As a Sox fan, the presidential election inspired a kindred anxiety -- that familiar fatalism of "waiting for the other shoe to drop." After all, the races had been close in 2000, 2004 as well with a fraction of the passion. And just like Red Sox playoffs, the past two elections were heartattack inspiring events. It could never just be a blow out. It had to be hanging chads and extra innings.
Watching the returns last Tuesday night, I was waiting for the Aaron Boone moment right up until 11 p.m. when Chris Matthews, looking like he was about to spontaneously change gender, announced "Barack Obama is projected to be the next president of the United States."
I expected to cry, but not like this. I thought there would be a few tears, a little champagne supernova, and the traditional lifting up of Vito and marching in a victory circle. Nope. I completely broke down into a full on sob.
I was as surprised by this as I was to learn that I wasn't alone.
[Aside: At first, Jesse Jackson's tears pissed me off because I was afraid he was going to glorywhore Obama's moment -- pull a Peter Wolf, jump on stage and ruin everything. But I realized even his tears were genuine. Regardless of your candidate or politics, it was impossible not to be moved by the profound history of the moment. And I'm sure African Americans were moved on a whole other level that I could never fully appreciate.]
LPD said for us, it was probably as close to understanding what it felt like when the Berlin Wall came down.
In another way, it felt like love winning out over hate, where the country as a whole voted to "embrace the better angels of our nature," as Abe Lincoln once said.
Still, the tears were coming from a different place, it was more than just joy over our team winning, like it was with the Sox in 2004, 2007.
When I heard Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" playing in the background in those amazing scenes from Grant Park, I started to understand all this fierce catharsis. Springsteen wrote that song after 9/11. It's all about rising up from the ruins, starting anew. I think the tears were tears of grief, or rather a release of it, more than anything else.
Even putting aside the epic failures and country-in-ruins, there has been a national 'tude in place for more than 20 years (I'm sure it goes back farther, but this is my memory). For so long, the climate has been divisive and mean-spirited in nature, a collective swaggering and dismissiveness that not only favors but celebrates the darker angels.
Civility and respect have become the lunatic fringe. Debate today consists of little more than a cabal of on-air shitheads seeing who can yell the loudest. Education, intellectual curiosity, and even decent grammar are reviled. Mediocrity is not only embraced but worshipped.
All the divisiveness has been spiritbreaking and silencing for me and people like me who are now so accustomed to treading on eggshells that it's become the norm.
I think Judith Warner from the NYT said it perfectly: "and for so many others of us, of the trampling and debasing of our most basic ideals, beliefs that we cherished every bit as deeply and passionately as those "values voters" around whose sensibilities we've had to tip toe around the past 28 years. The election brought the return of a country we'd lost for so long that it was almost forgotten under the accumulated scar tissue of accomodation and acceptance."
Of course, I'm hoping Obama's presidency will turn the country around, but I also hope his tone and positive message will help usher in a new age of civility. As we know, it's all about hope.
So, I guess my faith in humanity was restored a bit last Tuesday. We're not living under an asshole majority after all. Free at last. No wonder we cried.
That said, my eyes have officially glazed over. I will be detoxing from cable news, blogs and anything remotely political henceforth (or at least until January when we'll likely start crying all over again.)