Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Blues Are Good Today

It's raining tonight, but the Empire State Building is bathed in blue light.

I've been an Obama supporter from the primary race, partly because I find Senator Clinton a little shrill and a little weak. I've never quite forgiven President Clinton for going down (as it were) on the gays-in-the-military issue or her loss of the reins on health care, all of which happened terribly quickly in his first term.

My support was deepened when I bought an Obama baseball cap. "I like your hat," was the most common reaction I got from African Americans, but one guy went so far as to say, "Thank you for wearing that."

This was in spring, mind you. Before AIG failed, Lehman Brothers went belly up, my bank was bought by Chase and foreclosures started to be a national pastime. Being thanked made me realize that I wasn't only dressing as an alternative to Senator Clinton. I was extending my hand in greeting and solidarity.

I AM Mary Six-pack or Josie Plumber. I own no property. My credit cards are groaning. I don't have health insurance. I worry about my teeth and the bump on Daisy's ankle. Despite that, I live in a wealthy enclave, where the per capita income is something like $45,000. Not per household but per toddler. The Federal houses and Victorian brownstones were a series of Obama posters. Last night I walked Daisy when the Ohio numbers came in. We heard cheering from the apartments above.

My brother, who I love dearly, is the antithesis, religiously and politically, of me. He once said that the East is, of course, Democrat, because all we're interested in is money.

I tried to point out -- not to argue, because our arguments last at least a year of silence -- that Democrats tend to increase taxation on the wealthy. My neighbors, who filled the streets with blue posters, are facing a certain tax increase.

Brooklyn Heights families send their kids to private schools that cost nearly $25,000 a year, then on to the most elite college the kids get into. They have jobs with fabulous health and retirement benefits. They don't need to worry about Head Start and education. They don't need to worry about health insurance or social security. They don't need to worry about the price of gasoline, their dogs' bumps, the filling that fell out four years ago. They don't need food stamps. There aren't a whole lot of moms, fathers, daughters and sons serving in the military.

They're Democrats because they care about those things for other people.

So whatever my brother meant in that statement continues to baffle me. The liberalness of people who will be paying more also continues to baffle me.

The joy last night was, however, audible and this morning, tired from an hour waiting in line at the polls before walking four big dogs for three hours, I understood what that joy will, in part, mean.

Daisy and I turned left and the first person we saw was her pal Kanga. Kanga is the super two apartment buildings down and he speaks fluent Labbish. Her butt started to wiggle and she was bucking on her leash, which I dropped so she could zoop straight to him. He was sweeping the sidewalk and hanging out with his grandfather. "Congratulations!" I said and he broke into such a big grin I thought he'd start to wiggle his butt. We shook hands, then I shook hands with his grandfather, who raised him when he was abandoned by his mother. "It's a new day," I said and we both started to cry. Then he turned to his grandfather and said, "I wish Grandma had lived to see this."

I was stricken at the same time I was alerted to an alteration in the fabric of my small life. How many African Americans are celebrating but also mourning the facts of those who didn't make it to see this day? On the other hand, this was the first time I spoke with his grandfather and we were formal in our shared elation. More importantly, we could admit they were Black. On the way to pick up Henry I congratulated another man, a stranger, and he thanked me. Another head bobbed up from the car he was inspecting and he, too, called out, "Thank you!"

And they were, in fact, thanking me. Thanking me for...congratulating them, recognizing it was their day, an historical threshold, a new dignity. Thanking them for not just walking by as if they were invisible, a thing I do to 98% of the people and dragons on the street anyway but not today. Today one word admitted our difference in color and our hope to make that immaterial. One word recognized the specialness of their color.

As a fat person, I loved it! There are franchises for everyone. No one has to accept invisibility or indignity.

My heart is overfull today. I almost can't carry it any more. I have had pride in many things the United States has done...in the past. The Battle of the Bulge. The Declaration of Independence.

But until today I don't think I have been proud to be an American.

In an elevator later, I realized that we could not have elected Senator Obama without Black people nor could we have elected him without White people. Not to mention the various Olive, Brown, Yellow and Red people who came out and voted against their histories of discremintaion and non-inclusion.

Many many many people did this, one poll lever at a time.

And by the way: Kanga was sweeping up glitter.

10 comments:

dave said...

exactly what i feel frances

Marian said...

Not to take away from the huge achievement for African Americans here, but I find it interesting that the first "black" president is really a biracial son of a white midwestern mother and an African father, raised partially in Indonesia! Obama IS the American dream. That is what thrills me about him - his very background makes me hope he has a more nuanced view of the world than Cowboy W. The world is no longer angry with us - they danced in the streets of Kenya and Japan. I love that!

I really missed being in NYC yesterday. I've been in my small WA state town since Friday, and yesterday I saw my first black person! There was nobody I could automatically commiserate with, whether because of skin color or lapel pins. (People out here wear their politics on their car bumpers.)

P.S. Remind your brother of that Western bastion of socialism called Alaska, where everybody gets over $1,000 a year because of the pipeline!

Literacygirl said...

I am definitely not a fan of Obama, but your post helped me understand just a little bit more about why yesterday and the future is so important. So, thanks... for helping this McCain girl see that.

jen said...

I hope that this will be the first step toward some much-needed healing in many ways. As marian points out, Obama is bi-racial. Most African Americans are actually bi- or multi-racial. Some of us who identify as White may also be multiracial back in the distant past somewhere. I'd love to see race and party divisions start to dissolve a bit. Like Frances's neighbors, I'd like to see us go against our own base self-interest when we think it's for the greater good.

Glitter for everyone!

Laura N said...

Thanks for sharing your joy. I thought about my East coast friends Tuesday night, hoping you were basking in the victory. The Republicans who don't get on board with the new USA are going to be left behind. Or die out. Whichever comes first. (I can say this because as you know, I am/was/? a Republican.)

Anne D. said...

Oooo! That last sentence. Nice.

I've been floating since the speeches Tues. night. High fives all around. It feels good to celebrate people who want to DO good.

Anonymous said...

Too bad that the election of a president has been reduced to high fives based on his race. That seems to smack of a bigotry and repression that has been addressed historically and currently. The Civil War and Union soldiers, most of whom were not persons of color, being the most dramatic populist example of defenders of off the track racial brutality. 44 persons have been elected president, this week another person, who all of us are depending upon to bring world order was elected president of the UNITED STATES. My dignity and intellect would be decimated if my achievement was qualified by the fact that I was the first fat (255 plus) white woman to hold that post.

Helen said...

Thanks, Frances, you made me tear up again...I've lost count how many times this week that's happened...and I couldn't be happier!!!! :-)

GOBAMA!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 1, I don't think you understand at all. We're happy because for once, race didn't trump other factors. Years ago, it didn't matter how intelligent, wise and experienced you were...if you were black (or a woman, or...) you were immediately deemed unfit to hold public office. We're celebrating because the best candidate wasn't disqualified just because his skin is dark.

Anonymous said...

Frances,

Your post made me cry. I am for the first time hopeful that maybe our country can experience changes that will benefit the majority. Thanks, Les