2009 - 2012
I honestly didn't think he had a snowball's chance in hell.
After seeing the hopes and dreams of Americans ignored and trampled by those in charge for the past 8 years, I honestly thought that the results would go Republican by hook or by crook. When I read or heard people call Obama everything from "half-rican" to slurs that I sure as hell won't print, I thought racism had us looking down the barrel of another soul destroying decade. When pundits and politicians made him out to be a Muslim and Muslim out to be a dirty word, I thought for sure that we were well and truly fucked by our own fears.
Watching Obama rise in the polls as the economy sank under the weight of rich-get-richer bullshit, I steeled myself against the coming heartbreak. Listening to him debate and speak intelligently, beautifully, I resigned myself to the knowledge that we'd be bouncing between McCain's anger and Palin's bigoted stupidity until 2012. Casting my vote for Barack (and against those who would make some of us second class citizens, unable to access the rights afforded all other Americans), I knew - KNEW, I tell you - that it was a worthless gesture, only done to make myself feel like at least I had my say.
I showered, dressed, ate some cold pizza, and put on my flea market purchased Obama for President hat that night, always reminding myself not to get too hopeful. That they lied when they told us any of us could - with hard work and a strong soul - grow up to be president. I met with my friends and went to the bar already heartbroken, ready to drown my sorrows. Eyes glued to CNN, I felt that resolve slipping away, felt a giddiness rising in me like bubbles in my blood, as the results began coming in.
We couldn't help but notice the difference between the suited white folks, quiet, stiff, at McCain's headquarters and the cheering, hugging, up for it throngs in Chicago, all faces shining, all colors and races and ages mixed and ready to get back to being proud to be Americans.
And around 11, when CNN declared that, against all odds, against the lessons of hundreds of years of slavery and pain, against my own certainty that it simply would not be allowed to happen by those in charge, we voted Barack Hussein Obama (who was NOT a member of Skull and Bones, whose family did NOT amass a fortune in bed with Nazis and warmongers, elite but never an elitist) President of the United State of America, something broke open in me. I threw my arms around the person next to me and we bear hugged and hollered. Folks jumped up on the bar. Bells rang out, and you could hear the yelling from all around us, up and down the street. All over the US, dawn in view. All over the world, proud for us, happy to see us come to our god damned senses.
We were laughing and bellowing and chanting. I called my mama and my daddy and couldn't stop yelling WE DID IT and I CAN'T BELIEVE IT, I CAN'T FUCKING BELIEVE IT! I caught a shot on tv of Jesse Jackson, one of the crowd in Chicago, tears running down his face in joy despite every nasty thing he said about Obama during this race, I lost it and just started crying. Hell, I'm crying right now, in my office, thinking about that night and what it means.
Through McCain's sincere concession (where was that guy during this campaign?) and President-Elect Obama's victory speech, the emotions in that room (in our country - our country) swelled and rose to near bursting. When he said "I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years – block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand," not a soul in that room wasn't ready to go out that moment and put a shoulder to the wheel and take up our share of the burden.
Every so often that night a chant would break out. Not "drill, baby, drill" or even "burn, baby, burn", but YES WE CAN. Yes we can, in Chicago. Yes we can, in Tallahassee. Yes we can fix this shit, given a steady hand to guide us and a steady voice to pick up our spirits when they flag. Yes we can rise above even the fucked up part of the election, when people in four states chose to gaybash by ballot. Yes we can have our freedoms and our fellowship, too.
Yes we can, because yes we fucking did.