10 November 2008

Turns out there IS Crying in Baseball (and in Politics)

Ok, I'm finally ready to talk about it. I think. It's been a week, it should be safe. The past few weeks have been unbelievable. Every time I started to write a post about the election, Obama, the surrounding frenzy, etc., I became paralyzed by superstition. I can't really explain it except to say that I didn't want to jinx anything. Things seemed to be going our way, why stir the Gods? Red Sox games tend to go south when I darken the doorway. I've been chased out of rooms during the playoffs more times than I care to admit. This had a similar vibe. I felt like Obama had a no-hitter going and nobody should talk about it or even glance in his general direction.

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.)


Katie O. said...

Another gem from the PU, Kate.

I am still in awe of Tues. night. and what it means for our country. I can only add the perspective of a high school teacher here...

Imagine being a 15 yr. old African-American on that Wed. morning. That day those kids, and all other kids woke up and said- "I guess I really can be anything I want, if I work hard. It's really true now." You could see a new light in their eyes.

I wish Langston Hughes was still alive to write the poetry of this moment!

liz said...

Kate...first of all, you rock.

I cried too. Steve and I stayed up to hear the acceptance speech and we almost didn't believe it was happening. Incredibly inspirational.

The next morning when my 4 year old son woke up, I told him we have a new president. President Obama. We went on Boston.com and watched some of Obama's speech. Then we watched videos of people cheering, running up and down the streets, and jumping in the wading pool at the Christian Science Center. I cried again. Aden asked why are you crying momma? I said, "I am so happy our country has made the right decision and the best decision it has ever made."

I feel as though I am living in a different world...a hopeful one.

CK said...

Hey Kate,

You summed it up perfectly!!...

It's really so incredibly refreshing and amazing. Faith restored. I went to a wedding this weekend (luckily like minded there with me) and the celebration was that much sweeter.

And then, of course there's this from our "buddy":


It does feel like a different world where ignorance was defeated, hope was restored and the right things are happening here again...

Bean Down Under said...

Hey KJ - great post. I think the entire election was amazing. From having Obama beat out Hillary to then running an almost perfect campaign. I was with about 10 friends, the same ones who left crying 4 years ago in defeat, but this time our tears and cheers were of joy. Not only because our team had won but because the fear of an America not being able to vote in a black President proved to be false. This is a great country, we fail at times, but overall we do pick ourselves up and make the world be in awe of us! Bring on January 20, 2009!

Liz C said...

First the emotional release, to be amazed by how much your body responded to his win, to be told naturally, through your heart and tears how much this win means to you, to our country, to all of us. And to realize how much emotions/feelings were held in during this whole process, that superstition/jinx feeling held back all that you wanted to feel... and then the win, YES you were allowed to feel everything and release the negative.

Obama's win to me, was love overcoming fear. Tears uncontrollably rolled down my cheeks as I listened to his speech, I woke Maya and Casey up with "He did it, Obama did it!". Maya watched his acceptance speech, she submitted my voting form into the machine that counts the vote and I said, "We just became a part of history".

My children are hearing the words, and the ideals I teach them, echoed in the words and actions of an amazing man who are country just choose as president. With love all things are possible, I've experienced it again and again.

I not only love your thoughts Kate, but how you express them, with humor, honesty and emotion. When's the book coming???


Code Red said...

Ahhh...I've been waiting for this since last Tuesday. :) Another great PU post KJ!!

"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

YES WE CAN....and yes, we did...finally!!

Sarah D said...

I too was surprised by my tears (and frankly, level of drunkeness thanks to red white and blue martinis mixed with hope), but THE moment hit me at the Pats game on Sunday. When the star spangled banner was sung, I found tears coming to my eyes, for the first time ever. Contrary to what many conservatives would think, I am the biggest patriot around. I love America and have been horrified by what it has become. I have developed a deep distrust of americans and how we have been able to sit by as our basic human rights have been eroded. This election renewed my belief in AMERICANS. I am allowing myself to be optimistic about the future, in a way I never have been before. Whether it is Obama himself, or the deep dark hole we have been in for the last 8 years or a perfect storm of the two doesn't really matter to me. I am just proud, and grateful to have been a part of it all.

OK, off my soap box and off to the pediatrician's. Thanks for your inspiring words, Kate. We did it!!!

James said...

First time I voted for a Democrat in years. After voting for Bush in 2000 I came home to a locked door with a two page note beginning with "James another reason why your vote was wrong and hurtful" and ended with "Shame on you again James".

Back in the Big Bed!

Roving Lemon said...

KJ, what a great post--it really captures the emotional impact of President-elect Obama's victory. Watching it from afar (and having to wait through most of my Wednesday for the verdict), I was amazed at how relieved I felt. I was beginning to fear we were stuck with GWB for all eternity.

Speaking for myself, life as an expat is about to get soooo much easier. Or, as one of my UK buddies put it, 'I am so bloody *chuffed* for you. Welcome back to the international socialist conspiracy that is actually giving a bugger about your fellow human beings. We've missed you. Have a lovely party.' I can't tell you how tired I am of trying to convince people of other nations that we're not actually a bunch of selfish, materialistic blowhards. It's nice to have some concrete proof behind me.

If nothing else happens, I will be satisfied to have a president who confronts the situations that are actually *there*, after one who spent his entire term insisting that his own warped view of the world was the correct and only one, and ignoring everything that interfered with it.

Roll on January 20th!

CK said...

whoever you are, please use the word "blowhard" more often.........I love it...being a bit silly here but totally serious actually :) I'm stealing that one...

must go type my "code word" to prove I can see? or read? or type? never really sure why I'm doing this but, that's okay, all good :)

lpd said...

Hearing the announcement, "Barack Obama is President-Elect," brought tears to my eyes. It was not a feeling of victory, not the "HA! Democrats won!" rally cry. It had nothing to do with Democrat vs. Republicans. It was a feeling of overwhelming relief. Relief that we now have a true LEADER, which we haven't had for decades. The country is starving for real leadership -- for somebody to respect, somebody to tell them "it will be all right if we just work hard enough." Somebody who will show them the way. Somebody who might just restore faith in America and what it stands for. That being a free society does not mean embracing intolerance, hate, greed or mediocrity. I haven't felt this way about any president in my lifetime, and I am hopeful and confident that he won't let us down.

Alex said...

Great post. I too had an "Aaron F*ing Boone" experience that night, but it was my wife having fun recalling the last time I cried openly (this time it didn't result in laying down in the shower fully clothed). What a night....what a day! It started with waiting in line for the first time to vote which I've never experienced, included a keynote presentation on optimism by Dr. Larry Brilliant, Director of Google.org and one of the men responsible for the eradication of small pox in the world, and ended with waking up on the couch in the middle of the night with CNN still on. Of all the reasons why I was floored with this election, I think the biggest for me anyway is the end of apathy. The past eight years have been so wrong that nothing was shocking anymore (apologies to Perry). I felt like the county was immune to the next bonehead decision or news flash involving someone named "Scooter". I know I was anyway, I would laugh if off being a bit impressed that they were still getting away with it. It made me extremely apathetic to the process and as you noted, there was still concern until the end that the fix was in and that apathy would continue. But then something amazing happened, IT happened! Faith was restored! Johnny Damon just hit the right field foul pole, and with an amplified "thud", there was hope again! I'll resist saying that the election was bittersweet, but in CA we passed proposition 8 which overturned a state supreme court decision that recognized same-sex marriage as a fundamental right and it definitely brought the excitement level down a bit the next day. There is still work to do, but I have shed the apathy that I've been carrying and look forward to the days ahead where we'll continue to make strides for the common good.

KJ said...

Just fantastic. This is so great. Thank you so much for adding your insights and experiences. I really wanted to document these moments before the intensity starts to fade so this is just awesome on so many levels. Thanks so much -- keep them coming!

CK said...

kj - you are the one who is great :) and thank you for providing the forum!

I'm with ya sister....so I'm writing again...because it still hasn't completely sunk in. It was a long eight years. I think I wrote you a note about "what a long, annoying (and incredibly horribly) strange trip it's been" to say the least. But it's over. Exit freak stage left or right or whatever. So fantastic that bus broke!

What I'm still so elated about is how happy the rest of the world is...and I keep replaying the song by "will.i.am".

It's a moment in time that seriously needs to be cherished....and I hope the great feelings last as long as the doom we felt. It's beautiful and thanks again, kiddo, for the forum to express the joy :) you rock, I'd like you even if didn't have such killer taste in music .....last post, i promise ;)

Anonymous said...

Any way you slice it he inherited 10 lbs of shit in a 5 lb bag.

should be fun....

Tim said...


Even though it looks like my flu "bug" is actually bronchitis, I wanted to respond to your post as soon as I was feeling better. The truth is, the last week has felt a bit surreal. In high school and in college, I studied history because I found it fascinating, but there were only a few moments where I felt like I was living in a time to be remembered. There were especially few positive momentous occations. Last Tuesday was The One. It is, hands down, the greatest moment in American History that I am alive to witness. If you look at the year I was born, 1968, and whom the American people have chosen as their Ambassador to the World 40 years later, well... we've come a long way. Perhaps HOPE can become the new 4 letter word.

Anonymous said...

Obama is president and all americans should be proud of that historic achievement - regardless of which candidate you supported.

I hope Obama's message of hope will take root and begin to grow. Enough of the divisiveness, enough of the extremism. Let's focus on moving ahead, let's focus on holding ourselves and our elected officials accountable for our / their actions. What we need is a little less spin and shaping the message and a lot more truth, justice and the American way.

While I voted for the other guy - I'll support our new president; because I think that is the American and patriotic thing to do. Immediately after the election, I became worried that Obama is an empty vessel into which we have projected our hopes and dreams and that there is nothing there beyond that. Then, as I thought more, why not project hopes and dreams into the Presidency? Perhaps the greatest thing that a President can do is to instill hope, to motivate the country to take pride and believe in itself.

With that realization, I hope. I truly hope that our new president will succeed beyond my wildest expectations and that our country, our people and the world will all be better for it.

KJ said...

Thank you, anonymous, for your comment full of HOPE. It's the only thing fueling most of us right now. Beautifully said, too.