Published: November 14th 2008November 7th 2008
Life has been busy since my last entry--I successfully defended my dissertation, moved to North Carolina, started my dream job, helped Ken and the cats move into our new apartment, and started planning for my next trip abroad--South Africa! My first trip outside of the U.S. was to South Africa back in 2001. I went back in 2005 for my master's thesis project, but now that I am directing a 5-year HIV prevention project in Cape Town with couples who hang out in bars, I will be there on a fairly regular basis. My first trip for the project is mid-January, so stay tuned!
In the meantime, I wanted to write about the momentous occasion of the election of Barak Obama as our new president. I found that it took me a few days to allow it all to sink in. Even now I sit here with tears in my eyes. Tears of happiness, tears of relief. Relief that after the past 8 years of feeling overwhelmed by this gnawing feeling in my gut that our country and the world needed more help than I or any other individual could give it. I have grown tired of always feeling let down and betrayed by my government. And I felt confused when meeting people in the developing world who thought of the U.S. as being paved with golden roads, because inside I was at the very least ambivalent.
This election and the campaign that led up to it was like following a sports team all the way to the championship for me. At first I was a supporter of Hilary Clinton, thinking Obama was not liberal enough and that it was time for a woman to take office. And when he won the primaries, I muttered that this is how it's always been—first the black man, then maybe a woman will get her chance much later.
But as I learned more about Obama and found out that he was and is an activist, a person who walks what he talks, a Harvard grad that still didn't feel a job in the community was below him, I was hooked. And I fell in love with Michelle Obama when I heard her give a speech about the "shifting bar" that the American people have to keep chasing just to live a fairly comfortable life. Barak and Michelle Obama seem like the type of people I personally try to emulate—people who know what it takes to do the right thing and do not allow themselves to get caught up in the power, prestige, and social norms that seem to work against it.
This campaign brought back memories of my childhood for some reason—all the times my father would take me with him to vote, the mock election we had in middle school, and the voter registration drive I ran my senior year of high school. Maybe all of these memories came back because that was when I was excited about politics and our government. But during my college and graduate school years, that feeling of excitement turned to cynicism at best, and often times disgust. I think the Obama campaign brought back that excitement for me, and so all of those memories from when I was first coming into consciousness about politics came flooding back.
I was one of many who cried listening to Obama's speech earlier this week…and then again upon seeing Jesse Jackson's reaction, and again when listening to Colin Powell, and all of the other leaders, politicians, and key figures from the black community. I cried and laughed upon seeing people in Africa, Europe, and Asia dancing in the streets for our new president. I cried because not only did I feel that this moment showed how far we've come in race issues, but because of the door this opens for so many. The whole "hope" slogan is becoming clique, but I cannot find another way to describe the feeling that so many people now feel—that doing your part, fighting for what you think is right, getting your hands dirty because you know how much those hands are needed—can really make a difference.
I don't feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders anymore, or that I can never do enough to make up for all of the things that are wrong in this world. That anxiety and stress was lifted when Barak Obama was elected, because I now know that the majority of the American people recognize how bruised the world is. Change has come, and now our country and the world can begin to heal.