YES, THEY DID (My 2008 US Election column — and a footnote)


**Written November 5, 2008 for the Philippines Graphic

So, there’s one more addition to that old game, “Where were you when…?”As CNN announced that Americans had elected Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America, my victory yell had nurses peeking into the room.

Days before Americans queued for hours, I knew November 4 and 5 would be spent in a hospital. I was ready, psychologically prepared, to lose my left breast. I just had to persuade my bemused surgeon, Dr. Tony Vasquez, to time the mastectomy so that’d I’d have regained full control of my faculties once the US count began.

By around 1 pm, Nov 5 (our time) CNN –in a blend of (slightly tacky) “Star Wars” technology and old-fashioned, hard-nosed journalism – announced Obama’s victory, just as the US Western states were closing their polls.The night before the elections, our very political family pondered: What would happen if enough fearful Americans bit the bait dangled by the McCain-Palin team? What kind of future would we wake up to, if Americans repudiated the man who’d already been acclaimed by the world as the next leader of earth’s most powerful nation?

Some of us worried and fussed, forecasting what a national daily would echo the following day: street parties or riots. A smaller faction waved off such fears. I was part of that group of idealists. As vociferous as we’d been in opposing many of the policies espoused by the US government, we’d always had this firm belief in America – the ideal and the people, and its capacity to summon the good from the wild and wooly depths of its politics.

I’d always believed in Obama since he first grabbed the limelight in his breakthrough Democratic Convention Speech of 2004, where he said there were no red states or blue states, just the United States of America.

His message has not changed. It remains inclusive. It remains rooted in the ethics of hard work instilled by a white grandmother. While it is charged with hope, it unflinchingly faces the hard realities of his country, the same country where a white woman could climb the corporate ranks from secretary to vice president, and raise and nurture a black child to adulthood, and yet retain some vestiges of fear for his colored brothers.

That Obama – disciplined, calm, with the voice that at once soothes and invigorates – best represents the modern American who does not pretend to ignore the cracks that wind through the body politic but, rather, believes that his or her counterparts from across the aisle are also imbued with the same good will.

It was the same noble sense of fairness that belatedly returned to John McCain, the old war horse who’d almost destroyed his reputation trying to pander to his party’s right fringe — best represented by lipstick-wearing pit bulls and Christians so lost in the wilderness they think sharing is synonymous with communism.As for the rest of the world – that’s us, folks – Obama said the results of the 2008 election should convince all of those who have wondered whether America had permanently switched off the torch of justice and liberty.

More than the might of arms, more than the shock and awe and the long arm of rendition, the sight of millions of Americans lining up patiently in schools and churches – many for the first time – highlights what Obama calls the enduring power of American ideals.After eight very long years of Dubya, we can only pray that Obama is right in saying that the true genius of America is, that America can change.

(Four years. It hasn’t been perfect… but I still believe in Obama. It is not the case of him being the lesser of two evils. After four years, I still think this holds true: “His message has not changed. It remains inclusive. It remains rooted in the ethics of hard work instilled by a white grandmother. While it is charged with hope, it unflinchingly faces the hard realities of his country, the same country where a white woman could climb the corporate ranks from secretary to vice president, and raise and nurture a black child to adulthood, and yet retain some vestiges of fear for his colored brothers.”Image

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