This post has positive things to say about President Obama. If this angers you for any reason, I invite you to scroll along to another article that will bring you joy.
This American Presidential election season is a month away from completion, and it’s left me feeling battered, heartbroken, and confused. I’ve never seen such vile rhetoric splashed around like so many droplets of poison rain. I’ve seen whole swaths of the population reduced to vulgarities. A few days ago, I watched in real time on Facebook as a family was torn apart over political views that dipped into personal rights.
I have these pictures from the last time that we elected a new President, and it seems like a world ago. For me, it was a world ago. I was living and working in Sarasota, Florida. Australia was just a place on the map with kangaroos and shrimp on the barbie. I had work to do. Many of my friends and I did. We were going to show the world that we could elect the “Hope” guy, the one with the smarts and the class. It had been a long 8 years for many of us, and we’d complained – oh, we’d complained – but, we hadn’t sunk into hate, and we hadn’t lost our hope.
I’d been a Hillary fan, but by this point in the election season 8 years ago, none of that mattered. Florida had only gone Democratic once in the past 30 years, but things were looking favorable for this new guy. Everyone knows that Florida is important. And, it was in that spirit, on a cloudless morning in October that around 2,000 of us, in an historically Republican stronghold district, gathered together to walk together across the Ringling Causeway bridge in this absolute crush of smiles, joy, homemade signs, and impromptu dance parties. This was about the guy from Chicago, but it was so much bigger than one person. We were going to “bridge” our differences in this really positive way. It was time.
This day was nothing but sunshine, community and happiness.
Later that day, I had a phone banking shift at the local Obama office. Republican President Dwight Eisenhower’s granddaughter was in the office, talking to the press. She looked like a Republican granddaughter – polished, bouffanted, pearls and a pastel suit.Obama was her guy.
A few weeks later, on election night, about 20 of us crammed into a studio bungalow apartment that the theatre owned – the temporary actor residence of my dear friend, Andy. We all worked for the theatre in one capacity or another – actors, technicians, administrators, teachers, interns. We had a cheese plate and bubbly and a lot of nervous energy. And then, far sooner than any of us expected, the Florida map on the TV went blue. Corks were popped, cheers were let out. Even the Republicans amongst us had to at least admit the beauty of the fact that we were Florida, and we hadn’t messed up the election, this time!
It wasn’t such a late night before the election was called, McCain graciously conceded, and we sat in front of this 14 inch television watching our first African American President take the stage in Chicago.
We were America in that little house that night. Black and white. Straight and gay. Democrat and Republican. Hailing from communities across the country – rural and urban, rich and poor. Some had voted in their very first election. Some of us had been doing so for years. I’ve talked in these pages often about my trouble with patriotism – my sense that it’s odd to be “proud” of a place just because you were born there. But this night, and with these people, I have never been more proud. We were part of something historic. Optimism won the day, even for those whose candidate didn’t.
We chose to come together in the name of hope. That’s my American pride.