Thursday, November 6, 2008

The new dawn

After missing the euphoria of last night's spontaneous gathering at the White House, Louis and I set off before the crack of dawn in search of a little post-election magic of our own. Our destination: the Lincoln Memorial, site of Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech and unofficial totem of the US civil rights movement. The thinking was that DC's all-night revellers would wind up here, lured by the monument's symbolism after the country's choice of its new president elect, allowing us to catch a little of the Obama vibe. 

But perhaps our logic was too subtle for the city's party-weary Obamaites because we had the place largely to ourselves. As we stood, waiting for the new day to break through the remnants of the previous night's rain clouds, it was impossible not to dwell on the metaphor of that Wednesday's new dawn; not to mull over the way that Obama's election had changed the course of American history forever. Here, I must nail my colours as a history graduate firmly to the mast, and one who specialised in US history at that, including the Civil War. The enormity of Obama's election in states such as Virginia, which was once the soul of the Confederacy, cannot be overstated.

How many other Brits today must, like me, have wished just a little bit that they were American so that they could claim Obama's victory as their own? And this admission from someone who has enjoyed watching the country's gradual fall from grace as the world's pre-eminent power these past few months. Yet which non-Americans, during Obama's moving acceptance speech as president-elect, didn't wish that this also was their moment, their time to "open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes We Can." 

It must be something to do with becoming a Mum because ever since Louis was born, the news has seemed unrelentingly grim, making me wonder what sort of a world I have brought him into. Obama's election, for once, gives me hope that it could just be a good one. 

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