him, President-elect Obama has managed to unite millions, peacefully and with dignity. That MLK could do the same in light of some of the horrible injustices shown earlier in that video is amazing. That just 40 years later, Obama could become president through an honest, dignified campaign that I can only imagine would make MLK proud, is even more amazing. Anything can happen now. Truly anything.

MightyToyCannon said...

Amen and hallelujah. I feel encouraged not only by what I know of Obama's values and positions, but also by the temperment he demonstrated through the campaign. I know he won't be able to accomplish everything that's been promised, but I trust him to approach our nation's challenges thoughtfully and with appropriate deliberation. I'm tired of a President acting solely on his gut instincts and what Jesus is telling him in his prayers.