Thoughts on the Morning of Election Day.

A couple of days ago, I was having coffee with an African American friend and we were discussing the upcoming election. I told her that I was worried that if there was a close election and Obama lost in a fashion similar to Al Gore’s infamous defeat in 2000 that there would be civil unrest. She replied that she feared there would be civil unrest either way – given the inflamed rhetoric of the McCain-Palin campaign and the anger and resentment they were flaming among working class white Americans towards the terrorist/socialist/tax-happy/alien black man who wants to ruin America. She also talked about how she feared for the psychological and emotional well being of African American elders who view today’s election in almost Biblical proportions. Many of them, she felt, old, infirm, sick, were holding on for dear life to cast their ballot and see a new world dawn for their grandchildren and all future generations.

Which is why the passing of Barack Obama’s grandmother is so sad today. She died in her sleep yesterday in Hawaii, one day before the election that could make her beloved grandson President of the United States of America. That story has Biblical overtones as well — Moses not getting to the promised land, Martin Luther King’s dream deferred. One can only imagine Obama’s personal emotional struggles during this campaign…. His deeply rooted sadness and anger when discussing his 53 year old mother’s death to cancer and her worry about how she would pay her hospital bills when her insurance company refused to pay for pre-existing condition. Or the profound nature of the timing of his grandmother’s death—and his sharing his disappointment in himself for not visiting his mother sooner — hence his journey home in the midst of his campaign to make sure he did not make the same mistake with his grandmother.

So these are some of my thoughts as I sit here this morning at my desk and get ready to cast my vote for him. But I also think about his Kenyan father and his Indonesian step father. I think about his memoir, Dreams of My Father, which I was reading in the final weeks of his campaign and noting all of the seeds of his current journey. I think that Barack Obama’s experiences in Kenya and in Indonesia along with his American upbringing and top-notch education make him uniquely qualified to be the leader of a 21st Century America — an America that is still the leader of the free world, but one that is knowledgeable about the history, cultures and people of other places and one who does not believe that American must force its values on other countries or that America is the center of the universe — a leader who can understand complexity and paradox — a leader who can inspire people to believe in the future, even when it is painfully obvious that the future will contain disappointments and struggles — maybe even sacrifices.

Yesterday I was talking to my mother about her mother who was born in 1904 and died in 1972. To my grandmother, Chicago was as far away to her as China is to us today. After crossing the ocean from Russia with her parents, she settled in Philadelphia and never left — that is until two weeks before she died when she threw caution to the wind and accepted an invitation from a man-friend to drive with him to Florida. She suffered a massive stroke just as his car was entering Miami. I don’t know if she ever realized she had arrived at her destination.

Life is full of these kinds of stories… dreams put on hold, destinations never reached… Sadness and disappointment. Yesterday in the New York Times, conservative pundit William Kristol wrote an editorial in which he talked about losing the election. He said that in the somewhat likely event that McCain loses the election, the conservatives will be disappointed but they will accept it and move on. It’s the liberals he says that he is concerned about… noting the deep seated emotional stake that so many of us have in the election of Barack Obama. Of course he goes on to make a wry satirical argument that liberals can bask in a McCain victory as an opportunity to celebrate an underdog’s victory — something that he claims liberals love to do. Despite the sarcasm there is a ring of truth to his words – particularly when he addressed the emotional commitment and personal stake that Obama supporters like my friend’s elders have for their candidate and for this election.

Do I think Obama will be a perfect leader? Do I believe that his election will solve the multitude of problems we face both at home and abroad? Of course not. But there is something to be said for hope. I’ll take that over fear and cynicism any day– in my personal life and in the life of this great nation.

Today at 7:49 in the morning on Election Day in America, I am allowing myself to be cautiously hopeful. It feels good.

Marsha Pincus

Marsha Pincus is a post-mid life woman, riding the Age Wave and writing for her life.

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  1. As much as it must pain you, you really have not way of understanding how African Americans in this country feel. While you arent racist or stereotypical, some of what you say is ignorant in that you dont have the knowledge or the experience(you cant because you arent black) to have a proper basis for your statements. Thank you, but you have to be in the struggle to understand the struggle.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. It really does beg the question — what role have/can white people play/ed in the struggle for equity and social justice? If white people’s race precludes us from understanding, does that mean cross-race dialogs and coalitions are impossible?

    As someone who is imperfect and who tries to learn from others, I hope you take the time to tell me which parts of my post are ignorant and why. Is there any way I can reach a better understanding?

  3. I suppose that the only way would be to get to know an entire community where that race exists. It is not enough to know a few members and help them, because people are products of their environments and without knowledge of that environment and how it works it is almost impossible. Though members of a community may not know exactly what their community is, they dont need to, because they were raised there and it is just something that they feel without thinking. Because you were not raised there, you cannot truly relate because you arent in tune with the community, you cant feel it inside you. many people dont expect others to take them time to do this, which is why they tell them that there is now way for them to help; they dont know the struggle.

  4. Your comments make me wonder about the role that empathy, compassion and personal human relationships can play in cross racial dialogue and necessary social change. What if everyone started with the premise of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?” What if everyone tried to walk in others’ shoes? What if everyone tried to see the world from other people’s perspectives? As a teacher in the African American community for over twenty years, I tried to do that — see the world through my students’ eyes and I tried to listen hard to what they were telling me about their lives and the lives of their families. It was through those exchanges with individuals that I cared about that I came to see at least in a limited way the impact of systemic and institutionalized racism and the effects it still has on housing, employment, education, health care…As a white woman who was raised in a primarily white community, I too was experiencing a particular culture and environment tacitly without being totally conscious or aware of the privileges that went with it. I guess what I am saying is that it was through my relationships with individuals that I cared deeply about that I was awakened to the societal causes and personal ramifications of racism and the way in which I was complicit in that system of inequities if I didn’t do something to combat it. Later in my career, when I taught many young white people who were studying to become teachers, I continued to try to combat racism by opening white students’ eyes to their unearned skin privilege. You can’t address something that you don’t believe that it exists. Does that make any sense?

  5. Makes a lot of sense. The only problem is that by addressing race as an issue you make it more of an issue, its like a lose-lose situation. If people ignored race designation (as they should, it has lost its purpose), and did follow a similar set of morals such as the “Golden Rule”, then we would all be better off. Its hard,as much as it pains me, I really cant tell you what will work, just what wont. Sounds really pessimistic if you ask me.

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