Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Hello, Chicago!"

4:56am Greenwich Mean Time I wake and hit the button for BBC radio, expecting to hear that the US election is still on tenterhooks. Instead I discover that I have slept through a projected victory for Obama at 10pm and a gracious concession speech by McCain, but I am just in time to hear Obama tell a jubilant crowd in Grant Park, "Hello, Chicago."

My daughter and my grandson, proud ticket bearers, are among the 250,000 bearing witness at this end of the election hoopla and beginning of a new era for the United States. I voted for Obama. I took great pride in getting my absentee ballot and sending it back across the Atlantic--I made sure the postal clerk and nearly everyone I met knew about my vote. In the kind-careful way of conversations here they all would say, leaning in a bit closer and speaking softly almost conspiratorially, "He does seem the better choice, doesn't he?"

In the beginning McCain had my sympathy and my respect although I disagreed with his political philosophy. One of the hardest parts of watching this campaign was seeing McCain melt down in public. He became smaller and meaner than I had thought possible. Too much ink has already been spent on his running mate, so I'll leave that aspect alone and just say that I was glad that, in his concession speech, he returned to the graciousness that is his better self.

The party in Grant Park is being felt around the world. Before I was out of bed, I had received two congratulatory phone calls. A friend wrote me a lovely note in which she spoke about America as inspiring and influencing and enabling others. It was lovely to hear those words. It was wonderful to feel as if I had been given back my country. America has so much to offer that it should be a model for the world--not for the arrogance and greed of recent experience but for a generosity of spirit, for what my friend calls a pioneer spirit: a willingness to make something where it has not existed before and to make all those of a similar spirit welcome.

Ironically, on the same day that I got my country--my first country--back, I also received notice that I had not received a fiction writing mentorship for which I had applied. The disappointment in learning that was small in comparison with all that I had received. Obama has his work cut out for him and in that, too, he sets us all an example. In the middle of the celebration he began hitting the notes of hard work, cooperation and mutual respect, public service, and failure. He did not use that word--it would have sent too jarring a note in a celebratory speech, but failure, as every pioneer knows, is an integral part of success.


At 5:59 PM, Blogger susan said...

Great post! Weeks ago I was fascinated by the polls conducted in six European countries regarding the election and general feelings towards America. Americans in general tend to lose sight of how the rest of the world views them, and so I found it intriguing that the majority of those polled all would vote for Obama, if they had a say. He has definitely inspired many in this nation in a way I can only imagine JFK did. I look forward to seeing what happens in the coming years, for he has a long, tough road ahead. Cheers!

At 8:30 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Hello, welcome to my post. I have been delighted with all the hopefulness that Obama's election has engendered. Oh, yes, he has a rough road to take but I think he will take with him the same good work and good heart with which he ran his campaign. I remain hopeful for good things to come.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Hayden said...

I couldn't agree with you more on McCain. I've never liked his politics, but until the last few months of this campaign I liked the man. His speech was a welcome return to graciousness and real patriotism.

And it isn't just a republican problem. I originally supported Hillary, but was deeply disappointed by her campaign.

At 9:40 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, yes, Hayden you are right about the meltdown of Hilary, too. It was an ugly year for politics all around. Let's hope it was the last hurrah for such negativity.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger The Curmudgeon said...


In Chicago, of course, there continues to be great joy over Obama's election... even though some of his neighbors in Hyde Park have begun grumbling publicly about security arrangements. Yesterday, it was office workers downtown who felt a bit of the sting. Mr. Obama's transition team has set up an office in the Kluczynski Building (across from the Dirksen Building, which is the local Federal courthouse). Streets are closed off, etc. I'll wander over there to rubberneck later today.

But the joy here is not because of Mr. Obama's alleged reformist tendencies: I don't know anyone personally who's (realistically) sitting by the phone waiting for the big Federal job... but I know people who do know such people. In Chicago, there's talk of how this will benefit us, who will make out well. Wags in Arkansas have groused that Little Rock did not particularly prosper under Mr. Clinton... but that was only because Chicago grabbed a lot of the goodies then. Expectations are so much higher now.

Of course, maybe with the perspective of distance, you are seeing more clearly than I am. But I can think only of another famous Illinois pol, Paul Powell (when he died, in 1970, his rooms were found to be filled with shoeboxes containing some $800,000 in loose cash) who once famously said, "I can smell the meat a'cookin'." If you listen carefully at the seashore, you may be able to discern a slight sizzling sound coming all the way from Chicago....

At 9:23 AM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, Cur, I am realist enough to know that winners and losers always mean followers on and hands out. I thought it was Everett Dirksen who was found to have shoe boxes full of cash in his office? Perhaps both of them- sigh.
Your middle of the road politics and common sense approach to things would be a nice addition to the team, but I am guessing that you are not waiting by the phone.
Please keep up your vigil. The hopefulness needs to be tempered with your keen eye. I'll look forward to your ongoing insights.


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