Thursday, November 6, 2008
Gone til November
Here I am back in California - probably for the last time this year, but I won't make any promises. I'm on back-to-back work trips: first in Sacramento, and then on to Honolulu tomorrow. I draw your attention to the photograph above. I took it on my way to La Bou a little while ago to scrounge up a wrap for ... breakfast, or whatever meal it is that one eats upon waking up at 2:00 p.m., and getting ready to work until 6:00 a.m. the next day and then fly to Hawaii. Anyway, does your university book store rent breast pumps? I didn't think so.
I flew out yesterday morning. The country had known that Barack Obama would be our next president for less than twelve hours when I touched down in Chicago for my connecting flight. (Chicago: home of Barack Obama, and also home of my checked bag for the next 18 hours. Thanks a heap, United Airlines. That's why we pay you $15 per checked bag. To babysit.) Anyway, the general mood I encountered all day long was very positive. I scored a Chicago Tribune from one of the million newspaper boxes strewn around O'Hare. It was only 8:30 a.m., but I got one of the last issues I could find. 75 cents. Nice. I passed people wearing Obama shirts. Our African-American flight attendant apologized to us as we got off the plane: "I'm sorry; Obama is president and I can't stop smiling." When I was walking around at Macy's in Sacramento yesterday afternoon, a makeup counter employee called out that she liked my Wisconsin for Obama button. There was a poster of Obama at the Downtown Plaza reminding people to vote, and groups of kids would burst into cheers and applause as they passed it.
I've been enthralled this afternoon reading articles like this one from Newsweek, reporting inside campaign gossip obtained by reporters on the condition that it wouldn't be released until after the election. My respect for Barack Obama continues to grow. I'm discovering I had more reason than I'd even known to be very, very afraid of Sarah Palin. Most interestingly, and a little sadly, I'm seeing more evidence that the John McCain I respected up until about a year ago, and saw again in his concession speech on Tuesday, was never really gone. He'd just gone underground in the hopes of winning this election. Maybe his campaign's tactics gave him a better chance than he otherwise would have had - and maybe not. Regardless, I'm hoping this McCain has returned for good.
I overheard a man on one of my flights yesterday talking about the election. "I'm not saying who I voted for," he said. "But all I'm saying is this - being president isn't all that. People are acting like Obama being elected is a big deal. Whatever - it doesn't make any difference." It doesn't make any difference? Barack Obama being elected isn't a big deal? I don't feel any sense of triumph over people (including some friends) who supported John McCain. We all want what's best for our country. I don't believe that Barack Obama's election will change "everything." Any candidate elected would have a huge uphill battle in the next four years trying to dig us out of the hole we're in right now. Obama isn't going to ride into the White House on a unicorn, wielding a magic wand of change. But there is so much hope alive right now that no matter what, it's already a good thing. It has already made a difference, and it is most certainly a big deal.