Not everyone is happy about this day. I'm going to try to convince some of them otherwise. Think about it. We saw one day bring tears to the eyes of so many black citizens who suspected they'd never see it happen, who tried not to get their hopes up in fear that fraud and bigotry and even assassination would stop this day from happening. We cannot deny them, even those that voted otherwise, the significance of that day. That day means more to all of us than so many that came before it.
This election also brought tears to people who thought they could never see the ideals of this country realized again; who felt the weight of trouble and death in this world and saw their country perpetrating it without adequate information or consent; who could no longer trust their leaders, respect them, or follow them without resorting to sheer force of will or a blind faith in authority. That day, too, means more to all of us than those that came before it.
It doesn't mean we all have to like this day. But it does mean we have to recognize the measurable good that it did for our society. And if we can recognize that good, then it's our responsibility to fight for it in the coming years. This means holding our new President accountable. This means making sure he earns our trust and respect rather than blindly receiving it, and it means paying attention, closely, for more than the weeks and months leading up to the election.
That's my promise, anyway. Many of us, me included, closed our eyes to the years after 9/11. We burrowed. If you're like me, it's because you didn't know what else to do or who else to trust. I didn't make it my concern to understand what was at stake. We can't act like that anymore. It's my hope that those who did not support this President will be his greatest check--that they will be the first to notice when something isn't right, when a promise isn't being fulfilled, or when a law is being broken (yes, this happened a lot under our in-office president). And it's my hope that those of us who support him today will keep our eyes open--not out of suspicion, but out of a sense of responsibility for and involvement in this presidency.
Most of all, I think, we need to remember that we are responsible not only for our votes and for whom they elect, but for what happens afterward under those individuals' watch. And that means we all need to stay informed, and we need to let our officials know that our respect and trust are not guaranteed rights; these are judgments they must earn.
I think President-Elect Obama knows this. If I felt I couldn't trust him or that he was demanding, not earning, my respect, I wouldn't have voted for him.
And I say this with all hope that we will take it to heart and carry it with us into the future: This election was a wonderful, awe-inspiring event. But it does not erase America's problems with race, gender, and class. Obama winning the presidency does not mean the barriers of race are gone. It does not mean that any poor Americans who works hard enough can rise to the highest level in the nation. Nor does Hillary Clinton's campaign or Sarah Palin's candidacy mean that barriers for women are gone. We have to stay vigilant on these issues even as this election struck some crushing blows.
I can't pretend I don't think we did good. America did good. We took a big step forward, and we started to close the door on a few sordid parts of our past. I couldn't be more proud. We re-proved a lot about ourselves that recent years have undone. What this means is not that we can sit back and consider ourselves great, beyond question, beyond doubt. What it means is that we have to keep proving. We can't continue to stand with one foot in that door.
In other words, I hope this election is looked at down the road as more than just an inspiration--though we need to keep that fire lit as well. I hope it is recognized as the election where America renewed its commitment to truth and liberty, and its commitment to safeguard the rights and blessings of all of humanity.
P.S. If this act of responsibility, for you, might mean praying--please pray. Pray for the safety, humanity, and wisdom of those who govern our nation and those who will govern it next.