Thursday, November 6, 2008

On the Unexplainable

I wish I could share this feeling with everyone. This blissful, giddily-surprised, calming, uplifting feeling. Hundreds of pounds of baggage have been lifted from my shoulders, and I get to raise my head from the burden and just look UP again. It's like I've been knocked back to childhood - looking at the world through new, shining eyes.

The world changed yesterday. It did.

Everything I did was new. As I drove to work - 'I'm driving to work, and we just elected a black president.' I ate breakfast - 'I'm eating and we just elected a black president.' Talking to my students - 'I'm teaching math after we elected a black president.' EVERYTHING is NEW.

Because I never truly believed this day would come. And so EARLY in my lifetime. So monumental that I even had flashes of - maybe I could run for PRESIDENT!!! - like a giddy kid. Because that had never been a true possibility before. And maybe I will run for President. Because this country just showed me that it could happen.

And as I walked around with my giddy smile, I wanted to find every single person of color in this city and just look at their eyes. To share this glow and emotion. To have a wordless exchange of pure joy on such a scale that I'll never feel again - and SHARE THE EXACT SAME FEELING with another soul (or more).

I tried to share it with white folks. I did. But it didn't work. Because this amazing moment is for us - people of color. I don't minimize the part of all the white voters (who I suddenly have so much more faith in than I ever had before), but white folks just can't FEEL this. As I told my co-workers, "Today is the only time that it kind of sucks to be white in this country - because you can't feel THIS" (as I tapped my chest). And in spite of arguments to the contrary, it's absolutely true. Because, without all the weight and baggage of race in this country, white folks can't fully feel the power of having a load of that knocked off.

And I kind of feel bad about that. Because I really DO want to share it with everybody. My teaching assistant came in, and as I explained to her how I had no intention of teaching anything real because of the moment, she said, "Cool, I totally understand."

And then when I started talking about how I hadn't been able to sleep and how shaky I was, etc. she asked, "Why?" And I wanted to scream. "WHY!!??? We just elected a f-ing BLACK PRESIDENT, that's why!!!! Suddenly this country has invited all people of color to be a real part of this nation!!! There's a guy that's moving to the Oval Office that actually gives a sh-- and KNOWS what it's like to be another color!!!!! Are you kidding me!??"

And it's simultaneously crazy and sad and kind of gratifying that not everyone gets to touch this feeling. It's like all my payments to the "being a person of color in America fund" got reimbursed in one fell swoop, and I honestly think I'll be a little high for the next month or so. Maybe longer.

And it felt even BETTER to share this with my one co-worker of color. We just looked at each other and KNEW that we were in the same place. We both had raw, post-teary eyes. We both couldn't stop smiling. We both had shaky hands. And we both were looking at the world from a brand-new set of eyes. And we got to share it.

And from that, I suddenly feel this familial, happy bond with ALL people of color (even worldwide, really). We're all getting to share in something so wonderful - and it's just for us. Not to say white folks aren't happy, and don't understand it to some level, but this FEELING - it's just ours. It's a little bit of a refund for all that we've had to shoulder.

And the smiles I get when I think about those who lived through and participated in the Civil Rights movements of the 60s? There's must be a level of bliss that can be matched by nothing less than Heaven, itself (and even THAT might not match it).

So I thank you, America. All of you - no matter who you voted for. Because, in the end, you gave me (and so many others) a gift that defies explanation and comprehension. I really don't think anything else earthly can match this, and I say that with no exaggeration.

Thank you for this new world. I promise I won't ever take it for granted.


thesciencegirl said...

I know EXACTLY how you feel. I was in Grant Park Tuesday night, and when they announced Obama's victory, I felt like.... I can hardly even describe it... like I was experiencing pure joy mixed with shock mixed with awe. I expected to cry at some point in the evening, but I didn't expect that I'd start shaking uncontrollably, that I'd be tremulous with wonder. I read earlier that Oprah said she was "vibrating," and that's exactly how I've felt since Tuesday. I've been waking up excited every day, like the world is fresh and new and ANYTHING is possible. I hope the feeling lasts awhile longer; it's incredible. I can't even talk about anything else.

ansel said...

I'm white. I probably don't feel just the way you do. But I do feel really, really good right now. I feel like telling people that I'm proud to be an American, even though I don't believe in notions of patriotism or nationalism. When I walked into class yesterday and the professor started droning on, I wanted to stop her, smile, and say, "Wait a second. Isn't this amazing, everyone?"

I like Barack Obama, on a personal leve, enormously. He seems like such an authentic, genuine person. But he's said he'll escalate the war in Afghanistan, where dozens of civilians were killed by a US airstrike on Tuesday. He'll be under great pressure to maintain the American empire. Knowing this is probably the only thing keeping me from dancing with joy like those kids in Indonesia...

Miri said...

I wish I could feel the way you do now, but today was a hard day for me.

I did feel exactly like that Tuesday night. The celebration that erupted with Obama's win, the wild emotions, the tears of happiness, everything...that whole night I couldn't sleep, I was so filled with joy.

But as the night drew on, it slowly turned to worry, nervousness, finally anger and sadness. And when I finally learned that, in addition to the measures in Florida, Arkansas, and Arizona, that Prop 8 had passed...I cried. And this time it was not from joy. California was not supposed to put through this bigoted, discriminatory measure that told the LGBT community in no uncertain terms they're once again 2nd class citizens, but it did. And just as the country took a gigantic step forward, so too did it take another one backwards.

I don't want to put a damper on this amazing, historic, inspirational election. As a person of color I too have never felt so uplifted. But I want to remind everyone that something else happened on election night as well - an entire community of people had their basic human rights taken away. And it breaks my heart.

So please, while you celebrate today, spend a few minutes talking to others about prop 8. Remind them that the fight for equal rights is far from over. Think of those who can't celebrate wholeheartedly. And join us to continue this fight.

CVT said...

Miri -
Thanks for the perspective. Because, we've got a long way to go, still, and the LGBT community definitely deserves to get a similar feeling in the future - now, what if we could get the first gay Native American woman president elected?!!?? Might be a while.

So we keep pushing, keep fighting. But with that newfound hope and belief and energy from this day - Yes, we really can.

Jennifer said...

I am still weepy. I read an article today in which Collin Powell was quoted and the person described him as having puffy read eyes (because he was being interviewed by CNN right when they made the announcement on Tuesday) and I just started crying again.

And yes, it DOES feel good. I was having a frustrating day today, and then I stopped and recalled that Barack Obama was president, and I SWEAR I just felt better! It's like an insta-high that gets rid of the blahs, because no matter what I'm feeling on a personal level, I can go to THAT and just get a grin on my face.

hopkimi said...

As a black male, I think the conversation on race was transformed. Hell the whole country was transformed, notice I didn't say changed.

Change implies a tinkering or altering of what was already there. This wasn't that. Anything is possible, Barak proved that.

I met several white people that were just as giddy as I was. And other white folks were relieved to be able to lay down that big sack full of white guilt.

Anonymous said...

I have been waiting for this moment since the 2004 democratic convention when I first heard Obama speak. I knew then, he would be our first president of color!

On a different level, I am optimistic about the fact that Obama seems to have leadership qualities above and beyond ANY candidate I have encountered during my adult life. I just hope people in the U.S. will be reasonable and mature enough to give the guy a chance and not expect him to fix everything all at once.

da kine hapa said...

As another Californian I feel much the same as miri does. At 8pm as the networks all announce the win for Obama, the entire Bay goes wild screaming, honking and dancing with joy, and results start coming in on the state measures like 8. It was an awful feeling for me, watching Obama take the stage and give an incredibly moving speech, knowing we as a country were taking such a huge step forward, but also watching as my state voted by 4% to take a big discriminatory step back. (PS to anyone in CA reading this...come to the rally in your town this Saturday!) However, I am beyond thrilled, beyond proud, moved so much that WE have elected our first president of color. And on a personal level, YES to his being vocal about his mixed-race identity, and YES to my fellow Hawaiians, we CAN.

*And lastly - I hope one day I go in to vote and I can mark my ballot CVT!*